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In the midst of the recent global economic struggles, dining out became a luxury many people decided they could no longer afford. Though families traditionally dine out less than anyone, in light of fewer funds, the trend to stay in for meals and save money extended beyond families to couples and singles as well.

Though the economy is gradually bouncing back, the impact of the recent recession is still fresh on the minds of many. While it's important to watch spending, that doesn't mean dining out must continue to be an unaffordable luxury. In fact, there are many ways to enjoy dining out and still save money.

* Look forward to Restaurant Week.

Many larger cities offer some type of Restaurant Week, a week during which restaurants across a given metropolitan area provide lower prices to customers as incentive to dine out and try new cuisine. Many restaurants offer prix fixe deals, typically including three courses ranging anywhere from $25-40 per plate. This allows consumers to enjoy affordable meals at restaurants that might otherwise be out of the budget.

* Peruse restaurants online.

Many restaurants allow people surfing the Web to join mailing lists via their Web sites. Such mailing lists provide e-mail updates on menu changes and special events at the restaurant, making it easier to schedule nights out on the town in advance. Some restaurants even offer exclusive discounts to those on their mailing lists, making it more affordable to spend a night dining out.

* Look for coupons.

Mailboxes are often filled with junk mail, but nearly everyone has received that envelope full of coupons at least once. While it's easy to simply discard "junk mail" immediately, that envelope might just be the key to an affordable night out on the town. Many restaurants send offer coupons via such envelopes as well as the local newspaper, and these coupons often provide great deals.

Another place to look for restaurant coupons is a local entertainment book. While these books often must be purchased, those who truly put the book to use will save much more in the long run at restaurants as well as several local businesses.

* Take advantage of promotions.

Many people scoff at restaurant promotions that might offer too little or seem too limited. However, for couples who haven't had a night out on the town in a while, those promotions might be just what's needed. Part of the fun of dining out is getting out of the house, so while that limited menu special might not be exactly what a diner is looking for, it is a more affordable way to hit the town and let someone else do the cooking.

While dining out might be a costly endeavor for families, couples or even singles, savvy diners can find deals if they look in the right places.

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