Restaurant Recipes at Home-Cooked Prices
There are some meals that I am a flat-out sucker for — one restaurant’s appetizer, another’s entrée, several desserts. But eating out is one of the less frugal approaches to meal planning. I can’t justify going to Olive Garden every week just because I find it impossible to get enough of their spinach-artichoke dip, even if I could get good coupons. (See also: Menu Planning Backwards and Forwards)
Some restaurants have started packaging some of their foods for the freezer aisle at the supermarket. It’s a less pricey option than a full meal at the restaurant, but still is more expensive than I think is worthwhile on a regular basis. Worse, most of those frozen dishes don’t taste quite the same as their fresh made counterparts.
If I want those dishes on a regular basis, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll just have to make them myself. Recently, I’ve been hunting for those addictive recipes from my favorite restaurants, and it’s been surprisingly easy to find many of them.
Take that spinach-artichoke dip from Olive Garden, for instance. I found the recipe at:
And Olive Garden publishes it (and many other recipes) on the restaurant’s website! While not all restaurants are so nice, websites like those above often have ‘copy cat’ or ‘clone’ recipes. Using these terms in a search, along the name of the restaurant is the most effective way of finding a given recipe. The main drawback of this system is that it’s easiest to find recipes from large chains. The odds of finding your favorite dish at an independent restaurant of any type are fairly slim.
Some of these recipes are a bit more complex than those that I normally rely on and include ingredients not normally on my shopping list. However, I’ve found that adding an item or two to my shopping list is far less expensive than dinner out. I’ve also been able to substitute just a bit with stuff I already have in my pantry and still get that same great taste I’ve been craving.
And, if it’s a sauce or dressing of some sort you’ve been craving, there’s something else you should know about. There are companies that sell clones of certain restaurant sauces. While you could go to the effort of mixing up your own batch of T.G.I. Fridays’ Jack Daniels sauce, you can also buy bottles of a clone of the sauce from GrillinnChillin.net.