McDonald’s: Sales Of Cheap Food Are Up Our 8.1% unemployment rate has helped sales of value meals, chicken sandwiches and Egg McMuffins says McDonald’s. Their same store sales grew by 2.8 percent in the US. [Bloomberg]

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  1. mangelo says:

    The dollar menu is a great thing

  2. N.RobertMoses says:

    This “cheap” food will cost you in the long run with increased medical expenses and poor health down the line.

    • orlo says:

      @N.RobertMoses: In the long run you will die early, saving a good deal of money. McDonald’s is a pretty good retirement investment, although their food tastes like crap.

  3. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Like N.RobertMoses said…the cheap food will cost you more in the long run. I’m taking this “unemployment” period (I did manage to land some full-time work in my field, but the money is not enough to live on, so I’m still looking) to cook more and experiment with more foods, and it gives me more time to find the best deals. I spent about $40 on groceries yesterday and that will (in total) make at least two weeks of breakfasts, lunches and dinners. I saved about $15 by targeting things that I would normally buy anyway, but buying them on sale.

    I do understand that a meal at McDonalds is cheaper than a steak, but who actually wants to eat at McDonalds? Isn’t it worth it just to spend a little more to get better quality?

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: “who actually wants to eat at McDonalds? Isn’t it worth it just to spend a little more to get better quality? “

      Flippy the Fetus sez: Hells no. Flippy the Fetus spent three months only allowing me to eat extraordinarily greasy food. Nothing else would stay down. Ob/gyn said it’s not unusual in the first trimester. I lost 10 lbs. from the constant vomiting and inability to keep anything but McFood down. McFood definitely FTW … I’d have starved otherwise!

      (Ob/gyn also said brain-building in the first trimester requires extraordinary amounts of cholesterol, which may partially explain greasy food cravings, but doesn’t really explain why it stays down when other food won’t.)

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: Oh, also? Sometimes I just like a McBurger. Even when parasitic life forms are not making me eat them. McFood tastes like childhood family roadtrips. :) Makes me happy.

  4. Anonymous says:

    “cheap” is a relative term around here. I live in a tourist area, so pulling into the wrong McD’s can cost double. I verify what I ordered and verify what they’re charging me, then I drive away so really it just costs me whatever gas I wasted sitting in line.

  5. Dr_Doofus says:

    Wouldn’t cooking at home be even cheaper? Or is there something I’m not understanding?

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      @Dr_Doofus: If they’re hitting the pavement looking for a job or have interviews lined up they’re probably eating at McDonald’s rather than carrying around a bag lunch.

    • failurate says:

      @Dr_Doofus: Cheap emotional comfort food. A little treat ease the pain.

    • morganlh85 says:

      @Dr_Doofus: As little as $4 to feed a family of four, and no effort. Since many people are unemployed from their REAL jobs and instead working twice as many hours in crap retail jobs (like myself) you often don’t have the same amount of time, or energy, to cook at home anymore, or you work odd hours late at night and want something quick to eat.

    • jimconsumer says:

      @Dr_Doofus: No, you’re understanding it perfectly. People have been freaking out lately about “Healthy food is expensive!” and “The poor are forced to eat at McDonalds!”

      This is a big fracking lie. I don’t know who comes up with this crap, but it’s clearly crap. Morgan, the only way you’re feeding a family of four at McDonalds for $4 is by purchasing four single hamburgers. I don’t know anyone past the age of 3 who calls one tiny little McDonalds hamburger a meal. If that’s a meal, you’re starving your children. My skinny little 5 year old can wolf down two of the suckers and still scam some of my fries to top off his belly.

      If you actually buy enough food to, you know, FEED the average person, you’re looking at a minimum $3 per person off the value menu and eating light. When *I* take my family of four to McDonalds, it’s always $15-$20.

      Cooking your own food from a grocery store is far, far cheaper. I’m sick and tired of hearing this nonsense that it’s cheaper to eat out. It isn’t. It never has been and it never will be. Stop spreading these lies.

      • batsy says:

        @jimconsumer: Yes. This.

        More people are probably going to McDonald’s instead of eating out at sit-down restaurants, which can save you money. Others are probably operating on the myth that fast-food is cheaper than buying groceries, and it is a myth. A lot of people also use this myth as an excuse not to eat healthier.

