Mar 06 2008

A restaurant-esque money-saving menu


My brother-in-law and his girlfriend are coming to visit us this weekend!  We’re really excited to spend time together.

In an effort to save money, we’ll be eating our dinners at home, rather than at a restaurant. We’ll probably grab a lunch or two somewhere in town, though.

Anyway, I don’t want to look like a total cheap-o when it comes to food, so I’m whipping out a restaurant-esque menu for our guests. I’ve selected a few dishes that I think will be delicious and comparable to what we’d find in a restaurant.

That is, comparable in taste, not cost.

Here’s what Cook Kacie will be whipping up, with a cost break-down of each dish. I’ve also included the cost of a similar menu item at a national chain restaurant:

Dinner # 1

  • Angel hair pasta ($1 for whole box) in light garlic-y buttery sauce ($0.20 ?) with fresh tomatoes (~ $0.50 worth) and grated Parmesan & Romano cheese ($0.25 worth)
  • Baked coconut shrimp ($6 for four servings and four pieces each) with choice of pina colada dipping sauce ($1) or mango chutney (included with shrimp)
  • Side salad of fresh spinach, iceberg lettuce salad mix, carrots, green peppers, cucumber, tomatoes ($6.78 for ALL salad ingredients, but probably using $1.50 worth for this salad)

Total: $10.45 or $2.61 per person

A similar dinner at a restaurant

From Red Lobster: Parrot Bay coconut shrimp (on appetizer menu) $7.99 (I don’t think 16 pieces of shrimp come with this…probably more like 8. Does anyone know? For now, I’m going to say we’d need two orders of this) $15.98

There’s no plain angel hair pasta at Red Lobster. So, I’ll look at the menu at Olive Garden. They don’t have what I’m serving either, so I’m picking the closest thing (I think). What I’m preparing is most similar to their fettuccine alfredo (both dishes have a long noodle and a sauce…it’s a stretch but go with me on this). One serving of fettuccine alfredo costs $10.95 and comes with salad and breadsticks. Multiply that by four servings, and that’s $43.80.

Let’s say we all drink water ($0). The total for this meal would be $59.78 before tax & tip. A 20-percent tip is $12. Seven percent sales tax is $4.18. Total price: $75.96. Divide that by four people, and that’s $18.99 each.

Dinner # 2

  • Alice Springs chicken (chicken breasts marinated in honey/Dijon mustard sauce, pan-seared and then baked with sauted onions and peppers, with cooked turkey bacon and co-jack cheese on top) $5.05
  • Stuffed mushrooms $1.95
  • Cooked broccoli $0.89

Total: $7.89 or $1.97 per person

A similar meal at Outback Steakhouse

Bushman ‘Shrooms $6.99 (not quite the mushrooms I’ll be making, but these are the only mushrooms on their appetizer menu). I don’t know if this makes the full half-pound of mushrooms I’ll be making.

Alice Springs chicken $13.79 and comes with fries x4 for four servings = $55.16

Total pre-tip/pre-tax: $62.15. Tip would be $12.40, and tax would be $4.35. Final total: $78.90, or $19.73 each.

Dinner # 3

Taco bar
Make your own tacos using these ingredients: Warmed tortillas ($0.89), black beans ($0.60), ground beef ($3 for about 1.25 lb.) cooked with taco seasoning ($0.29), lettuce (about $0.25 worth), diced tomato ($0.25 worth), green peppers ($0.50 worth), onion ($0.20), salsa ($0.50), cheese ($0.50), sour cream ($0.50)

Total: $7.48 or $1.87 per person

Mad Mex grilled steak tacos: $12 x 4 servings = $48

Now, this isn’t a totally fair comparison. I’m using ground beef; those tacos would have steak. But still.

Total: $48. Tip: $9.60. Tax: $3.36. Final total: $60.96 or $15.24 per person.

To cook all three dinners at home, it will cost $25.82 in ingredients to feed four adults. If we went out and ate similar food, it would cost $215.82 total. Oh hi, that’s like 8 TIMES the amount it would cost to make at home.

