Steadfast FinancesRestaurant Meals You Can Make at Home For Half the Price

Restaurant Meals You Can Make at Home For Half the Price

Filed in Frugal Living , Good Eats , Saving Money 21 comments

Most SF followers know by now that something of a foodie and a wannabe chef. I’m no where near chef level, but I do occasionally put together something that can draw a crowd.

I also suffer from a slight frugality complex and do what I can to keep my food budget as low as possible. So that means I spend a fairly significant amount of time cruising the foodie blogs so I can xerox another cook’s (or chef’s) recipe, and modifying it so I can make it on the cheap without compromising taste or quality. Being that there are so many foodie and cooking blogs these days, this is pretty easy to do.

So I thought I would change it up a bit from the standard personal finance stuff, and show off a few restaurant style dinners that nearly anyone can make at home for half (if not more than half) the cost.


Chicken Parmesan

Who can possibly say no to a double serving of home cooked Chicken Parm? Seriously? I love this stuff, and probably make a half dozen different versions of this classic recipe with a side of pasta and marinara sauce.

I chose this video from Chef John because it covers a very effective method of prepping and breading the chicken whereas others will suggest you slather and dip. Breading makes the difference between average Chicken Parmesan and the really good Chicken Parmesan!

Sweet Potato Salad

This isn’t your grandma’s potato salad recipe!

This recipe incorporates one of my favorite foods — sweet potatoes — and gives a clever twist to the boring old mayonnaise coated boiled potatoes. The beans add a significant amount of protein for the vegetarian crowd, and the combination of fresh herbs and lime/olive oil dressing adds a ton of flavor.

I use this as a stand alone meal when I’m feeling fairly lazy considering it’s such an easy, but very healthy, dish to make. If you want to boost the visual appeal, go easy on the cilantro and double the amount of tomatoes. My only tweak is to add in a few sliced cucumbers to round out the color palette and give it a little more crunch.

Roasted Pork Tenderloin, Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Grilled Peaches

Instead of your standard fried pork chop and a mashed potato dish that calls for a whole stick of butter, this series of videos takes a classic Tuesday night staple (at least when I was growing up) and dresses it up a bit.

You can still get that “comfort food” feeling with the pork and potatoes, but you get to experience a few restaurant like flavors that you might not make at home for yourself or for the family.

Plus, the peaches serve as an excellent dessert!

My only tweak is that I would use skim milk in the garlic mashed potatoes and usually mix in some fresh chives from my container garden.

Make this one for your friends/family enough times, and they will begin to whine if you suggest calling out for pizza.

Authentic, Southern Louisiana style Jambalaya

I’ve eaten jambalaya in different areas of the deep south, and even though it’s one of those dishes that tends to vary from region to region, this video produces one best jambalaya dishes I’ve ever had. If you’re a fan of N’awlins cuisine, you really can’t go wrong one with this one.

I generally like my jambalaya in the medium spicy range with some type of pork (either sausage or ham) as well as a generous amount of shrimp. Not to mention, how can you go wrong with a jambalaya recipe from a guy nicknamed Scooter!

Definitely worth a try if you like Cajun or southern food and have a houseful of guests coming over for an informal get together.

Turkey Bolognese Sauce

I included this video because it reminds me of my first apartment: crappy cookware, dull knives, and zero spices other than black pepper and Italian seasoning.

While a recipe like is probably a staple in most dual income households, I think it’s more suited for the bachelor or bachelorette who might want to impress a certain someone but doesn’t have the hardware or know-how to pull off a more complicated dinner.

I should know since I’ve made this dish countless times when I wanted to impress a certain young lady. Opening doors and being a gentleman gets your foot in the door, but nothing makes a girl think you’re commitment material like making her nice dinner for two.

Plus, it’s the only thing that I know, aside from 6 shots of tequila, that’s going to work better than The Naked Man (2 out of 3 times)!

If you want to go all out, sprinkle some fresh Parmesan cheese and basil on top of the pasta once you’ve got it plated. You can also make some quick and easy garlic bread by taking some freshly sliced French bread, brushing with a melted butter and garlic powder mixture and throwing it under the broiler.