  6. rpm773 says:

    If I lost my job, I’d probably still eat at home.

  7. nakedscience says:

    SOMETMIES cooking at home is cheaper, but it depends. I am a single person and I find it VERY difficult sometimes to cook for myself cheaply, because it’s just me. I try to eat leftovers, but I almost always end up wasting food, which I hate. And not to mention the fact that it’s kind of annoying to cook a full meal for one person. It takes a lot of time sometimes, time I’d rather spend doing something else. In the long run, I rely heavily on sandwiches, soup, and frozen dinners, but that can get pretty bland and boring sometimes.

    Cooking for one can be a huge annoying undertaking.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      @nakedscience: I have that same problem. I’ve stopped eating certain things altogether because it ends up being a waste of food.

      I do a lot of cooking in a tiny little toaster oven and buy foods I can cook in small portions.

    • joel. says:

      @nakedscience: I agree. This applies to couples too. My wife and I find it very hard to cook for two and keep costs down.

      We try not to do frozen meals (other than the occasional frozen pizza – that’s our ‘easy’ night), and the result is usually cooking too much, or having to cook the same meals often, because they work. It’s tough when everything is sold in family sizes and recipes are set for groups of 4+

      Not that we want kids yet either though. Maybe I should just quit whining.

    • pop top says:

      @nakedscience: Something I’ve found that helps with this problem is a rice cooker and the single-bagged frozen chicken breasts. You can cook as much as you like, or you can limit your meal to a single serving, and none of the food will go to waste because it’s easy to keep.

  8. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Dr_Doofus Cooking at home can be cheaper than a meal at McDonalds but only if you’re comparing something of similar quality.

    Note this is not the comparison I was trying to make in my previous post with McDonalds v. the steak. There I was saying it was worth it to pay more to get more.

    It wouldn’t be cheaper to cook a steak at home v. eating at McDonalds, but it would be cheaper to eat some hot dogs or make ramen.

    But there are certain things that would be probably as inexpensive or just a tad more expensive than McDonalds. Salads, for instance. Regular lettuce (iceberg or romaine) and a few ingredients like tomatoes, carrots, cheese and croutons will get close to $5, making it cheaper than your average McDonalds meal. If you add grilled chicken it’ll make it a little more expensive, but not wallet breaking.

    • jimconsumer says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: Man, for $5 worth of greens at the grocery store I can easily make 5 to 10 salads the size of those at McDonalds. A big old head of lettuce is less than a buck.

  9. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    nakedscience: It sounds like you’re making too much food. Anything that is usually made for a family can be made for one person or several meals for one person. The key is to make just enough to eat it all without going overboard and ending up with a week of leftovers. If you’re a single person, cut a recipe in half or even more if you don’t eat lunch and dinner.

    You can make a pot of soup and freeze it, giving you more options down the line (also so you’re not eating soup for three weeks).

    It also helps to develop an enjoyment for cooking.

    • FatLynn says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: The problem is that you can’t just cut recipes in half all of the time, because ingredients aren’t necessarily sold that way. For example, many recipes call for things like 1 red bell pepper or a can of coconut milk. If you don’t use the whole thing, you may not have a use for the other half.

      Also, sometimes the liquid and non-liquid proportions can’t be halved without changing how they will co-exist in the cooking vessel. If you have a recipe for two chicken breasts and they are supposed to be covered by a can of broth, one chicken breast will not be covered by half a can, unless you have a half-sized skillet.

      Okay, I am ranting, but this is tougher than it sounds.

      • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

        @FatLynn: On the veggies, a clever chef who’s a friend of mine told me when he’s cooking for himself (he’s single), he gets the veggies off the salad bar at the supermarket so he CAN buy half a bell pepper or just a few florets of cauliflower.

        But I agree, I hated cooking for one, it’s a PITA. Cooking for two can be nearly as difficult, especially if you’re quickly bored of leftovers. :)

  10. nakedscience says:

    I really suck at eating leftovers, too, which doesn’t help. “Oh…I ate that yesterday…meh” or a month later, “THIS WAS IN MY FREEZER?! Oh.” I also have a VERY tiny freezer, so freezing isn’t sometimes possible.

    And I hate cooking for an hour+ … messing up dishes and pots and forks … only to take 10 minutes to eat. That’s a waste of time, if you ask me.

