One day this week my family was out hitting the clearance sales and Mr. B and I made a call we rarely make: let’s just grab something while we’re out.
For us, the first reason we don’t eat out unplanned is Mr.B’s Type 1 diabetes. He is insulin dependent and needs to take an injection for most meals, so if we’re going to have a meal out, he needs to bring his insulin.
The second reason we don’t do surprise meals out is that we’re living on a tight budget, ya’ll! We have a grocery budget, a home budget, and an entertainment budget. Our meals out tend to come from the entertainment budget, the smallest of all the budgets.
The third reason we tend not to eat outside the home is that we have two small children. Have you seen two small children eat? It’s a miracle if we end a meal without pasta on our heads or avocado in our shoes. We don’t think it’s fair to subject the general population to that too often.
But let’s be real here, restaurant food is soooo good. Right? I mean, those chefs have chef skills! They have cooking tools that I can’t even imagine! There’s no way my little kitchen can even compare, right?
It all started when I needed to learn how to make chicken nuggets. My girls were developing a serious Chick-Fil-A addiction, and it was eating into my entertainment budget. I needed some of those nugget dollars so I could check out the newest, coolest movies. I love a good movie. I did a little digging around online and found a recipe that promised me near perfect nuggets. The recipe did not lie. Everyone loved these nuggets. What I loved most about them is that for literally a third of the price, I made double the nuggets at home.
Thus began my quest to make my own best version of my favorite restaurant foods. On the rare occasions we do eat out, my first thought now is always, “How could I make this at home?” There are tons of perks to this quest. One, I’m constantly inspired by new meal ideas. Two, I’m consciously curbing the instinct to just “grab something really quick.” Three, I know all he ingredients of the food my family is eating, which is no small thing when you’ve got a special dietary need in the house.
But the biggest and best perk has got to be the money. This week, we had some scallops and steak one night, since both were on sale. A quick internet search revealed that a similar meal in a restaurant would cost me $28. For one person. That same $28 dollars fed my entire family of four and gave us leftovers.
If you’re a family who loves to eat out and are convinced that the food at home can’t taste as good, I promise you, it can. It can taste as good and cost so much less, freeing up some money to go into your Disney fund, or maybe just a ticket to the movies.
Meal Plan 4/5-4/12
- Breakfast-Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
- Lunch- LO Baked Ziti
- Dinner- Chicken Bacon Salad with Pickle Vinaigrette
*Ya’ll know we eat a lot of salad and are constantly trying to keep our salad game current. I read an article about how pickles have become very popular at gastropubs: friend pickles, pickle soup, and pickle martinis are all feature on multiple menus at hot spots. I’m not sure I’m ready for pickle soup, but I thought the pickle vinaigrette sounded interesting. It’s similar to other vinaigrettes, you just substitute the vinegar for pickle juice.
- Breakfast-Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins
- Lunch-Chicken Bacon Salad LO
- Dinner-Steak and Scallops with Asparagus
*I was pretty proud of this one, so I had to include a picture. Scallops are one of my favorite in the seafood category, but they can be super expensive. Like, my entire meat budget expensive. So when I saw some on manager’s special, you know I grabbed those right quick. Pan seared and served with some (also on sale) steak and asparagus, we were eating like kings! I like to remind myself of these meals when I’m tempted to eat out: you can enjoy quality food at home for a portion of the price, cooked to your exact preferences
- Breakfast- Pineapple and Blueberries with Hot Chocolate
- Lunch-LO Steak with Side Salad and Pickle Vinaigrette
- Dinner- Sausage Stuffed Peppers
*Did you, like me, find your house over run with solid chocolate bunnies? Were you, like me, wondering how your small family would ever eat all the bunnies? Worry no more! Turn ‘em into hot chocolate! Super easy too. Measure out 2-3 cups of milk, depending on how many drinkers you’ve got. Heat your milk on the saucepan. Drop chunks of your chocolate bunny into the milk as it heats, stirring consistently. The chocolate will break down pretty quickly, so make sure you stir through that so the chocolate doesn’t gather and stick to the bottom of the pan. We first tried with this Christmas chocolates and are glad to continue this holiday beverage tradition.
- Breakfast-Cereal with Bananas
- Lunch-LO Stuffed Peppers
*This week might also be titled, “The Week I Made All My Favorite Things”. Stuffed Peppers, Jambalaya, and Steak and Scallops. This was a good week to be in the B Family.
- Breakfast-Pineapple Strawberry Smoothies and Almonds
- Lunch-LO Jambalaya
- Dinner-Shrimp and Chicken Taco Bar
*Once you surf and turf, you just can’t stop. I was so into my Steak and Scallops that I wanted to replicate the feeling with a spicier twist. Our taco bars features shrimp, chicken, fajita veggies (pan seared onion and bell pepper), avocado, rice a several different cheeses, and homemade salsa. You can make it a bowl or a taco, which makes it a great meal when you’re feeding a lot of people. It’s just like going to Chipotle, but much more cost effective.
- Breakfast- Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins
- Lunch- LO Taco Bar
- Dinner-Turkey Burger with Oven Fries
*Okay, I know I recently had turkey burgers, but I scored some awesome cheeses this week that will really elevate the taste. Dill Havarti and Extra Sharp Cheddar are worth having burgers again. I’ve also been craving potatoes forever and scored some Yukon Golds at Costco, so the time is here for fries. Here’s a trick to make your oven fries as crispy as a restaurant. Peel and cut your potatoes in the morning. Fill the bowl on your fries with cold water. Let set for a few hours. Drain before cooking and pat dry. This will keep the outsides crispy and the insides nice and fluffy.
- Breakfast- Turkey Cheese Rollups with Strawberries
- Lunch– LO Turkey Burger with Oven Fries
- Dinner- Spicy Shrimp Pasta
*The other day we had baked ziti. My Little Mermaid did not want all the bells and whistles. She asked me to put just the noodles in a bowl, wipe off “almost all but not all the toamtoey sauce”, sprinkle some “spicy” (Cajun seasoning) on it, and mix all together with some melted butter. Those were her literal instructions, and she stood over me the whole time while she gave them. Tyrant. She let me have a bite of this concoction, and ya’ll it was DELICIOUS. To her delight we’re going to try and recreate it for for the whole family. And we’re going to add shrimp because you know the B family and their seafood.
- Breakfast-Scrambled Eggs with Roast Tomatoes
- Lunch-LO Spicy Shrimp Pasta
- Dinner- Dealer’s Choice!
*Leaving this one up to chance and the grocery store! Leaving your dinner open on the day of your shopping allows you the opportunity to push your savings further. Pay attention to manager’s specials, discounted unattractive (but still delicious!) produce, and bakery items priced to move. You can create an amazing meal for a lot less keeping an eye out and your imagination open.
What’s your favorite restaurant meal? Have you ever tried to make a copy cat at home? Any great recipes to share? You know I love a great new recipe, so share with me in the comments!
Kristen B. is wife to the best Prince around, mama to the spunkiest little princesses, and lover of all things Disney. She started her savings journey three years ago and is now dedicated to making her family’s wishes come true one coupon at a time. She is so excited to take her love of saving to the next level and share her journey with you! Click here to catch up on Kristen’s Savings and join in on your own savings adventure!