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.]
Isn’t talking to yourself a sign of madness?
I prefer semi-homemade burgers to McDonalds on taste alone. Which one is more convenient depends on where I am. If I’m at home its quicker to go to the grocery store and make them since there isn’t a McDonalds within easy walking distance and I don’t have a car. For curry on the other hand, the reverse is most definitely true.
Lazy Man says
I think writing to yourself is a loophole.
Hehe. I love this debate about double cheeseburgers. It’s really making me want to break my vow of not eating out this month, though. I can almost taste that lovely indefinable flavor that no home-made burger has. Is it the bun? Is it the meat? I don’t know, it’s just part of the magic of McDonald’s. :(
But about the cheese, I think it’s fair to say the situation is different. Whether you buy new cheese or use existing cheese, you’re going to use the same $X worth of cheese.
We could complicate the debate further and note that we would be using the cheese on another dish anyway so is using it for the cheeseburgers really a cost, or does it just have opportunity cost? But then we would have to take into account the average time spent going to the store and gathering ingredients for other cheese dishes, so you might end up with a negative time cost for cheeseburgers. Hmm.
Lazy Man says
Jon, in the last paragraph you get my point. If you start to count that I can use leftover cheese again or that I already had cheese from my prior dish, it throws off the money calculation.
In the same way, if you count that you were going to the store anyway, it throws off the time calculation. What if the closest store is a few miles away, but you happen to drive right past a McDonalds every day? The best way is for each person to evaluate his/her own circumstances.
I’ve had 3 or 4 double cheeseburgers for lunch every day for the last week. Sans bun. I’m back on a low-carb diet and this was my typical lunch the last time I did it. Hey, I easily dropped 25 pounds the last time with a DECREASE in cholesterol and my BP even dropped a little. Go figure. There’s something to be said about insulin resistance and the evils of cheap, simple-carbs.
Yes, I gasp when I look at the wrapper…440 calories each (!)…but I wonder how many of those calories are in the bun. I guess I should get off my lazy ass ad Google how many an average hamburger bun has.
Lazy Man says
Chris according to McDonalds’ nutritional information, a double cheeseburger has 440 calories, while a single cheeseburger has 300. Simple logic and subtraction says it should be 140 calories per burger patty and cheese (since I think you get double cheese). Double that up for two patties and it should be 280 calories.
Thanks for doing MY legwork; I may have to petition to have your “Lazy” title revoked. :)
I did look up the caloric value of a hamburger bun, but as expected, it varied. Heck, the size of hamburger buns vary, so no big surprise. I came up with an average of 135 calories, which is consistent with your calculation of 140 for the bun. I admire your great use of logic in this situation, but the numbers seem a little screwy to me. The double has 34g of carbs vs. 33g for the single, which seems consistent since most of the carbs are in the bun and the bun is common between them. But the double has 25g of protein and the single has 15g! Am I to believe that a hamburger BUN — with all of its refined white flour goodness — has 5g of protein but a hamburger patty — which should be mostly protein in comparison — has only 10g of protein?!?
The dollar menu. How can anything be more perfect? For the tidy sum of $3.89+ tax, I can stuff my face with half the daily calories I need plus a mounds of delicious fat. What more can an unemployed slacker like me wish for?
McD’s Budget Feast
Double cheeseburger – one buck
42 oz. coke classic – $.89
small. fries -one buck
hot fudge sundae -one buck
For your $3.89, you get nourished with a whopping 1,472 calories & 49.5 grams of fat!! Man, being poor (or cheap) has never been more fortifying!