Personal Finance

Eat like kings and queens, pay like a peasant

Another Valentine’s Day has come and gone. What did you do? I’m sure many splurged on a night out at a restaurant and dropped three figures on a nice dinner. It was likely an enjoyable experience, but what was the impact on your wallet? Was it worth it?

Special occasions need to be special. But they don’t have to be expensive. Hey, I’m all for enjoying someone else’s cooking. If your budget can accommodate the tab – and the tip – then go for it. If we’re honest with our budgets, most of us might consider celebrating with a night out…in. As in a high-dollar meal for half the price tag, maybe less.

Dim the lights. Light the candles. Send the kids somewhere. And get cooking. Here are five main courses you can whip up with little effort and at a fraction of the restaurant price.

Crab is king

. King crab legs are my all-time favorite! It’s hard to mess these up. No wonder you can find all-you-can-eat specials at a casino or crab shack for $20. But you can feed two for that price buying at your grocer and boiling or steaming them at home. ( Throw in some new potatoes and corn on the cob and you have a feast fit for a king, at less than half the price.

Center cut

. Filet mignon is a close second to crab. Done right, there’s no better bite of beef for my taste buds. In the oven, on the grill or in a pan, these delectable cuts are easy to prepare in less than 15 minutes. A simple rub, a quick sear and you’re in heaven. (

) Grocery stores almost always have filet specials before a holiday. Even when not on sale, it’s a quarter of the “market price” price points that steakhouses use.

Pinching serious pennies

. Speaking of market price, how can the same crustacean cost $50 or more at a restaurant but only $15 at the supermarket? That’s lobster. Like crab legs, the luxurious-tasting lobster doesn’t take much time or effort to cook (

). Boiling or steaming, you’re not doing anything different than the restaurant. You’re just enjoying the results for pennies on the dollar.

Tender is the night

. I’ve yet to have pork loin at a restaurant that was better than what we’ve made at home. An 18-ounce, marinated-in-the-package cut of pork tenderloin can be had for around $12, more than enough for you and a significant other. And more than a 50 percent savings off the bill at a nice restaurant.

The ’eyes have it

. Ribeyes are another special-occasion steak. Sure, they may take a few more minutes to cook than a filet, but there’s more to them. And more to love, especially when you find a sale. I’ve personally found high-quality cuts at specialty grocers for $5 apiece! Even at $10 a pound, you’re still saving serious money.

Ah, the sweet taste of money saved, without sacrificing taste. It’s possible to indulge in the finer things in food and life without spending way more than necessary. There are a million recipes out there for all five of these main courses. Buy a nice bottle of wine and make a toast to the money you’ll save!

Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little one, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, click