Recreating Restaurant Meals and Saving Big

While everyone is out shopping, I’m tallying up the prices on recreating restaurant meals at home. Yes, I live this lifestyle now and I kind of love it. Black Friday has changed so much for us since we’ve taken on the “frugal” title. I’ll get into that more soon!

It’s no surprise around here we like to enjoy good food. What I don’t enjoy is the bill that goes with many new trendy foods or going out to eat. As we’ve flexed our Frugal muscles, I’ve gotten better at cooking in the last decade, too.

When we consume a meal out, I savor it and start to figure out how to recreate it at home. Now being gluten and egg free due to intolerance, that has become even more important as many of the foods I enjoyed before are off limits.

This summer we went to a place nearby that is called Playa Bowls. They specialize in fruit and vegetable smoothies and smoothie bowls which are all the rage these days. I’ve only been there twice, but I definitely wanted to try to remake what they sell at home for less.

A Playa Bowl is typically around $8 or more for a bowl or a drink. Add in gluten-free granola which I have to request and it adds another $1 to the total. Spending around $20 for two of us to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables is great, but that would blow our budget really quick!

Recently, I learned that the gluten-free granola can be found at my local store! So, I decided to try to find Açaí berries to recreate the Açaí bowls that I liked at Playa Bowl. I found out Açaí doesn’t come in whole frozen food form, but only in packets and are shipped from South America. Apparently, they are a bitter berry and don’t hold up well for shipping. I picked up 4 packets from my local Wegmans, but now found out that Costco carries them for far less, too.

Açaí bowls typically call for a little liquid, in my case I use 1/4 cup of coconut milk. Then you add in an Açaí packet, plus whatever fruit you’d like and I add spinach for a bit of vegetables thrown in. Since I have a Vitamix, it does an amazing job of blending using the tamper.

Here’s the breakdown of my recreation of one of the bowls I liked (minus the pineapple topping, though I forgot I have a can of pineapple in the fridge!).

ItemCostPer Serving
Coconut Milk$2.99 / 64 oz$0.09
Açaí Packets (4)$6.99 / 4 servings$1.75
Bakery on Main GF Granola$8.69 / 20 servings$0.44
Banana$0.49/lb / 120 grams$0.13
Frozen Berries$8.49 / 48 oz$0.18 oz
Organic Spinach$3.99 / 11 oz$0.36 oz
Total Cost $2.95 per bowl

In the end, I could create a nice fruit bowl meal for Chris and I both using organic ingredients for over half the cost of going out. Less than $6 total for the two of us, and looking at Costco’s packet prices I can bring this total down

I don’t personally need all the toppings, but I figured I could always leave my banana out of the blending process and slice it on top like they do at the restaurant. Obviously, the toppings change the cost breakdown, but in the end making restaurant meals at home is far less expensive (and you can choose better ingredients) than eating out.

There was a time when we would only eat out to enjoy certain delicious foods, but in the past decade as we’ve gotten more financially savvy we spend far more time recreating meals at home and saving a ton in the process. The best part is that I don’t have to wrangle the kids while enjoying my fruit bowls or other tasty delights. Since we’re home, they are free to be themselves and run around or sit and enjoy their own delicacies.

Have you tried to recreate restaurant meals at home? If so, which ones? How did it go?

2 thoughts on “Recreating Restaurant Meals and Saving Big

  1. it’s a great gift to figure out how to cook the stuff you love to eat. if you’re like our family of 2, you’ll find yourself talking on more and more challenging dishes and then “boom”, going out to eat will lose lots of its appeal. wegman’s rocks. we have them in buffalo. i was just thinking about cooking implements as we’re minimizing around the house and selling some high quality stuff on ebay. if we didn’t already have all we need with regards to good pans and knives, those are 2 items i would definitely search on craigslist or ebay or your favorite frugal site.


  2. True! A good set of knives and great pans really are all you need for amazing meals. It’s almost a fun game now to recreate meals, and you’re right, going out to eat loses it’s appeal especially knowing the real cost of what I’m eating and how much a premium I’m paying for.

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