This post does contain affiliate links. I use a lot of gadgets and special ingredients/items in the kitchen so I’ve linked them if people are interested in purchasing them. My costs for homemade and restaurant meals are approximations. And by no means are all these dishes healthy, but everything in moderation. Mind your portions and always try to add vegetables whenever possible.
There are a lot of reasons I decided to start cooking at home more often:
- My husband and I are foodies, no doubt about it. My husband planned our whole European engagement trip around eating at several Michelin star restaurants. Like I’ve said, I’m not fancy but I don’t mind a fancy meal or three.
- I like to know what I’m eating. I know how much salt or butter is added, I know if it’s deep fried, etc. The average dish at cheesecake factory is at least 1000 calories – if I add a pound of butter, cream and salt to anything, it’s going to be delicious of course.
- Recreating dishes at home is definitely cheaper. The average dinner out in my area isn’t cheap but it is good quality food that’s usually locally sourced….because #VERMONT.
- Being jobless and having the time to do so, I’ve learned to enjoy the process of cooking and putting together a good meal. It’s fun figuring out how to make dishes taste even better.
- Cooking is a skill everyone should have – MEN AND WOMEN. Everyone should know how to crack an egg and not just be popping some Elios pizza into the toaster oven whenever they’re hungry.
So here are a few things I’ve attempted to make at home:
Avocado Toast (Homemade: ~$2.25/person; Restaurant: $7+/person)
Please stop paying for avocado toast. Yes, it’s delicious but it is literally so “basic” you can make it at home.
I like to add cherry tomatoes, red onions, lime juice (fresh or bottled), salt, pepper, Tajín Clásico Seasoning and 1-2 green chillies to my mixture. It essentially becomes guacamole because I mash everything together.
And you MUST sprinkle Trader Joe’s Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend on top. It’s delicious on avocado toast and eggs. I was skeptical at first but now I’m a believer. Trust me on this one because:
Pizza (Homemade: $2.75/person; Restaurant: $7.50/person)
Vermont has several great pizzerias. Our favorite is American Flatbread and it’s buffalo chicken pizza. Back in college, I was addicted to Boston’s Il Mondo‘s buffalo chicken pizza as well. My favorite pizza chain is Papa Gino’s, but it just doesn’t exist in VT.
The key to a good pizza is the pizza sauce. Don Pepino Pizza Tomato Sauce tastes JUST LIKE Papa Gino’s. (You can find it at most grocery stores.) My husband was introduced to this sauce himself by his childhood babysitter and so he did me a huge disservice by telling me about it…because now I can make amazing pizza at home.
For a great crust, my husband purchased a Pizza Stone. I don’t think you realize you need this until you have it in your life. It keeps your crust nice and crisp. About three years ago, my husband and I decided to make a date night out of baking a pizza at home. We took the raw dough, topped it off with sauce, cheese and toppings and threw it in the oven. It didn’t cook through with the amount of sauce we piled on and the cheese was burning so that was a fail. So the lesson is: Always bake the crust a bit before.
So in enters our beloved Pizza Stone. Husband made the pizza and I died and went to heaven.
(And now I’m patient enough as well because the quality is great.)
We have tried several different pizza doughs and crusts from Trader Joe’s. Both the wheat dough and cauliflower crust provided no flavor so we went back to the original dough.
Pasta, Sauce and Turkey Meatballs all from scratch (Homemade: $4/person; Restaurant: $12+/person)
For the pasta sauce, I wanted to use up the canned tomato sauce in our pantry and a package of dehydrated spices from Italy I bought on my last trip in 2016. I also added some minced veggies. My cousin and I had bought similar dehydrated spice packages in 2014 in Italy. While she was back in England and I in Massachusetts, we both decided to follow the directions on the packaging. We soon learned we should never use the entire spice package. It was inedible and we’re Indian…we should be able to handle our spice. Anyway, if you do bring home those spice packages, taste the mixture before you add it to the tomato sauce.
I made the turkey meatballs from ground turkey, red onions, and spices. I first cooked it on the stove a bit and then continued the cooking process by baking it in the oven so it’d be cooked through.
*This was probably our favorite homemade meal so far* #ILOVECARBS
Poached or Soft-Boiled Eggs (Homemade: $0 because I literally got the eggs for free using 2 coupons; see my blog post about building better money habits. Restaurant: $1.50+/person)
When I was traveling the Amalfi Coast with my cousin back in 2014, every hotel served soft-boiled eggs for breakfast. They had this little device that took all the guesswork out of it. So when my husband and I moved into our new home which is basically located in a major vacation spot, I thought, this would be nice for our guests to use if we’re not at home. So I purchased a Dash Rapid Egg Cooker. It boils 6 or poaches 2 eggs. It can make an omelette too but I’d rather make that on a stove. I wish I had actually purchased the Dash Deluxe Egg Cooker because it can boil 12 eggs or poach 7 eggs.
Acai Bowls (Homemade: $4/bowl; Cafe/Restaurant: $8+/bowl)
I buy Acai puree from Trader Joe’s for $4.49/4 sachets. (For comparison: A friend told me she buys them from Wegman’s for $6. Another friend said she has tried the acai powder but it feels unnatural and prefers the Trader Joe’s puree over anything else). I have yet to try an acai bowl outside of home, but I don’t think the flavor I’m creating is too far off from what it’s supposed to be.
– Relatable Roni