A typical meal at a fast casual restaurant -- that is, a chain restaurant without a drive-through window and table service, such as Moe's or Pita Pit -- will typically cost $8 to $15 dollars [source: Franchise Direct]. However, in many cases, whipping up a meal at home will cost a fraction of the restaurant price, and you'll end up with a fresh and appetizing plate full of food.
Learning to cook delectable meals doesn't have to be expensive, complicated or time consuming. You can start by buying fresh, in-season ingredients and preparing them using simple methods. For example, instead of spending $10 or more on a Cobb salad, you can make one by cutting up half a head of Iceberg lettuce and topping it with avocado, tomato, egg and cheese. The total for this DIY meal? About $4.
Planting a few vegetable seeds will give you eventual access to really fresh ingredients. Even if you don't have access to a garden or a compatible climate, you can grow fresh herbs indoors. They're one of the most inexpensive plants to grow and, with the right amounts of sunlight and water, will produce abundantly [source: Herigstad].