It’s a Friday night, you’re all alone, and everyone seems to be out but you. Your stomach growls, shaking the TV remote resting so casually against your belly. You look across the room towards the kitchen with disdain – you’re so hungry, but so, so lazy. You pull out your wallet, and find a few bucks crumpled up inside. Guess you’re eating take-out tonight.
In my experience, purchasing fast food and being frugal are usually mutually exclusive, which is odd, considering the general consensus that fast food should be cheap. Over the years, many restaurants have opted to place their least costly items on “dollar” or “value” menus to attract customers who are eating on a budget. Unfortunately, many of these items aren’t exactly filling. Oh, great, I can get a junior cheeseburger the size of a half-dollar for just two bucks! Yeah, no, thanks. Below are just a few of the best bad meals around that both taste great and won’t give your wallet a beating.
The hands-down champion of drunk food offers its own set of value deals called the “Dollar Cravings Menu,” which is basically every broke college kid’s dream-come-true. The offerings aren’t any less tasty than their fuller-priced counterparts, and the selection of food is pretty diverse: you’ve got mini-churros, triple layer nachos, two different types of burritos, quesadillas, and even a melted cheese tortilla stick (that must have been a fun pitch meeting). Best of all, none of these items will cost you more than a buck before tax. If you’re willing to pay a teensy bit more (like, 89 cents more), though, you can’t go wrong with the Beefy 5-Layer Burrito, which is essentially just a beef-and-bean burrito wrapped in a layer of nacho cheese.
Jack in the Box
Take a look at the Jack in the Box menu and you’ll quickly realize that ordering a combo is more expensive than ordering a side or sandwich on its own (duh). However, if you’re craving something a bit more satisfying than a box of fries or a Jr. Jack, the Jumbo Jack combo is the cheapest combination meal available at just under six dollars – and it’s pretty delicious, to boot. If you aren’t feeling burgers, then you can grab two tacos for just a buck. For the price of a Jumbo Jack combo, that’s about twelve tacos — although that might be overkill.
If you’re looking to save some dough, you probably won’t want to grab a bite at Panda Express. Most of its combos cost upwards of eight, nine, or ten dollars – and even more if you’re feeling ambitious. However, if you go small with a box of Beijing Beef or Orange Chicken, you’ll be spending just under four bucks. Not only is it super cheap, but it’s filling as hell. Even with a drink, you’ll barely hit five dollars before tax.
Wendy’s, too, offers its own version of the value menu – the “Right Price Right Size Menu.” A Jr. Cheeseburger at just a dollar may seem tempting, but it may also be a little tiny for your tastes. The Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger, almost a dollar more, will pack some more punch to your meal with a few strips of crispy, delicious bacon. Wendy’s value menu fries are even a dollar, so with a box of those and a drink, you’re looking at spending not much more than four bucks.
Ordering at Subway can get a bit pricey, especially if you aren’t paying attention to the widely-varying costs of each meat (or vegetarian option). If you’re looking to save, you’ll want to order a six-inch rather than a full foot-long – which should be more than enough to fill the Average Joe up. The Black Forest Ham, Spicy Italian, Veggie Delite, and Meatball Marinara will all cost you around $3.75 on their own. If you’re so inclined, buying a 21-ounce drink will bring you up to just under $5.50. Not bad, right?
So the next time you’re feeling particularly cheap and lethargic, remember that grabbing take-out doesn’t have to punch a hole in your piggy bank. Fast food can be both inexpensive and satiating: you just have to know the right things to get.