Nice topic @catholiver.
You mentioned it partially in the OP, but one tip if you want to save money eating out is:
- Don't order drinks. Drinks (non-alcoholic and alcoholic) are some of the biggest money makers for restaurants. Instead of a $5 - 7 soft drink / spritzed up juice (or $12 - 16 cocktail), we'd order their free (usually) filtered water.
Many LA restaurants' "tap water" are filtered, and taste quite clean.
Skip any dishes that list "Truffle" that actually don't have Truffles. Perhaps an obvious one, but we've seen many dishes at local restaurants that list, like "Truffle Fries" or "Truffle Burger" that aren't actually using Truffles. They use Truffle Oil (which doesn't use Truffles at all). And they use that as an excuse to mark up the dish another +25 - 50%.
Skip dessert. Unless it's a special occasion or you're faced with some amazing, "best bite of the year" dessert, you can save money by just skipping dessert. Like you said, satisfied and "just full" is far better than being stuffed / too full.
For eating at home:
- If you have the time, consider cooking larger / cheaper cuts of meat: Slow roasting or stewing a Pork Shoulder (2 - 3 pounds) and enjoying it for a few meals is far cheaper than getting a fancier, small cut of Pork (like bone-in loin chop or pork tenderloin).
Or roasting a whole Chicken and getting 4 - 6 servings out of it at a far cheaper price than buying boneless / skinless Chicken Breast / Thighs and you get a lot more servings for the same price.