Quick and Affordable Fast Food Favorites at Home!

I love making homemade equivalent of restaurant dishes. Here's some recipes that fall into that category, sent to me by a reader. Hopefully you'll like them too!

We’re going to keep this short and sweet – here's a curated list of easy at-home family meals that will please everyone!

While bringing these recipes together we’ve taken quite a few things into consideration, including: cost, quantity, kid favorites, and accessibility. Each recipe is relatively easy to put together, geared toward the use of leftovers, and can be tailored to fit your personal preferences!


Our comparison: the new Loaded Nacho Taco Box at Taco Bell for $5

Tips and tricks: Use this recipe to sneak some veggies into your kid’s diet!

• Olive oil
• Onion
• 2 lbs ground beef
• Taco seasoning (or cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt, and pepper)
• Tortilla chips
• 1 cup grated cheese
• Diced tomatoes
• Jalapeno, if you like it spicy!
• Sour cream
Additional options: cilantro and avocado


In a skillet, heat the olive oil and add the onion. Cook until soft and add ground beef. When the meat is browned, drain the excess liquid and add taco seasoning or spice mixture.

Layer tacos, meat, tomatoes, cheese, jalapenos, and sour cream as desired. If you want to, sprinkle extra cheese on top and broil the nachos in the oven for a melted mess.

Rice bowls
Our comparison: Ramen restaurants
Tips and tricks: For healthier options, switch up the type of rice you use and pile on the veggies.

We’re going to go off the tracks with this one a little bit, because it is so versatile. Rice bowls – or even quinoa bowls – are becoming very popular on menus these days, and there’s good reason why. They’re comforting, filling, and customizable with endless possibilities. The base is simple enough – rice, of your choice. Here’s a basic recipe for rice preparation:
• 1 cup rice
• 2 cups water
• 1 tsp olive oil
• 1 tsp salt
• Garlic, if desired

Rinse the rice and sauté quickly in olive oil (add garlic as well!), until it releases a nutty scent. For every part rice use two parts water – in this case, boil two cups of water. Add rice and salt and keep at a boil for one minute before reducing to a simmer for twelve. Fluff with a fork to check if the rice is done.

When serving this dish, you can go “serve your own” style by providing a multitude of toppings and letting your guests build their dish. Go for proteins like shrimp and chicken, veggies like avocados and spinach, and don’t forget herbs and spices – cilantro, parsley, lime, salt and pepper. Many recipes even call for some fruit to sweeten things up; think pineapple!

Our comparison: Any guilty pleasure from Domino’s
Tips and tricks: Make a few batches of dough ahead of time and freeze them in your desired portions.

Like our previous dish on the menu, pizza is a versatile offering. You can choose whatever toppings you like and the time and effort stays virtually the same. A pizza can take about 20-30 minutes (plus an hour to allow the dough to rise, so plan ahead of time) to make from scratch, and as we’re sure you’re familiar with an array of toppings already, we’ll leave you with an incredibly simple recipe for dough:

• 1 package active yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons)
• 1 cup warm water
• 2 ½ cups flour
• 1 tsp sugar
• 2 tbs olive oil

Begin by mixing the yeast and sugar into the warm water and letting it sit until slightly foamy. Add in the flour and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to prevent sticking. Mix by hand until a dough is formed; then, after sprinkling an appropriate surface with flour, tip the dough out and knead until smooth and elastic, but no longer sticky.

When you’re ready, roll the dough out into a circle or rectangle and top with red sauce or cheese before adding other toppings. Bake 10-15 minutes at 400 degrees.


Our comparison: Jamba Juice
Tips and tricks: Use ugly fruits and veggies! Since everything is blended together, it doesn’t matter if your ingredients have slight blemishes to them. As long as they’re fresh and clean, you’re set!

While our first instinct might be to assume that all smoothies are healthy, that’s far from the truth. You can actually be plying yourself with unwanted calories if you’re not careful.
But if you know what you’re doing, smoothies can be a great addition to your diet, especially if you’re not so good at getting your daily quantity of fruit and veggies in.
Here’s how to keep things on the healthier side when you’re blending up an on-the-go smoothie or something sweet for dessert:

• Choose a dairy alternative such as almond or oat milk, or juice
• Aim for at least one serving of a fruit or veggie. So, one apple, a handful of strawberries, an avocado.
• Stay away from any source of sugar such as honey or the usual granulated kind. The fruit should be sweet enough. Whatever tickles your tastebuds.

See my disclaimer.

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal

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