Takeout Meals Cheaper at Home
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21 Takeout Meals Made Cheaper at Home

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Takeout Meals Cheaper at Home
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FAVORITE MEALS MADE BETTER

After a long day at work, it's tempting to stop and pick up dinner from a favorite takeout joint instead of making a meal at home. It's not just a busy schedule that makes this option so enticing; a lot of takeout foods are simply delicious. But eating takeout all the time quickly becomes expensive. Fortunately, many of the best takeout meals can be made quickly and cheaply at home.

Pizza
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PIZZA

Pizza can be as simple as topping a few bagels or bread with tomato sauce and some shredded cheese, and baking in the oven (or toaster oven) for 7 to 8 minutes. Add fresh veggies sitting in the fridge as creative toppings. Making homemade pizza dough is similarly easy and inexpensive, although it can add considerable preparation time.

Recipe: Cheapism

Ramen
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RAMEN

Homemade ramen may not be as cheap as the store-bought stuff that many college students subsist on, but it's far cheaper than getting quality ramen from a restaurant and has far less sodium. Most of the ingredients for this recipe can be found in any pantry. Yakisoba noodles are sold in the Asian section of many food markets, and spaghetti or other pasta makes an easy substitute. What’s more, ramen noodles can be enhanced in numerous ways for cheap.

Recipe: Damn Delicious

Pad Thai
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PAD THAI

Thai food tends to be loaded with unique flavors, so making it at home may seem intimidating. But novice cooks can easily make a pad Thai pretty comparable to $12 takeout. The sauce requires a couple of ingredients — such as cilantro and bean sprouts — not already in the pantry, but they can be purchased cheaply. Throw in some chicken or beef for added protein, or add more eggs and peanuts to make the dish more filling for less cost.

Recipe: Tablespoon

Cheesesteak
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PHILLY CHEESESTEAK

Philly cheesesteaks are a food cart favorite, but making them at home is easy with the right ingredients. Hoagie rolls, bell peppers, onions, and cheese are all pretty cheap (or already in the kitchen). Using a recipe that calls for chuck steak rather than pricier beef helps reduce costs. But cheaper cuts tend to get tough quickly when cooked too long, so keep the steak on the rare side.

Recipe: Damn Delicious

Chicken Fried Rice
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CHICKEN FRIED RICE

Looking for a really cheap meal? Chicken fried rice fills the bill. This quick version is somewhat minimalist, with few ingredients, but can be customized to fit any taste. For a few pennies more, substitute brown rice for white — or splurge on a bag of fragrant jasmine rice.

Recipe: MyRecipes

Thai Beef with Peanut Sauce
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THAI BEEF WITH PEANUT SAUCE

It's hard to beat a good Thai peanut sauce, which can easily be made with peanut butter, soy sauce, brown sugar, sriracha, and water. Home cooks can substitute a cheaper protein in a recipe that calls for flank steak, or skip the meat entirely. Noodles or rice drizzled with peanut sauce and mixed veggies are a tasty alternative — at a fraction of the price of takeout.

Recipe: Damn Delicious

Fried Chicken
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FRIED CHICKEN

There's no need to stop for fried chicken when it can easily be made at home. What's more, homemade fried chicken can be prepared with healthier oils, and removing the skin before breading reduces fat and calories. (Pro tip: It can also be made in the oven.) Most ingredients are probably already in the kitchen.

Recipe: Bon Appétit

Black Beans and Rice
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BLACK BEANS AND RICE

Black beans and rice is about as simple and cheap as a meal gets. Admittedly, the dish can be a bit boring, so try spicing it up with some extra veggies and spices. Diced tomatoes make a nice addition to this easy version, as do lime juice, canned corn, and extra garlic.

Recipe: Allrecipes

Thai Shrimp Soup
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THAI SHRIMP SOUP

Thai soups generally are easy to make at home. A takeout order of tom kha or tom yum can easily cost $8 to $9, even as an appetizer. But finding ingredients for a Thai shrimp soup recipe at the market on the cheap should be no problem — and the cost can be cut further by substituting chicken or pork. Warning: The soup is addictive, so make extra and try to save some for the next day.