It’s easy, quick, and sure to impress that certain someone. If it doesn’t, at least you have plenty of leftovers.

~ ~ ~

If you plan on making any of these dishes and have questions/comments, be sure to leave them below. Or if you stumbled across this post in the middle of day and want to curse me for making you hungry… that works too.

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Posted by CJ   @   30 October 2009 21 comments
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Oct 31, 2009
7:42 am

Thanks for this…
I love the ideas you’ve amassed!

My wife often likes to go out to eat, and she says that the food is SO good. I’m always sitting there, though, looking at the fancy meal, thinking in the back of my mind how much cheaper it would cost if I cooked it myself!

Worst offenders: pasta dishes, and anything from Cora’s (a Canadian chain for breakfast).

Oct 31, 2009
10:59 am
#2 Matt SF :

Thanks Andrew. I wanted to include a few dishes that were relatively easy and could serve as a good “confidence booster” to build upon.

Most people that I know see a recipe for “something fancy” and they automatically think they can’t do it. That’s why it’s important to start small, build up your confidence, and keep it rolling.

I’m going to try to make this a monthly thing, so stay tuned.

Oct 31, 2009
10:58 pm

Wow, Matt! I had no idea you were such a foodie! Very cool!

My favorite is the Turkey Bolognese. That’s the best and easiest to make. Yum, yum.


Oct 31, 2009
11:32 pm
#4 Matt SF :

Love to cook Mr. FS!

I wasn’t much of a foodie until my mid 20s, but once I figured out that I was pretty good at it and it impressed the heck out of the ladies, no way I was going to settle for 10 cent wing night at the local sports bar.

Nov 1, 2009
12:11 am

Very cool Matt! I’m sure the ladies are impressed, and you don’t have to blow $100 to take them out to a fancy dinner. Perfect.

Nov 1, 2009
6:11 pm
#6 Money Funk :

Like the site changes. Nice. :)

Those are great recipes. I’ve never had grilled peaches, but they sound so good to me every time I hear of them. And I did the jambalaya. Replace the chicken with eggplant and I’m up for a good Parmesan. Great meals. Thanks.

Nov 1, 2009
10:56 pm
#7 Matt SF :

Thanks Money Funk! Grilled peaches are amazing.

We make them a few times a week in the summer (very cheap being in season) by cutting them into halves, and placing face down on the grill until caramelized. Ice cream or mascarpone cheese are great toppings.

Nov 2, 2009
9:14 am
#8 Miranda :

Great recipes! I will have to try the pork and the chicken parm, especially. We never get steak in a restaurant because we can make our own for less — and it tastes better.

Nov 2, 2009
12:27 pm
#9 Matt SF :

Thanks Miranda… Can’t go wrong w/ good ol’ fashioned Chicken Parm.

The pork tenderloin is a solid choice since it’s usually cheaper (per pound) than buying individual pork chops. From my experience, the larger cuts of meat that have very little processing time (by the grocer’s butchers) are the most cost effective.

Nov 5, 2009
9:01 pm
#10 Len Penzo :

Hey, Matt! I love to cook too! Great recipes here.

I’m with the Samurai – that turkey bolognese looks absolutely delectable.

Len Penzo dot Com

Nov 5, 2009
9:19 pm
#11 Matt SF :

Thanks Len. If you really want to make it look like a million bucks, add a few shavings of fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan) cheese.

It’s potent stuff, but really sets off the visual appeal.

Nov 10, 2009
12:06 pm
#12 pfburn :

Very nice article. I am also a very big fan of slow cookers which make cooking beef stew a breeze. You guys should try my 6 hr chicken with veggies. Nom nom ;)

Nov 10, 2009
12:18 pm
#13 Matt SF :

@ PFBurn

Six hour chicken sounds really good… love that “fall off the bone” slow cooking thing. Plus, you can’t go wrong with a hardy stew in the cold winter months.

I’m planning on making these sorts of posts a monthly thing, so I’ll try to find a good slow cooking or crock pot cooking kind of dish. Slow roasted ribs comes to mind.

Lucky for me it’s lunchtime! Super hungry now!

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