You’ve seen the commercials. Actor Paul Sorvino and a few of his cronies come onto the screen to proclaim their Irish heritage. Surely, men of real Italian origin would never visit a fast food place to satisfy their mood for authentic Italian cuisine. But alas, they’re happily munching on Zaxby’s latest confection, the Parmesan Chicken Sandwich Meal. The fast food chain, which boasts some of the best fried chicken tenders in metro Atlanta, is offering the meal for $4.99-not a bad deal. But if you’re feeding four or more people, the cost adds up quickly. Sample the meal, and you’ll probably be more than satisfied. But why not use the recession to learn to create the fast food meals you enjoy? You can easily recreate this dinner for less than half the amount you would spend for four to enjoy the combo. Observe the list of vegan meal companies here.

The Chicken

Clearly, the most difficult part of this little menu will be the chicken. Zaxby’s chicken has a very distinct flavor, one that makes it a truly popular fast food option. But recreating the taste isn’t as hard as you’d imagine.

Start by purchasing a package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into “tenders.” In a foil pan, place flour, Italian-herbed bread crumbs, garlic powder, Lawry’s seasoning salt, and a pinch of cumin. Dip each breast piece into the mixture and coat thoroughly. Fry the pieces in very hot peanut oil (or canola) until light, flaky, and golden brown. Pat dry, and set to the side to cool.

Creating the Sandwich

Zaxby’s Chicken Parmesan Sandwich is quite simple. It’s comprised only of chicken strips, a marinara sauce, and a Parmesan Ranch sauce-piled onto their traditional Texas toast.

You can purchase already “prepared” Texas toast from your grocer’s freezer. Prepare as instructed, and place the cooked chicken strips onto them. Warm a bit of your favorite marinara or pizza sauce, and drizzle across the chicken.

In a separate bowl, combine about two tablespoons of store-bought Ranch dressing with some grated Parmesan cheese. Mix together until completely blended. Drizzle this mixture on top of the marinara sauce, and top with the other piece of Texas toast.

Polishing off the Meal

You simply cannot have a Zaxby’s combo meal without the fresh crinkle fries. This is perhaps the easiest part of the meal. For $2 or less, purchase you favorite brand of frozen fries, and bake in the oven until crisp and fresh. Add a “combo beverage” with a soft drink, most of which cost less than $1 per liter in supermarkets.

Ultimately, if you don’t include the condiments (sauce, Ranch dressing, oil, etc.) you will find that you can feed four people or more with the items listed above. The chicken will most certainly take the most effort and cost the most (though you’ll save even more by buying whole chicken breasts and dividing the meat yourself.) But instead of spending more than $20 for one meal, you will only fork out about $9 (or less) for the chicken breast pieces, the bread, and the frozen fries.

The point of this experiment is to prove that the simplest treats we purchase for ourselves while on the run, can be easily recreated at home for a mere fraction of the price of eating out. This is a great way to enjoy your most coveted fast foods, while saving money during a recession.