    And I’m 27 years old; I’ve been living on my own since I was 19. I think if I was going to develop an enjoyment for cooking, it would have happened already. I don’t like cooking, and I don’t think there is much wrong with that, especially when I don’t find much use in cooking a huge meal just for me.

    That said, I try to buy plenty of frozen dinners, sandwich stuff, canned/boxed soup, spaghetti fixins, breakfast fixins (I happen to love cooking breakfast, but that’s because breakfast foods are AMAZING), and tons of fruit, so that I’m not tempted by the McDonald’s that is two blocks away (and that I walk to frequently for coffee).

    • jimconsumer says:

      @nakedscience: Look, you can’t put all of these caveats on your life and then say, “Nothing works for me!” Freezer too small? Buy a bigger one. Hate cooking for an hour to eat for 10 minutes? Cook larger portions and use your new freezer to save them, or try recipes that don’t take so darn long. I’m just saying, your meal problems seem to be of your own making. :)

      When I was single I survived with a Traeger BBQ. Throw some meat on, set a timer and come back in half an hour, no worries of burning and no tending or babysitting required. Toss the meat in a bun or on a plate, dump half a can of corn or diced peaches or something next to it, voila, meal. 5 minutes of actual work, couple bucks worth of grocery store supplies. I ate on paper plates and plastic dishes and drank bottled water. Yeah, I know, not classy, not environmentally friendly, but I did virtually no dishes, ate healthy and with a minimal amount of time invested. Doesn’t hurt that I love BBQ…

  11. nakedscience says:

    And I’d rather eat a cheeseburger and some mcnuggets than eat some ramen, which won’t even begin to fill me up. Ramen isn’t food. It’s salt and noodles.

    • batsy says:

      @nakedscience: McDonald’s isn’t food either, it’s preservatives and fat and grease and sugar, and it won’t keep you full for very long either.

      As for Ramen, I make mine into a meal by adding celery, onions, pepper, pork or chicken, and an egg, and only using about half the seasoning packet because of the sodium.

  12. ExtraCelestial says:

    pecan 3.14159265 I’m a vegan and therefore out of touch with the price of meat, but I can’t imagine anything at home costing less than the $2 required for a mcwhatever and a small fry.

    Long term benefits, yeah we’re all on the same page, but eating dinner for 14 bucks a week with little to no effort from you, not bad.

    Then again… I only rack up about $100 bi-monthly and I admittedly shop at expensive organic stores (Whole Foods, MOMs etc) but I eat a lot of cereal and almond milk so I don’t know. I still don’t think there are too many $2 meals you can make.

    • jimconsumer says:

      @TinkishDelight: You can’t really have a $2 meal at McDonalds. That’s not a meal, it’s a snack. At best you’re getting a small fry and a single hamburger, that’s barely enough to fill a small child. If you’re spending $50 a week on food, that covers breakfast lunch and dinner, that’s a little over $7 a day or just under $2.40 per meal. You cannot eat at McDonalds for $2.40 per meal and get any kind of full.

      I’m a small guy and can subsist on a large fry & a double cheeseburger. That’s $4 these days. If I want a real meal, it’s a quarter pounder with drink and all that and now I’m in it for $6. This idea that people are surviving off McDonalds because they can’t afford real food is ridiculous. Nobody is actually getting nourished off $2 worth of value-menu items; that isn’t enough food to make a meal. However, I CAN cook a nice big hamburger with real lettuce and tomato and such and get full on less than $2 at home easy.

  13. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Meat obviously would cost more than the Mcwhatever and the small fry, but in terms of food (in general) there are a few things that can be eaten that are cheaper than McDonalds. Note that there was no stipulation it had to be good food or healthy food.

    Therein lies the problem, I guess. You can’t beat McDonalds if you want something relatively healthier. And if it comes down to eating healthier, but not having enough calories for your body to keep going, I guess eating less food but with higher calorie count would be a good trade off.

    We eat a lot of cereal, and I splurge for organic milk. But we tend to do more meals because it’s something that is important to me…not because there are two of us and we HAVE to have a meal, but because my mother, for the longest time, was a terrible cook because she didn’t have the time, and I wanted to break away from that.

  14. Jevia says:

    My guess is that people still want to ‘eat out’ now and again, but can’t afford to go to a sit down restaurant, so they go to McD’s instead. That’s why some casual dining chains are having problems.

