I make this constantly, so much so that my family has asked for a reprieve, but I will pass along my tips: Some of the bags of cubed hashbrowns they sell are no longer 2 lbs. so check carefully. I find generic to be the best. I use a 2c. bag of sharp cheddar in place of the american cheese; any cheese will work, but we prefer the sharper flavor. I too cut back on butter, it's just not necessary. I nuke the potatoes for about 10 minutes alone or thaw them in the fridge overnight for a creamier consistency. For brunches, I use O'Brien potatoes (hash browns with the potatoes and onions and peppers already added), use cream of potato instead of chicken and add a pkg of precooked bacon crumbled up. Yum, people rave over that for breakfast!
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I make this constantly, so much so that my family has asked for a reprieve, but I will pass...