Many people today think that if you are on a low budget, you are basically forced to eat fast food because it’s cheap – but is that really the truth?
Is fast food really all that cheap? Or is it a matter of perception?
I think it might depend on who you ask – but why is it that these types of perceptions exist? Has society made it seem like that the dollar menu or value menu is the only food that is affordable for people with limited income? Has the promise of convenience made these types of foods “appear” cheaper?
The Truth About Fast Food
You’d be surprised to know that Fast Food is extremely expensive. If you set aside ALL other nutritional facts, on a dollar to calorie basis, it’s far from being worth it. Here is ONE example:
- McDonald’s Dollar Menu, McDouble = 400 Calories
- Grocery Store, box of Pasta = 1,600 calories
The pasta being just a tiny bit more in cost than the McDouble… at just over $1.00 for the box (which serves multiple people).
Why is there a Perception that Fast Food is Cheap?
Perhaps most might think it’s cheap because it’s readily available, and it’s in the “now” – no cooking is required, and when you need sustenance, you aren’t looking past that moment in time.
#1 — People Satisfy their Needs in the “Now”. When you are hungry, you care about what you are eating next – you might not look at the future. For example.. the pasta may take 15-20 minutes to cook and make up, while the burger is available with a quick stop in the drive through.
Although the pasta is just $.19 – $.25 more, it will take longer to cook than what you would have spent driving through the fast food drive through, so the burger wins as the meal of the moment.
Ironically enough, the pasta could very well be the next several meals… and it could very well serve more than 2 people.
#2 — People compare meals to meals, instead of calories to calories. Food that is already prepared for you might be easy but… it’s incredibly expensive… whereas, basic pantry staples like Lentils, Rice, Beans, and Pasta (and even oats) are all calorie dense and can be mixed with sparing amounts of meats and vegetables to create a healthy meal.
So why do people prefer pre-made meals or fast food drive throughs? Because buying pantry staples requires some effort to put the meals together – whereas meals (although more expensive), are readily available. They are just overpriced for a limited budget.
The Biggest Takeaway
In the end, people’s insecurities about food may be a result of a combination of issues – lack of education about good choices and how to prepare healthy meals.
The biggest misconception is that cooking a healthy, tasty meal takes a long time. It might also be easy for some people to see that fast food might not give you the same value as food from the grocery store.
But…. once you arrive at the grocery store, that “value” might be harder to spot than if you were just rolling through a drive through. Right?
The biggest takeaway from this, is that it’s important to always be mindful of the food choices you make, even on a limited budget. Cheap pantry staples like pasta, canned veggies, dry oats, lentils and rice are all low cost items that are relatively healthy and versatile. You can combine with sparing amounts of Organic Veggies and even Organic meat in some cases to still pay less than the cost of fast food – even if you feed a large family. It just might require effort to make.