  15. nakedscience says:

    A rice cooker would be amazing, squinko … except I have nowhere to put it! I am way, way out of room. I hardly have room for a small toaster and a coffee maker, and I had to get a seperate small cabinet for foodstuffs, because I have a SERIOUS lack of cabinet space. It’s hilarious, really.

    I do have a crock pot that I REALLY need to use more. I need to cook stuff the night before to take into work the next day — I’d nom all week on potatoes and chicken and veggies thrown into a crock pot, for lunch.

    But I constantly forget until it’s 10pm and time for bed. Especially since I have to keep the crock pot away, out of sight, since there’s no room for it on the counter. SIGH!

    I’m working at getting better at eating cheaper, but it’s difficult. I’ve found that if I just keep tons of fresh fruit around, I’m more apt to munch on that instead of going to McDs or something, though.

  16. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    @nakedscience:Wow. I complain about my lack of counter space, but it looks like you have no counter space and no cupboard space! Double whammy! I don’t have much counter space so I store things underneath in the cabinets. It also means I don’t keep four appliances plugged in when I’m only using one, or none.

  17. nakedscience says:

    Part of the under-the-sink cabinet space was taken by the dishwasher, which I never use anyway. The only things I keep on the counter at all times is the toaster and the coffee maker. I’d keep the coffee maker in a cabinet, but it’s too tall!

    I have a walk-in closet but a tiny kitchen.

  18. Michael Ortega says:

    Yeah I don’t know if I would call MC E D’s cheap. I’m a 27 yeah old bachelor and I can make a way better meal for $5 then a combo meal or even for the cost of a few $1 menu items. $6 at the grocery store gets me a sandwich(called the BOSS) that feeds 8(or feeds me 8 times) and isn’t soaked in grease. Even my grocery store has a $1 selection that changes weekly. I know it’s easy to just drive up and spend $3 or so but IMO it’s better to spend $20 on food that can feed me for a week rather then $3 here and there at the drive through. Live and learn.

  19. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    On the topic of salads…one thing I learned is that if you’re worried about a head of lettuce going bad before you use all of it is to make sure it’s as dry as possible and store it in the coldest part of the fridge. I have had lettuce stay good for weeks. I don’t know if it differs depending on the type of lettuce though, I don’t buy iceberg.

    I’ve also found that one pound of ground beef can feed two people for about a week (lunches and dinners) if you make the right chili. My recipe as follows:

    1 pound beef or bison
    1 can black beans (canned black ones are important for this, IMO)
    1 can red kidney beans OR half a pound dried ones that have been soaked in water
    1 can diced tomatoes OR 4 small/medium tomatoes, diced
    half a large can (or two regular cans) of Tuttorosso tomato puree with basil (or you can make your own)
    Chili powder
    Garlic
    Cajun seasoning
    Herbs de provence (optional)
    Salt
    Pepper

    Brown the meat, being careful to separate it with a fork so it doesn’t clump together (bison clumps more than beef). Don’t mash it, because then it’ll make more of a paste.

    When the beef is almost done cooking, add the spices and stir thoroughly.

    I’m not giving measurements for the spices because it depends on how much of a kick you want, and whether you intend to add hot sauce. I don’t add hot sauce, but I use a lot of cajun spice and chili powder. When I mix in my spices, the meat looks somewhat dark brown/brick red. I also use herbs de provence sparingly, because it’s a really strong combination of herbs. And the tomato basil puree you add later will help a lot with the flavoring.

    Then add the black beans (don’t drain them) and then the kidney beans. Stir to mix the meat and beans and turn the heat to a comfortable medium low to a high simmer.

    If this is too much bean for you, I advise taking out some kidney beans before you take out the black beans. The black beans help to thicken the chili because they’re not in water but in that strange mass that is safe to eat.

    Add the tomato basil puree and stir (again, change depending on your taste. If you hate tomato taste, add less).

    Then add the diced tomatoes and cook all of this together for about 15 minutes. The meat is fully cooked, but not like pellets, and the beans are softened. If you find that you’ve added too much tomato and the taste is off, add more spices to offset the tartness, or get rid of some of the liquid. If the liquid is too liquidy, you can add some corn starch.

    Anyone want to read about how I make gumbo?