Some folks call it thrifty. Some folks call it frugal. I've always been fond of "parsimonious." When referring to my own spending, I call it "you'll have to pry my money from my cold, dead hands." I've always been known to be a bit tight with my dollars. When I was in the second grade and the teacher asked us all what we wanted to be when we grew up, I said "loan shark." No foolies. Ma FvF had cracked a joke about it when I loaned my sister a dollar and charged interest on it, so it seemed like a wise career choice.
In department stores, I go straight for the clearance racks. I coupon clip, sale watch, barter & bargain, and rarely ever pay full price for anything. As well as we eat here at Chez FvF, we only spend about $200 (give or take) on groceries each month. If it weren't for someone being a bit of a picky eater and my mild gluten allergy, we'd be spending a lot less. When we dine out, we're just as penny-pinching. I've been asked by a few people to compile a list of my favorite cheap eats in Dayton. Some of these you can get out the door paying less than $20 for both people, but all of them you'll pay far less than $20 a piece, not including your booze tab. These are all sit-down joints (under $20 does not include tip in all cases), no fast food, pizza delivery or deli style/order-at-the-counter joints. Needless to say, they're also all local independents, so you should feel good about giving them your hard-earned money.
Salsa's - 4904 Airway Road Dayton, OH
I discovered Salsa's shortly after it opened and it's become a staple when I'm craving Mexican or Latin food. Expansive menu, great service, close to home, and the price is right. The entrees Mr. FvF and I usually order are under $9 a piece, so without considering the tip (and we normally don't order soft drinks), our check is usually just under $20.
Christopher's - 2318 E Dorothy Ln Kettering, OH
This, to me, is the holy grail of eating under $20. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and all for a bargain. You genuinely can't beat their quality of food, either. they use free-range meats and make a lot of their own sauces and dressings, and the house-made pies are out of this world. So good, in fact, that Mr. FvF and I decided to ditch wedding cake all together and serve their pies as dessert at our wedding (they're catering the dinner, as well). The priciest thing on the menu is the Neptune's Temple Platter, which is baked haddock, grilled shrimp, bay scallops, crab cakes, potatoes and a vegetable for $16.95. If you're feeling spendier, you can get a complete dinner for two for $34.95, which includes beverages, an appetizer and two desserts.
Tank's Bar & Grill - 2033 Wayne Ave Dayton, OH
Best burgers around. And no, I haven't been to Five Guys yet, but I guarantee you I won't turncoat and say they're better than Tank's when I do. My usual: Bacon cheeseburger (in which the bacon is always cooked to perfection), medium, with cheddar on an onion bun and a Love Seat (half of a Couch Potato, which is hand-cut fries smothered in cheese and Tank's award-winning chili. Burgers and other super-stacked sandwiches tend to run about $6-7. I heard they do a killer weekend breakfast, too - but of all my years in Dayton, I have yet to be up early enough to make it.
Ticket's Pub - 7 W Main St Fairborn, OH
Whether bar food or Greek food is what you're craving, Ticket's is your joint. One side of the menu is all poppers, wings, potato skins & mini corn dogs, while the other side showcases their Greek specialties, like Souvlaki, gryos, and the gigantor Greek hot plate (feeds two very well for $16.75). There's also the veg-friendly Greek Cold plate for the non-carnivorous. They have some great dinner specials, too, including their least budget-friendly item, a one pound ribeye dinner for $18.95.
Golden Nugget Pancake House - 2932 S Dixie Dr Kettering, OH
Burgers and pancakes and soups - oh, my! Open only for breakfast and lunch (closed Mondays), the 'Nug is a Dayton landmark and makes an absolute killing. You'll be hard pressed not to see a line out the door if their lights are on, but don't worry - it moves quickly.
They had a sever kitchen fire back in 2006-ish, and re-opened with serious gusto several months later with a more updated look and quite a bit more room. The waitresses call you honey, and it's some of the best breakfast ( or lunch) you'll ever have.
I'm obviously not the only one who thinks so. Everyone who commented on the Nug's Mr. Breakfast page is in love, too. A short stack (even specialty flapjacks) will cost you around $4, and you can get a grilled cheese for as little as $2.95. My favorites are the banana pancakes with a side of crispy bacon, or the country omelet.