Penny Pinching Platter Previews 2: Five Dollar Fast Food Feasts

Andreas Loretan, Staff Writer

I’m almost always hungry, and almost always broke. If I’m neither eating nor disposing of what I just ate, chances are that I’m thinking of the next cheap place I want to visit for a bite. Fast food is the champion of that arena. Fast food is cheap; it’s tasty, and duh, it’s fast. In an effort to help you, the reader, I went out and found the best deals for around five dollars at a few well-known fast food chains and proceeded to mercilessly shovel these meals into my gullet. Not all chains taste the same, so it’s worth knowing what you’re getting. I ate each of these meals day by day, so as I sit here in amazement that I have not contracted some form of E. coli, here is a collection of findings gathered on my journey to indigestion.

First up, of course, was McDonald’s. I truly believe that not a soul on earth does not like the food there. People may say they don’t, but not too deep down, they really do. The one exception might be vegans, as they’ve seemed to trick themselves into thinking that tofu-based chicken alternative actually tastes good, but I digress. McDonald’s has actually gotten surprisingly kind of expensive; they don’t even have a dollar menu anymore. For five dollars you can only really get one McDouble, a small fry, and a large drink. For some this is enough, but for others with more American-sized guts, this might not be enough. Still, it’s a classic meal, and I’m only somewhat ashamed to admit I enjoyed it.

Next was Burger King. I have actually only been to Burger King once in my life before this. Eating the meal here, I remembered why. Burger King is essentially the smelliest dumpster on Garbage Island. As unpleasant as fast food can be, they really do love being the worst. For around $3.50 though, you can get two cheeseburgers, small fries, and a small drink. Eating these burgers, I felt like a giant at a tea party for Beanie Babies. They are so tiny, but I guess you get what you pay for. Actually, you get less than what you paid for, because these taste like dumpster gunk. The fries too, were not digestible. The texture was that of a dry baked good, like Pop-Tart crust, but with a hint of salt thrown in for barely enough flavor. If you are subjecting yourself to the digestive torture of eating fast food, do yourself the one small favor and skip Burger King.

I could write a whole book on Jack in the Box, which was my last stop. They sell burgers with bacon mayonnaise spread on them advertised in tandem with teriyaki bowls. I’m sure if you walked up to one of their executives on the street (which is possible since they are headquartered not too far from the Mesa campus) and suggested they started selling roasted pig head on a stick with a side of French onion soup, they would probably find a way to make that work. They’ve got quite a few cheap things on the menu, including the infamous two tacos for a dollar. An order of those, a junior cheeseburger, some fries and a drink brings you to about five dollars, which is a deal and almost worrying. Still, you should know the quality you’re getting. The tacos here taste like dog food but they aren’t too bad. The burger was overloaded with ketchup which is not a good thing, but the fries here are actually pretty tasty. They have a nice crunch to them that other places can’t seem to get right. For five bucks, this meal was pretty worth it in the end.

While the cons to eating this stuff outweigh the pros by tons and tons, sometimes you just happen to be hungry, in a hurry, and you only have a five-dollar bill in your pocket. When that time comes you should probably go buy an apple, but once in awhile, a trip to the drive-thru doesn’t seem like a bad idea. Keep in mind if you’re making that trip, Jack in the Box has the value you might be looking for, McDonald’s is the step above that, and for God’s sake, please stay away from Burger King.