The holidays done and the new year is upon us—it’s resolution time. With several months of cold weather ahead, comfort food might be tough to give up. Let’s look instead to trimming the extra fat from that credit card statement.

One of the easiest ways to save money is to just pack a lunch and cook dinner at home… but let’s be honest, sometimes it just isn’t in the cards.

Fortunately, even eating out in Silicon Valley can be economical—if you know where to look. Here is a quick list of several spots I like to hit-up when both my wallet and my stomach are growling.

Fresh Fiesta
Aqui Cal-Mex
Multiple Locations |
This local Mexi-Asian fusion chain is probably better known for its knockout margarita swirls than cuisine. But they offer one of the healthiest and most innovative menus in the South Bay, especially considering most meals are in the $9 to $12 range. Aqui uses sustainable, locally sourced and seasonal ingredients to make dishes like the Thai peanut bowl ($9.50) and the spicy mango sesame tofu ($9.50). They also have 17 vegan items to go along with their traditional protein offerings. Aqui has long been one of my favorites for fresh, healthy organic cuisine at a very reasonable price point. And their hummus might be the best I’ve had outside of Ma’s kitchen. Creamy, smooth and excellent flavor. Their app sampler, which features the aforementioned hummus, black beans and guacamole is just $7.50.

Fish Food
10700 S DeAnza Blvd, Cupertino |
Sushi isn’t usually on the menu when you’re looking to save, but that’s where Yoshida comes in. Yoshida serves cheap Japanese eats, and is a great spot for lunch. Their daily lunch (weekends included) bento boxes are packed with generous portions of rice, salad, soup and come in a two-item ($13) and three-item ($16) options. Guest may choose everything from salmon teriyaki and chicken katsu to select cuts of sashimi.

Buffet Bonanza
Punjab Café
322 E Santa Clara St, San Jose |
This is definitely one of my favorite Indian buffets in the South Bay. Punjab Café always have an excellent spread for a reasonable price. Both the lunch and the dinner buffet is just $13 for all the Indian food you can eat. There’s also an additional discount for cash-strapped SJSU students—with proper ID of course. I really love their goat curry, chana saag (chickpeas and spinach) and the aloo pakora (potato fritters).

Live A Little
Caspian Restaurant
1910 El Camino Real, Mountain View |
This is probably the priciest place on this list, but it’s ok to splurge on occasion, and this would be the place to do it. Meals here are reasonably priced at around $18 to $25 each. and come with a mound of rice, salad and a free appetizer that contains not one but two types of hummus and pita bread.

The kabobs are the thing to get here, as their chicken kabobs are moist and succulent and their beef koobideh (ground beef) is extremely tender and flavorful. Another easy way to save money is to order the gigantic appetizer sampler ($19) which features every app they make and can easily feed two people.

Feed the Fam
Old Spaghetti Factory
51 N San Pedro St, San Jose |
Yes OSF is technically a chain, but it is important to note that this location is independently and locally-owned—not to mention this gorgeous, and historic, downtown location is a San Jose institution that celebrated its 50th year in the city in 2019. With that said, they are also a great value. Diners get a lot of bang-for-their-bucks here, as all meals come with four courses: warm bread, soup or salad, an entrée and a dessert (spumoni or vanilla ice cream).

Most meals here OSF range run in the $10 to $14 range. The kid’s menu is just $6 and comes with all the courses, as well. It’s entirely possible for a family of four to eat here for less than $50, which is almost unheard of in this day and age.