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How to Lose Money at McDonalds

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This article is about eating at McDonalds. Please see the disclaimer at the end of the article marked with a "*". Also, this article includes some clips from a movie with adult language. You've been warned.

It's unofficial food week here at Lazy Man and Money. I noticed my new writers submitted articles about food. I might as well follow suit.

Last week, my wife and I were scrambling to get ready to go to an appointment when we realized that we hadn't eaten lunch. Worse, we wouldn't have an opportunity to eat lunch until nearly dinner.

I remembered that we had some "Buy 1, Get 1 Free" coupons from McDonalds recently. The coupon for the Quarter Pounder with Cheese (or Royale with Cheese depending where you live) caught my eye. Hitting the drive-thru seemed to be the obvious solution.

If I didn't have a coupon and was in a similar situation, I'd go with the McDouble off the value menu. When McDonalds called it the Dollar Menu, it was a very good deal (again, considering the disclaimer below*) at around $0.25 per 100 calories. (This calculation will make more sense in a minute.)

I pull up to the drive-thru and order two Quarter Pounders mentioning the coupon. To my absolute shock, the burger is $3.99. I had expected it to be around $2.50... maybe $2.75.

Drive-thrus are incredibly convenient (especially with kids), but one of their problems is that there's little time to look at the menu and order. Communication is difficult, so I resigned myself to going down the road I had planned.

Look at this table and see if you can find out why I wasn't feeling good about the purchase:

ProductProteinFatCaloriesPrice$ per 100 Cal
McDouble2018390$1.49$0.38
Quarter Pounder3128540$3.99$0.74

If you said, "The Quarter Pounder with Cheese is nearly twice the price per calorie for essentially the same ingredients/nutrients", my response would be, "check out the big brain on Brad."

If this were the world of soda, the bigger product would only cost a few cents more and be a much value per ounce. Of course, that product is mostly water which makes that pricing model make sense. The Quarter Pounder is so oddly priced that you could buy two McDoubles, throw half of one in floor and squish it with your foot. You'd have almost the equivalent calories, fat, protein and save a dollar.

Fortunately, the coupon giving me two Quarter Pounders for the price of one, put the price per 100 calories in the same range as the McDouble with no couple.

Then again, consumers may not be smart enough to make this connection. After all look at how McDonalds sales earnings have been in the last quarter:

So what do you say? Do you order the Quarter Pounder at McDonalds? Let me know in the comments:

* Whenever, I write about McDonalds there are usually a few health nuts who fly off the handle screaming that McDonalds is unhealthy and doesn't serve food that should be eaten. I generally agree with that. However, I've known quite a few dietitians and they claim that in moderation it isn't terrible. I don't choose McDonalds because it's healthy, but because it is convenient, fast, and low-priced. And I always make up for it by eating 7 pounds of tofu injected with unicorn blood for my next meal.

Posted on October 28, 2015.

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7 Responses to “How to Lose Money at McDonalds”

  1. Terri says:

    That’s a very interesting comparison. I enjoy occasional fast food but never thought about the cost/calorie comparison. By the way, while I was reading this post about McDonald’s I got an e-mail from Weight Watcher’s Smart Ones telling me to think more about what’s in my food. How’s that for a coincidence?

    • Lazy Man says:

      I appreciate the comment Terri.

      There are a lot of ways to put a price on food. It gets difficult when you evaluate nutrition/quality and price. Fortunately, in this case you have almost identical products from the same source – just in different size quantities with different names.

      I feel that allows me the ability to avoid getting into the messy details of the price of nutrition. For example, some of the salads (without dressing) would have a really high cost per calorie.

  2. Abigail says:

    Ha, well we don’t eat at McDonald’s. But I’m shocked by the costs whenever we eat fast food. Especially when you actually do have BOGO coupons and the total is still high.

  3. Andy Hough says:

    The Big Mac is similarly priced and uses the same hamburger patties as the McDouble making it an even worse deal than the Quarter Pounder. You’re essentially paying twice as much to get a middle bun and some 1000 island dressing.Some people request 1000 island sauce with their McDouble to make a cheap Big Mac. I don’t really care for any of Mcdonalds burgers so I usually don’t order burgers there at all.

    Also, the quote is actually ‘look at the big brain on Brett.” A lot of people get that one wrong.

    • Lazy Man says:

      It’s probably because Jules clearly says “Brad.”. Even the YouTube video agrees with me ;-).

      I didn’t want to get into other products like McChickens where a good about of the calories comes from mayo (I think).

      The Big Mac is pretty egregious when it comes to value though.

  4. Big-D says:

    I don’t know what the best way to look at the food is from a fast food place but this is an interesting new take. I eat out about once a month at fast food and know the menus well. For me however, it is not about calories, but about bulk, and fewer carbohydrates. I can get a triple cheeseburger for $2, and feel fuller than getting two mcdoubles. The bread is the delivery system of the meat and other things (cheese, pickles, onions, ketchup, etc.) The less bread I consume, the better off I am for feeling not hungry. Sometimes I get two McChickens, no mayo, and take one patty and the lettuce and put it on one bun. Again, more meat, less bread.

    I guess that is why I don’t like the big mac or the quarter pounder, little meat to bread ratio. I prefer if I am going large, the double quarter pounder.

    Since this is a PF site, I can see taking it down to dollars and cents as well.

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