Trent from The Simple Dollar has been on a cheeseburge kick lately. He's gone through quite a bit of time and effort to write about his experience buying a McDonald's Double Cheeseburger vs. making his own burgers at home. He comes to the conclusion that "it was more time-effective to make the homemade cheeseburgers." It may have been true for Trent in this case, but the devil is always in the details.
There were a couple of assumptions and I think they make all the difference. Trent said that it was 12 minutes for the trip to McDonald's, but only two minutes to buy the ingredients from the store. In the comments he reveals that this is simply because he's already at the store, so it takes only a two minutes of time to find the ingredients. If you can use the logic of already having to go to the store, I don't know why you can't use the logic of, "I already have cheese at home" and eliminating the cost of cheese.
I think a fair test would be to compare the two options assuming that you are starting with nothing. When I do that, it seems to be a toss-up between driving to the store or McDonald's (who knows which one is closer for the average person) and waiting in line. I've had McDonald's prepare my food faster than I can locate the all the ingredients, but let's conservatively call this the same as well. Thus I get the ingredients in the same time as I can get the McDonald's double cheeseburger. So any time it takes me to prepare the burger makes it less time efficient. It is this time savings that the average person sees. In addition with the advent of drive through windows, a person can be done eating the food in the time it takes the average person to leave the grocery store parking lot. Given all this, I have to say that on average fast food is more time efficient than cooking.
You may be noticed I put emphasis on the words "on average." It doesn't necessarily have to be this way. As The Simple Dollar showed, if you buy the ingredients ahead of time while you are already at the store and you make them in quantity, cooking can be be very time-efficient and nearly as cost efficient. Fast food is only faster because people fail to plan ahead.
Though I've written about McDonald's Double Cheeseburgers as a complete meal and how you buy them for 10 cents, we enjoy the cheeseburgers that we make at home much, much more. We have learned a couple of tips that we use to maximize our burger-making efficiency in terms of time and money. We buy our ground beef at Costco and make use of a FoodSaver. This allows us to buy and cook in bulk, saving us time and money. Yes the FoodSaver has an initial cost, but that one-time expense is negligible over years of use.
[Dear Lazy Man and Health, I know it wasn't easy reading this. Please understand that this site concerns itself primarily with the financial costs when it comes to food.
Lazy Man and Health response: You could have at least mentioned that you buy higher quality meat and you use a George Foreman Grill to make our cheeseburgers. It really does knock out the fat. The version with the removable grill plates is easy to clean.]
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