How to Maximize a Buffet

Money saving tips can come in all shapes and sizes so why not think about the most efficient way to spend on a daily basis? Personal finance doesn’t have to be just about investments and savings strategies. Think in terms of making the most of the resources available to you. Start with the simple stuff first. And here it’s all about a buffet.

Buffets may be the scourge of ‘fine dining’ but they are incredibly popular. And I’ve been to a lot of them.

So in these more austere times, here are a few tips on making the most out them, without viewing the experience as simply an opportunity to binge.

  • Get there early. Ok, I don’t want to encourage you to eat until you explode or drink until you fall off your chair. But this applies particularly for buffets with fixed time periods. For you to be able to dictate the pace of your eating, it’s best to get there before people are crowding around the hot plates and forcing you to rush.
  • Map out your route. I’ve been to some buffet restaurants where I’ve dug into certain dishes, only to realize that I’ve missed out on something that I really liked but was too full to enjoy. Know what’s on offer and where it is. Before you step up, know your battleground.
  • Watch the carbs. With Italian, Indian or Chinese buffets you’ll no doubt get your array of pasta and rice to dip into. But play them very sensibly. Buffet restaurants want you to pile them onto your plate. Not only are they low value, they’re also very filling. Don’t get sucked into this trick.
  • Enjoy the seafood/high-value meat. And when you do sidestep the carbs, make the most of the seafood. Again, this is about getting value for money. A plate of lobster is worth more than a plate of pasta. There’s no need to go over the top, but think about how often you get to eat certain types of foods. This also goes for certain cuts and types of meat as well. For example, if you’re a fan of sirloin steak, why fill yourself up with beef sausages?
  • Plate etiquette. I haven’t mastered this one myself, but consider the size of the plate and the combination of the food on it. If there are smaller plates (which there invariably will be because those that run buffets want to manage how much people eat), don’t be shy to use one if it helps you manage yourself better. It’s important to get your money’s worth, but you don’t want to pile your plate with items that don’t work together and immediately give you indigestion. So don’t forget to add a bit of “green” to your plate once in a while.
  • Befriend the waiter. If it’s a champagne buffet, and there’s someone there to serve it, befriend them. That way you can always rely on being topped up. And if it gets close to the closing time of the buffet they might be kind enough to bring a bottle to the table as well. It does happen…
  • Don’t forget the bread rolls. If you’re doing a breakfast buffet at a hotel, why not take some bread rolls to get you through the day? Or even some pieces of fruit? Again, it’s about getting your money’s worth. Maybe this approach isn’t for everyone. But the hotel will probably throw the rolls out anyway or keep them for a future meal – neither of which sound great to me.
  • Don’t pig out. I don’t want to contradict myself here but don’t go too crazy in there. Buffet restaurants offer up so much temptation. But piling your massive plate up with all manner of foods doesn’t look great. Just because it says “all you can eat”, it doesn’t mean you have to test it out every time. You don’t want to turn a consciously enjoyable experience into a struggle. You can still get more than your money’s worth by being strategic and classy with it.
  • Remember to drink water. We forget the simple things at times like this. Water will help you to digest your food. And if you do struggle with indigestion, have some peppermint tea or antacid tablets if you’re really prepared.

No, these are not your traditional personal finance tips. But consider them as ways to spend purposefully and effectively. Applying some of these principles should help you get more value out of a buffet. And that’s the game really.

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