Good ideas to help meal planning

Hi everyone!

Going into 2011, we are having to buckle down even more than 2010! So, I have really been looking at all our budgeted areas. One big place that I have control over is food. Not only getting the most bang for my buck at the grocery store but, having meal ideas ready to go. If I don't have something in mind or ready for dinner, what happens? Take out or eat out and there goes a bunch of money.

Do you get stuck in a dinner rut? Same old menus. This is something I really want to work on. I get bored easily and so I don't enjoy making he same things over and over.

I recently read a post from Amy at MomAdvice. Here is the full article Meal Ideas.

Amy suggested some fun ideas to use for our weekly menus. The first idea she talked about really caught my attention and is something I am going to do.

1. Get creative with your planning
One of the top pitfalls to a family budget is dining out. Use those restaurant menus as an inspiration for your family dinners and create your menu plan. Simply do a search for copycat recipes for your favorite dishes and try recreating that fancy dining experience at home. You will pay half or less on the price of those dishes and can dine in the comfort of your own home.

I never really thought of this before. So, I have decided that once a week I will have "Restaurant Night at Home".

So, with a little internet search I found my first restaurant recipe. One of my favorite receipe sites is CopyKat Recipes. this recipe and picture came from this site. Doesn't this look yummy!Although this is an appetizer, I think I am going to serve it with an Olive Garden like salad and serve this as a main course.I will just make a bit more of it. And whats really nice as well, is the only thing I need to buy to make this is the fresh peppers.

Olive Garden Grilled Chicken Flatbread
You may consider adding additional toppings to this, I made one with some sliced red onions, and a couple of kalamata olives and thought that these flatbreads were quite delicious.
Yield: 2 – 4 servings.
1 package of flatbread – this can be purchased at a grocery store
1 chicken breast
1 cup Alfredo sauce
1/2 to 1 grilled red pepper – depends on your personal preference, and how big the pepper is
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 garlic clove

Prepare Alfredo sauce, you can have the recipe, or you can simply cook up some pasta and enjoy some pasta with the Alfredo sauce. Season chicken breast with salt and pepper, and place in a skillet over medium-low heat with 1 tablespoon of cooking oil. Cook chicken breast for about 4 minutes on one side, flip over, and cook chicken breast on the other side, this should take about 3 to 4 minutes. Slice chicken breast into small slices.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel garlic clove, cut in half, and rub cut garlic clove over the flat bread. Place cooked sliced chicken breast onto flatbread, coat the bread with Alfredo sauce, top with half of the grilled red peppers, and add sprinkle over mozzarella cheese on top of everything. Place into the oven and heat until the mozzarella cheese melts, this should take 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from oven, and top with remaining grilled red peppers and add chopped basil before serving.

How to grill peppers
There are several ways to grill peppers.

How to grill a pepper in the oven
Preheat broiler. Lightly coat the red pepper with olive oil. Grill peppers under the broiler until the skin turns black and the pepper softens slightly. Place pepper into a paper bag to cool for approximately 20 minutes, and then peal off the blackened skin.

How to grill a pepper on a gas stove top
Turn your flame on high, and with metal tongs place the pepper on the gas burner, flip over once one side is blackened, continue to do so until the entire pepper has been blackened. Place pepper into a paper bag to cool for approximately 20 minutes, and the peal off the blackened skin.

I don't have a gas stove, so I will be doing them on the grill.

I am joining:

Foodie Friday
Weekend Cooking
Friday Potluck


  1. Diann what a fun idea...Restaurant Night! I have decided that I am going to try at least one new recipe a week. I may add Restaurant Night also. I'm working on planning my menus and making sure I have ingredients on hand to cook. I'm doing much better so far but improvement is still needed. Do you do weekly menus?

  2. Great idea!! I am printing this recipe it looks delish! I tend to fix the same old things too and it makes me crazy....after a long day at work I don't particularly want to go out so this is a great alternative!

    Lou Cinda

  3. I like the idea of a restaurant night.I am finding it harder to think of something new for meals also. This sounds like a great way to spend less out and more time at home.
    Thanks for sharing this.

  4. That looks delicious. I've saved the recipe. Like you, I think that and a nice salad would be a complete meal for us.

    We're also tightening our belts this year. Our already slim budget is getting even slimmer.

  5. I know we have cut down eating out a lot so this is an inspired idea Diann. Gasoline is going to really hurt us terribly. ♥O

  6. Lovin' your Restaurant Night idea, I think you'll have a lot of fun with it! I look forward to seeing what you make Diann:@)

  7. I have used the CopyKat recipe site and it is awesome!!! The restaurant night is a great idea, I may have to give that one a try also!!! Thanks for the links to read more ideas too!!! :)

  8. I found a copykat recipe for White Chili from Ruby Tuesdays. It was delicious! I've been making it for years. I just wish I could figure out how to make authentic Mexican! That would be great! lol

  9. This is a great idea! The last few times we've been out to eat - we were disappointed. I'm going to go to that site and check it out! Thank you!
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  10. Restaurant Night sounds fun. Thanks for the link to CopyKat. I'm off to check it out.

  11. Thanks for the link -- I didn't know about the CopyKat site. And like, Margot, I think Restaurant Night at Home sounds like it will be fun -- favorite dishes, new recipes, and save money. Perfect.

  12. I have seen other sites that try to reproduce recipes from restaurants but not this to check it out.
    these flatbreads looks yummy..

  13. Restaurant Night sounds like a great idea! I have thought of it before but never really done anything with the idea (sometimes restaurant dishes appear too complicated), but maybe now it's time to really try something from a restaurant menu :)

  14. I love your idea od restaurant night at home. Lets get out the table cloth and cloth napkins and go for it. thanks.


Thank you for taking the time to comment! I love to hear your ideas. If you ask a question, I will answer it here in a comment back to you. Please check back! Thank you for visiting and have a wonderful day! Diann :)