Fast Food vs. Homemade Food: Which Is Better for Your Wallet?
Fast food may be convenient, but it isn't always the cheapest option. Here's how you can make fast food at home and save money.
I often drive by a McDonald’s and can’t believe how cheap fast food is. A burger for 99 cents? You’re kidding me. Taco Bell doing whole meals for $5? Get outta town! Eating out every day seems like it would cost nothing, but three meals a day at Taco Bell for that price will quickly add up to $105 a week. Seems kinda steep now, huh?
I couldn’t help wondering whether it would be cheaper to make fast food at home. So I drove to my local fast food restaurants to check prices and used their websites to check their ingredients. I know what you’re thinking: best Friday night ever! Right? Then I compared the restaurant prices with the cost of the ingredients at my local Walmart.*
Fast Food Ingredients
Rustle Up a Homemade McDonald’s Burger
Though I’m a vegetarian, I know that a lot of people who eat fast food eat meat and enjoy a hamburger and fries. Summer days bring the delicious smell of barbecue, and no Memorial Day weekend is complete without hamburgers and fries! So imagine my surprise when I realized that a McDonald’s hamburger was only 99 cents, and fries only $1.39! Seems like a steal, so I decided to investigate.
To figure out what I would need, I went to the McDonald’s website, where their fast food ingredients are listed. This includes the bun, a beef patty, ketchup, pickles, onions, and mustard.
I checked prices at Walmart for a home-cooked version, and here’s what I got:
|Ingredient||Total Cost||Cost Per Burger|
|Bun||$0.88 for 8-pack||$0.11|
|Beef patty||$5.97 for 4 patties||$1.49|
|Ketchup||$0.82 for 20-oz. bottle||$0.02 (1/2 oz.)|
|Pickles||$1.53 for 16 oz.||$0.09 (about 1 oz. of pickles)|
|Onions||$0.34 for 1 onion||$0.08 (1/4 onion per serving)|
|Mustard||$0.58 for an 8-oz. bottle||$0.02 (1/2 oz.)|
A packet of ketchup is 0.32 ounces. So, assuming someone uses two packets, I estimated the cost of usage per burger for half an ounce of both ketchup and mustard.
Because I would spend $10.12 for all of the fast food ingredients, the homemade burger would cost more than the 99-cent one from McDonald’s.
Even so, I could make at least four burgers and use the pickles, ketchup, and mustard for other meals. Ka-ching! You’re gaining something here.
While I initially thought the time to cook the burger would be longer than picking it up at McDonald’s, it seems to be about the same as driving, ordering, and waiting for the food to be ready. Besides, the burger at home would likely be more appealing than at McDonald’s, but that’s just personal opinion! And you never even have to get dressed — win-win.
Rustle Up a Homemade Taco Bell 7-Layer Burrito
I’m a big fan of burritos and tacos, and we have some version of Mexican food once a week at home. At Taco Bell, I would order the 7-Layer Burrito for $2.49, which includes the tortilla, black beans, rice, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, guacamole, and a three-cheese blend. Stacking up the prices of buying the burrito at Taco Bell compared to the homemade version, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I save money when I eat at home. It takes only 15 minutes to make the whole meal, too, which isn’t that much effort.
When I looked for the fast food ingredients at Walmart, this is what I found:
|Ingredient||Total Cost||Cost Per Burrito|
|Tortilla||$1.78 for 16||$0.11|
|Black beans||$0.63 for 1 can||$0.18 (1/3 of a can)|
|Rice||$1.33 for 48 oz.||$0.04 (1-oz. portion)|
|Lettuce||$0.98 for 1 head||$0.12 (1/8 of lettuce head)|
|Tomatoes||$0.74 for 1 tomato||$0.25 (1/3 of tomato)|
|Sour cream||$2.34 for 16-oz container||$0.11 (1 oz.)|
|Guacamole||$1.28 for 1 avocado||$0.64 (1/2 avocado)|
|Three-cheese blend||$1.98 for 32-oz. bag||$0.25 (1-oz. serving)|
While it’s often more convenient to eat out, it’s more appealing to me to eat at home because I know exactly what’s in the food I’m eating. Besides, takeout will never be a good replacement for a loving, homemade meal — and it may even be cheaper!
*All products from Walmart are Great Value brand. Prices may vary depending on location.