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Dear Jill: Restaurants are finally reopening after this coronavirus pandemic, and we feel comfortable ordering food again. What are some tips to save on take-out right now? — Elizabeth D.

As the country continues to reopen, many people are looking forward to the simple pleasure of dining out or enjoying their favorite restaurant’s meals at home. Like many businesses, the restaurant industry is recovering right now, and they could use our support as they re-acclimate themselves with doing regular business. It’s not exactly the time to be looking for discounts — in fact, if you can afford to leave a generous tip for your restaurant’s staff, it would be a wonderful gesture of support.

Of course, if your local restaurants are advertising again and offering coupons, feel free to use them! A local restaurant has been placing cardboard door-hanger advertisements with coupons for free delivery in our neighborhood, and another has been sending out postcards with day-of-the-week specials.

If you place orders for take-out or delivery, keep in mind that it’s almost always better to place your order with the restaurant directly versus using a third-party app or service. While convenient, food delivery apps can charge 30% of your order’s price to the restaurant for the service of bringing it to you — and sometimes more.

In April, a Chicagoland-area pizzeria owner shared a statement for his restaurant’s third-party app delivery orders the previous month. Via the app, customers ordered $1,042 worth of pizzas, but after the app took its fees, his restaurant only received $376. His eye-opening social media post raised national awareness of this issue.

It’s worth contacting your restaurant directly and ask them what the best option is for to-go orders. We recently placed a take-out order at one of our favorite restaurants via their own website, and after we picked up the order, the restaurant’s manager took the time to email us and thank us for ordering with them directly instead of using a third-party food app. His restaurant has not yet opened for in-person dining, and they are still relying solely on take-out and delivery orders to remain in business.

After reading his email, we had an even deeper understanding of how much it benefits restaurants financially when you order directly through them.

Dear Jill: Here is a novel idea that your readers might enjoy. The area where I live usually has food truck festivals in the summertime. With the COVID-19 pandemic, they have all been canceled.

The city will allow the food trucks to appear individually, though. Our local food trucks have opened up request slots online where they announce which neighborhoods they will be visiting on which days. You can request a time for the truck to come to your driveway or building’s parking lot and then enjoy getting take-out food brought to you.

You do have to wear a mask to pay and pick up the food at the truck, but it is fun to have a small slice of normalcy in a less-than-normal world. So far, we have had visits from a taco truck and an Asian stir-fry truck. Both were wonderful. I even surprised my husband by scheduling the taco truck to arrive on his birthday! — Donna H.

This is a great tip, and I believe it’s one that may be growing in popularity. In my state, food trucks have been scheduling similar events, either at-home or as pop-up events where the food truck visits an existing restaurant’s parking lot, and customers can visit it during the advertised hours to purchase food.

We, too, have taken advantage of the at-your-driveway food truck phenomenon! Each summer, a Hawaiian shave ice truck makes regular stops at our public pool and our library, both of which have been closed due to the pandemic. The ice truck began inviting customers to request drive-by visits, and I requested one to surprise my children. The look on my youngest son’s face when it pulled up, happily playing Hawaiian music and inviting everyone outside for a summer treat, was quite memorable!

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.

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