When you are trying to save money, one of the easiest things to eliminate from your budget is eating out or ordering takeout. Although takeout meals are easy and delicious, getting meals out instead of cooking at home can blow your budget quickly with the high food prices plus tips and delivery fees.
Your goal is to get serious about cooking more at home, but you do not want to sacrifice taste and variety. So, if you still want delicious meals that taste like dishes from your favorite restaurants, there are ways to recreate your favorite restaurant meals in your kitchen on a budget.
Ask for the Recipe
If you have a favorite meal from a restaurant nearby, ask the server or manager if they would be willing to give you the recipe. Occasionally, they may tell you that the recipe is a secret, but often, they will be happy to give you the recipe for your favorite dishes.
Even if you cannot get an answer on the exact recipe from the restaurant, look at the menu description. It most likely lists the individual ingredients so that you can try to recreate the dish on your own. There could be some tweaking to get it right, but this will help you get started.
Some restaurants also list their recipes or ingredient lists on their websites along with the nutrition facts. Therefore, this is another option if you are trying to sleuth out how to recreate your favorite meal on a budget.
Take a cooking class
A big step towards cooking restaurant-style food at home is to gain confidence in your cooking skills. If you are overwhelmed at the thought of making meals at home, take a cooking class.
Taking a class will help you feel more comfortable in the kitchen or teach you some tricks to up your cooking game.
There are countless places to take cooking classes in your local community or even at restaurants in your area. Also, reach out to community colleges or town boards that run enrichment programs in your area. Most cooking classes are inexpensive, or even free.
If there is not a class offered in your area, express your interest. You may not be the only one looking for a cooking class, so you could help get a class started in your area. If in-person classes are not an option, there are also plenty of online cooking classes that you could do from your home.
You can find general cooking classes to teach you the basics or specialty classes that will focus on cooking a specific type of food like pasta or an Indian food class. So, whether you are a complete cooking newbie or just trying to get better at a specific type of cooking, there is a class for everyone.
Find copycat recipes
Many food bloggers have made a career out of creating copycat recipes for your favorite takeout meals. Pinterest is loaded with links to things like “Copycat Chick-fil-a” or “Panda Express at Home.” A quick search for your favorites will likely yield some good options to try at home.
Create a Pinterest board to save all your favorite recipes in one place so you can quickly come back to them when it’s time to give them a try for yourself. This will make it easier when you are looking for meal inspiration.
Being prepared for dinnertime is a big step in resisting the urge to go out for dinner or order expensive takeout. Instead of calling in an order when you are hungry, you can whip up a similar recipe at home for a fraction of the price.
In addition to recreating famous chain takeout dishes, there are plenty of recipes that will mimic your favorite types of foods. Use Pinterest, or even just Google “Restaurant style” with your favorite meal, and you will yield plenty of results.
Rethink your grocery trips
If you feel like you aren’t creative enough to make restaurant-quality meals at home, spend some time exploring at the grocery store. Most of the time, grocery trips are meant to be quick and efficient. You most likely follow a list and work your way through the store methodically.
While this is often a great way to get your shopping done quickly, sometimes you need to mix things up. So, if you are looking for meal inspiration, take a walk down the aisles with the sauces and ingredients for your favorite types of meals and see what appeals to you.
For example, if you have been craving Mexican food, take a walk down the aisle with all the enchilada sauces and taco kits. Often, the packages will have recipes on the back, so you can use that as a guide to get everything you need to make the recipe.
If you are overwhelmed at the idea of going into the grocery store without a plan, set a goal to have one meal per week be a “wing it” meal. Plan your meals and make a grocery list but have one of your meals be something you decide on the spot in the store when you encounter an ingredient that inspires you.
Use social media
Food bloggers have been around for a long time, but many are shifting to social media to drive more exposure to their delicious recipes. Search the hashtags for your favorite restaurants and your favorite types of food on Instagram or TikTok to find accounts that are your style.
Many of these food bloggers post easy recipes in the reels or provide links to their websites where you can find their easy, delicious recipes. Once you start to follow one account, you will start to see more like it on the page, so you can find more food accounts to follow.
Find food bloggers who share your mindset about cooking. The beauty of the social media food blogger scene is that there are accounts that are incredibly niche. You can find accounts for specific diet preferences like gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, Whole 30, and more.
If you want quick recipes that will take 30 minutes or less because you’re a multitasking mom, there are accounts for that. If you want to learn how to make things like fancy reduction sauces and don’t mind using every pan in your kitchen, there are gourmet accounts too.
Go old-fashioned with cookbooks
Cookbooks are not dead! While food blogs and reels are great for some people, there is a lot to be said for a nice, old-fashioned cookbook on your counter. There are cookbooks for every style of food imaginable, and even entire cookbooks dedicated to recreating restaurant recipes.
Look at your local bookstore or on Amazon for a cookbook that suits your needs. Whether you are looking for recipes to make the best Chinese takeout-style meals at home or an encyclopedia of grilled cheese, you can find a cookbook for that!
The beauty of using a real cookbook is that you can make notes on the recipes that you try. This helps to remind yourself what you liked, and what you would change to make a meal taste more like a meal from your favorite restaurant. It will also note the substitutions you made.
Image credit: [Prostock-studio]