Recipe: Taste of Home

Beef and Broccoli
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BEEF AND BROCCOLI

Beef and broccoli is a classic Chinese takeout choice that's oh-so-easy to make at home. Including prep time, this dish can go from stovetop to tabletop in less than 20 minutes. A well-stocked pantry should have all the ingredients for this dish, although it does call for chili paste or sweet chili sauce. Don't have either? A Genius Kitchen user suggests a quick way to make your own.

Recipe: Oh, Sweet Basil

Teriyaki Chicken Noodle Bowl

TERIYAKI CHICKEN NOODLE BOWL

Teriyaki chicken and noodles requires making teriyaki sauce, but if the necessary ingredients aren't normally stocked in the pantry, it may be more economical to use a store-bought sauce. The chicken has to marinate for at least 30 minutes, so plan this meal for a night when you're not in a rush.

Recipe: Damn Delicious

Orange Chicken
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ORANGE CHICKEN

Orange chicken is another Chinese classic. This recipe takes about an hour to make, because the chicken needs to marinate. Many recipes have complicated sauces, but this one requires only three cheap and easy-to-find ingredients: barbecue sauce, orange marmalade, and soy sauce.

Recipe: Crafty Morning

Sweet and Sour Chicken
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SWEET AND SOUR CHICKEN

Unlike the restaurant version, this recipe for baked sweet and sour chicken calls for the chicken to be fried only briefly before baking in the oven, which helps reduce fat and calories. Baking requires patience — it takes about an hour — but it's well worth the wait.

Recipe: Mel's Kitchen Café

Lo Mein
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LO MEIN

Lo mein is mostly just noodles, so it can be even quicker and cheaper to make at home than waiting on delivery. Lo mein noodles are easily found at the grocery store, but spaghetti or vermicelli also works just fine. Toss in some veggies and, for some variation, use oyster sauce instead of soy sauce. Make it heartier by throwing in chopped chicken, pork, or even beef.

Recipe: Mr. Food Test Kitchen

Cheesy Avocado Quesadillas
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CHEESY AVOCADO QUESADILLAS

Quesadillas can be a budget-friendly snack, requiring only tortillas and cheese. This recipe calls for some ground beef, refried beans, and avocado to make it a heartier meal but still far cheaper than ordering takeout. Avocado can be expensive, so the most budget-conscious home cooks may want to skip it.

Recipe: How Does She?

Spaghetti and Meat Sauce
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SPAGHETTI AND MEAT SAUCE

Spaghetti is one of the cheapest meals on many restaurant menus, but that doesn't make it a bargain. Pasta bought from the market is cheap (especially on sale) and making your own meat sauce takes only some veggies, tomato sauce, and ground beef (or turkey). If available, toss in some fresh basil, oregano, and garlic for additional flavor, and sprinkle with a pinch or two of Parmesan.

Recipe: Allrecipes

Shrimp Fajitas
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SHRIMP FAJITAS

Shrimp fajitas beg for a grill, but they can also be made in the oven. Shrimp, bell peppers, onion, and a few spices combine to make a cheap, delicious, and healthy meal. Serve over rice to make the fajitas more filling and economical.

Recipe: CookingLight

Taco Salad
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TACO SALAD

Like most Mexican dishes, this taco salad uses mostly cheap and readily available ingredients: ground beef, beans, cheese, tortillas, tomatoes, onions, etc. Consider using lettuce in place of tortillas for a lighter take on this dish.

Recipe: 100 Days of Real Food

Burrito Bowl
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BURRITO BOWL

As delicious as the fast-food version may be, a burrito bowl is a snap to make at home using the same simple ingredients. This cheap dish can be customized in many different ways. This version includes a chipotle cream sauce, but extra salsa or a dollop of sour cream will work just fine. Add a protein of choice, or none at all. Substitute quinoa instead of rice for a nutritious twist.

Recipe: Damn Delicious

Refried Bean Tostadas
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REFRIED BEAN TOSTADAS

For a truly inexpensive replacement for takeout food, try making refried bean tostadas. They take about 20 minutes to make and require little more than tortillas, refried beans, and cheese. Add some ground beef or extra veggies to make this more of an entrée than an appetizer.

Recipe: MyRecipes

Burgers
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BURGERS

Making burgers at home not only saves a lot of money but allows some variety. A ground turkey burger shaves off some of the cost, and making sliders instead of full-size burgers can make a little meat go a long way. Vegetarians can use portobello mushrooms or make black-bean burgers on the cheap.

Recipe: Food Network