Overspending at restaurants is easy to do. When we’re rushing around, the drive-through beckons. After a long day, pizza delivery sounds heaven sent. The problem is that it adds up quickly and eats (get it? 😆) into our savings. If you go out to lunch five days a week, you’ll spend about $200 a month. If you made lunch instead, you’d save $2,400 a year!

We turned to our savvy MoneyLion Plus members in our exclusive Plus Facebook group for frugal meal ideas, and they came through big time. When your MoneyLion app tip cards tell you it’s time to reel in your restaurant spending, try these ideas for home and on the go.

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1. Mamaw's chicken casserole

Nikita G. likes this easy casserole because it’s delicious and yields a week of leftovers. A recipe that saves time and money. Seconds, please!


What you need: 3 boneless-skinless chicken breasts cut into cubes (1½ to 2 lbs), 2 cups instant white rice, 2 cups water, 1 can cream of chicken soup, 1 can cream of mushroom soup, 1 can cream of celery soup, salt and pepper to taste, 1/2 cup butter cut into pads.

To make: Grease a 9×13 baking dish, bottom and sides. Place chicken pieces in dish, pour water, rice, cream soups and salt and pepper on top, mix well. Top it all evenly with pads of butter. Place on middle rack of 400-degree oven and bake for 60-75 mins. Yield: 6 servings.

2. Simple Salad -- Less than $1 per serving

Alex W. is inspiring us to eat healthy! This simple salad recipe allows him to make lunch for a whole week for around $3 total. 🙌 I plan to channel his discipline and try this next week. My wallet and waist will thank me.


What you need: 1 head of lettuce, veggies of choice, packs of chunk light tuna, and dressing of choice.

To make: Combine ingredients. Done. Yield: 5 servings.

Jennifer C. prepares her salads in reusable mason jars. Tasty, stylish, and eco-friendly. She says, “You can make them in advance, change up the ingredients, and they can be as healthy as you want!” Here are some recipe ideas.

3. Asian Meatballs

Chelsey B. makes Asian meatballs as an easy and cost-saving gourmet delight. She said it’s a big hit with her man, is fairly cheap to make, and is good for leftovers.


What you need: 1/2 cup hoisin sauce, 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 4 teaspoons brown sugar, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 package (12 ounces) frozen fully cooked homestyle or Italian meatballs, sesame seeds (optional), and hot cooked rice.

To make: In a large saucepan, mix the first six ingredients until blended. Add meatballs, stirring to coat, cook covered over medium-low heat 12-15 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally. Serve with rice. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Yield: 4 servings

4. Puerto Rican Chicken

Daniel A. had us drooling on our keyboards at MoneyLion. His Puerto Rican Chicken takes a little time, but making it yourself will give you a restaurant-worthy meal at a fraction of the cost of dining out.


What you need: 4 thin boneless-skinless chicken breasts, 4-8 slices of sopressata or Prosciutto, 1 ripe but firm plantain, 4-8 slices of bacon, 4 slices of mozzarella, 4 thin slices of roasted red pepper, 1/4 cup oil or butter for frying, salt and pepper to taste.

To make: Cut and open the chicken breast like a butterfly and pound them to stretch them out. Dice the plantains, fry them, and let cool. Layer the plantain, sopressata or Prosciutto, and pepper on top of each flattened chicken breast. Roll up each piece of chicken carefully and cover with one or two strips of bacon. Bake at 375°F for 20 minutes or until cooked. Top with mozzarella. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving. Yields: 4 - 6 servings.


To drink: Make homemade juice with water, strawberries, kiwi, lemon, and a little sugar.

5. Smoothies

Porsche E. makes healthy smoothies to keep the fast-food temptation at bay. She prepares them in advance by cutting up the fruit and veggies prior and freezing them in sandwich bags. Great idea, Porsche! She uses mango, peach, pineapple, and vanilla yogurt with a drizzle of honey and chia seeds -- and even spinach for fiber.


Bonus tip: Restaurant loyalty and rewards programs

This is a great tip from Lorena C., who reminds us to sign up for loyalty programs, apps, and coupons at restaurants, so that we when we do dine out, we’re dining at a discount. Lorena mostly packs her lunch but says that Sonic and Pizza Hut often advertise half-price deals and send valuable coupons to subscribers. Thanks for the tip!