My homemade dinners will cost less than the tip at a restaurant would cost!
Isn’t that crazy?

And, I’m pretty sure these dishes will be delish. I’m getting to be a fairly good cook, and I really enjoy preparing tasty meals.

Posted under Uncategorized | 23 Comments »

23 Responses to “A restaurant-esque money-saving menu”

  1. This is awesome! It’s so hard for me to eat out these days because I really know the cost of food. I am always thinking, sweet tea for $2.59, I have a whole box that I got for free that could make gallons of sweet tea!
    Enjoy your company!

  2. I always do this, really. It’s not really the money. I personally value a home made meal with good company over a restraunt experience. To me, eating can be survival oriented, or it can be a social experience. I’d rather do my socializing with good friends at home.

  3. I would love to see the recipes. Thank you for your post!

  4. Yum! These meals sound great, and will create much more memorable experiences than eating out.

  5. My husband is an outbacker. i’ll have to tell him you’re making this. He’ll know for sure how many lbs of mushrooms are in the bushman shrooms.

  6. Yum! Great post! But, you are forgetting the super tasty breadsticks at The O Garden…. those are worth at least a few bucks in my opinion! :)

    Have fun!

  7. This all sounds so good! I wish I was coming to dinner! I like how you calculated what it would cost if you ate out instead of making it yourself.

  8. What a lovely resturant style menu. I sure wish that I was going to be your guest.

    Hubby and I wil be going out of town for a couples weekend away and I foresee us spending a pretty penny on dining out. We have budgeted and saved in advance for this trip so I guess I can relax and enjoy a few meals that I don’t have to cook.

  9. I eat out too much. I will have to take your advice and eat home a LOT more. Your menus sound yummy. Thanks.

  10. Impressive, Kace! I want to eat with you guys. (You should post photos!)

  11. WOW ~ how eye opening to see it in black and white! Thanks for sharing!

  12. We rarely eat out. It’s obviously quite expensive!! Then there’s the traffic, the waiting and the mistakes, causing more waiting for the poor unfortunate diner who’s order was messed up (usually me) who has to eat alone after everyone else has finished eating, and oh yeah… what will I wear? Then there’s the biggest reason; MotherDear and I like our own cooking better!

  13. Thanks this is a great idea. Thanks for sharing it with us!

  14. I think you are my new meal planning hero! That is fantastic! I’m sure your guests are going to love the meals you planned.

  15. WoW, I really like this blog, I wish my ex had thought like you. Your husband is a lucky man. Now I am going to get some food, I got hungry reading the blog.

  16. Sounded like an excellent menu plan…pasta is always pretty safe and very tasty! Hope it all went off without a hitch :)

  17. This is so neat to see your thought process on this! I love what you did with the math.

    The Bargain Shopper Lady

  18. Oh man, the stuff was really tasty.

    The chicken dinner took the most time to prepare, but it wasn’t anything insane.

    Everything went over really well. We had such a great time this weekend, and didn’t spend much money!

  19. Shrimps are quite expensive here in UK. I think you will have to have baked beans and bacon :)

  20. Kacie, this is a great exercise. I find as I like my own cooking more and more (and see how much cheaper it is), I’m less tempted to go out.

  21. I love the Copycat recipes on RecipeZaar ( You can just search for copycat on that site (or on Google, search Copycat Recipes and there are several sites).

    I’ve found DQ Ice Cream cakes, Pizza Hut Pizza, McDonalds Hamburgers and more. Two of my hubby’s favorite restaurant foods (pizza from Pizza Hut and Chili’s Boneless Buffalo Wings) I now make at home for a fraction of the price. We are saving about $30-$50 each week by not eating out. The McDonalds Hamburgers are great to make when my nephews come over and are SO cheap compared to a $5 Happy Meal.

    I also make my own tortillas. You can put anything in a tortilla (or a crepe for that matter) and it seems much fancier than it is.

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife and mother of 3. I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

I hope I can inspire and encourage you to improve your situation. See disclosure.

I'm adopting a much slower-paced posting schedule, and treating this as a hobby blog now.

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