Meal Planning Monday ~ Restaurant Recipes at Home


           In America, we LOVE to eat out!  According to the US Department of Labor, in 2010 the average American family spent $2,619 dining out, which is almost $220 per month.  Wow, that’s a lot of money, especially with so many people in debt and without a cushion of savings!  I love to eat out as much as the next person, but I spend about half of that amount.  How?  One of my favorite tricks is to dine out for lunch instead of dinner, which saves me at least 30 – 40%.  Portions are slightly less (which is usually a good thing) and I try to drink water with lemon, so I’m not paying $2.50 or $3.00 for a glass of Diet Coke (much less $6.00 or more for a glass of wine with dinner.)

            Another way I save money on eating out is to find recipes for my favorite restaurant dishes and try them at home!  CopyKat Recipes is a great resource for restaurant recipes, and even has instructional videos!  One of my favorite places to eat out is Cracker Barrel.  Who doesn’t love their home cooking?  I usually get the grilled chicken tenderloin with hash brown casserole and green beans.  I was so excited when I happened upon a recipe for the Cracker Barrel chicken tenderloin on Pinterest this week!  I added it to my meal plan for the upcoming week, along with my friend Patty Welsh Cable’s recipe for Cracker Barrel’s hash brown casserole!  I also make a great Spinach & Artichoke Dip that Nick says is better than any he’s gotten out as a restaurant appetizer.  (That recipe is included in my upcoming e-book about Meal Planning, “The Coupon Sisters Get Cooking,” which will be for sale on March 1st.)

            What’s your family’s favorite restaurant?  Why not check out CopyKat or Google your favorite dish and see if you can make it at home?  You’ll certainly save money, and probably calories too.  I’m not against eating out, but most of us could stand to save some money in our eating out budgets.  Here is my Meal Plan for this week.


Monday ~ Turkey Polish sausage with Perogies and mixed veggies.

Tuesday ~ Lemon Pepper Tilapia with mac & cheese and broccoli.

Wednesday ~ FFY (Fend For Yourself) Night.  I am teaching a Coupon Workshop at my church.

Thursday ~ Fiery Fried Chicken with Yukon Gold potatoes and a salad.

Friday ~ Fish Tacos with refried black beans.

Saturday ~ Date Night!  Nick and I are going on a double date with friends to dinner and a movie.

Sunday ~ Cracker Barrel’s Chicken Tenderloins, Patty’s Hash Brown Casserole, and green beans.


Cracker Barrel Grilled Chicken Tenderloin Recipe


1 pound boneless chicken breast tenders

1/2 cup Zesty Italian dressing

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon honey



  1. Mix dressing, lime juice, and honey in a large resealable bag or container.
  2. Add the chicken.  Marinate for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator.
  3. In a large non-stick skillet over med/high heat, add the entire mixture with chicken to the pan.
  4. Braise chicken on all sides until golden but not dry.(I do this until most of the liquid has evaporated out which is why mine have a dark color)



Patty’s Hash Brown Casserole (like Cracker Barrel)

10.25 ounce can of condensed can cream of chicken
8 ounce Colby cheese grated
½ cup melted butter
1 small onion minced
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
2 lb. bag frozen shredded hash browns

Spray 13 X 9 X 2 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray: set aside.  In a bowl, combine soup, cheese, butter, onion, salt, and pepper.  Gently fold potatoes into mixture and spread evenly into pan.  Heat at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until heated through or top is brown.