$9 (Nine Dollar) Dinners - Subway Sandwiches
Let's revisit the rules again:
- I will be able to use $9 pre-tax so that the total does not exceed $10
- I will not include a drink unless it's part of the meal. Drink water. It's free.
- I will start with restaurants or other eating establishments. Frankly it's too easy to create a $9 dinner at home.
- I will take advantage of regular promos or coupons, but not something rare or limited time. For example, if I can normally get a Tuesday deal at Popeyes for $4.99 then that's okay. But I cannot include a limited time BOGO deal from Domino's in the $9 dinner challenge.
- I will only eat things that I consider delicious. It's my money and I'm not going to throw it away so I have something negative to write.
- The ultimate gauge of this will include how many meals will I get for my $9, and will it have any nutritional value?
What is $9 Dinners?
Here's a recap of the birth of $9 dinners. If you've already read this, please skip ahead:
On the face of it, a $9 dinner is quite a luxury! After all, every now and again you hear about CEOs and famous people taking the SNAP challenge for a week or two. To remind you, the SNAP challenge is when you live on $4.50/day equivalent to what a lower-income SNAP participant has to work with. $4.50/day!! It's incredibly challenging and any time you read what the CEO of Panera or a state senator experience, it's clear that the stress of having not enough money to buy what you want or need to eat is huge and overwhelming.
So back to the question, what is a $9 dinner? My hope as someone who thinks about personal finance a lot is to explore answers that 90% of people can use to get more satisfaction out of life, or to maximize life. For me, when I worked in an office environment, the question of what to eat for lunch came up a lot. While I would brown bag it more often than not, I had a couple of colleagues that would literally debate for 15 or 20 minutes what to eat for lunch that day. And when they came back from lunch, they'd say how disappointing it was, and that they should be able to get more for $10. $10! A whole Alexander Hamilton! I could find a lunch or dinner that's satisfying, tasty, and plentiful for only $9, or so I thought.
Subway $9 Dinner
$9 at Subway
$9 at Subway
Wow, thinking about what to order at Subway has been the happy cunundrum I've experienced many times over the past decade. I've always been a big fan of Subway as I lived less than a mile from a very clean franchise location, and the sandwiches were filling at $5 at the time. Aside from their Febru-any promotion in February, you can no longer walk in with $5 and walk out with a footlong sub like Jared (except for a veggie sandwich or the equally unappetizing egg and cheese).
While this hurts the value of Subway, there's still some headroom because I've got $9 in my pocket and I am looking for the most filling options that there are, so let's look over the menu:
- Applewood Smoked Pork
- BBQ Oven Roasted Chicken Melt**
- BBQ Steak and Bacon Melt
- Buffalo Chicken
- Chicken Bacon Ranch
- Cold Cut
- Roasted Chicken
- Roast Beef
- Spicy Italian
- Steak and cheese
- Subway Club
- Subway Melt
- Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki
- Egg and Cheese
Subway's Trump Card
Before jumping right in to the $9 challenge, I want to take a step back and shower some praise on Subway. When I thought about the first handful of restaurants or casual dining establishments where I could flex my $9, I thought about personal favorites that offer something unique.
Panda Express offer massive quantities of food at good prices and some variety.
Pizza Hut offers thoroughly satisfying pizza and wings at competitive pricing.
And Subway has the health pedigree and variety of sandwiches and veggies.
Think about it, if you're not opposed to sandwiches as a whole, Subway makes a strong appeal to your variety needs. There are over 20 basic sandwich options, 5 or 6 types of bread including flatbread, and then you get to the cheese, veggies, and sauces. It's the trump card that allowed people all over the world to be like Jared and eat Subway twice a day, every day in the attempt to lose or manage weight.
And while that won't come into too much consideration here with the $9 dinner, it's a worthwhile reminder as to why we love Subway so much, even though there are tastier sandwiches elsewhere.
Subway Variety Platter
Your Best Bet
So, after looking over the menu, I had an instant conflict. For $5 I could get their Veggie Delight or Egg and Cheese sandwich. Or for $6, I could get the sub of the month, the BBQ Oven Roasted Chicken Melt. As I've had both $5 options, and remembered both being unmemorable, I decided that the chicken breast patties would be more filling and worth the extra dollar.
$6 BBQ Oven Roasted Chicken Melt
Now, according to the rules of the challenge, I can't go with a special promo offer, unless it's something that I can regularly get (like a common coupon or deal directly from the merchant). Luckily, the sub of the month rotates so I'm in the clear here.
Taste/Flavor - How do I put this? It's good, but not great like a movie that's on the Hallmark channel or Lifetime. If you make up your mind to watch it, and stick around until the end, then you won't forsake the time you invested. This sandwich was a little off-putting with the BBQ sauce but I basically had every vegetable added in spades so it all balanced out. The chicken patty is mushy, but the flatbread is decent and the veggies were fresh so I can't complain.
Health - If you're eating at Subway, then the health aspect has probably crossed your mind. While I don't think that Jalapeno Cheddar bread is healthy, if you cared about health, then between wheat bread and extra veggies, then it's tough to eat something healthier at this price point and this conveniently purchased.
Filling - I ended up with about a quarter of my sandwich left, which I was pleasantly surprised by... and it may just be the idea of eating all that healthy fiber, but I sure felt full for a while there. It has more staying power than Chinese food, but lacks the deep heavy bloating feeling of pizza.
Free Subway Footlong?
Value for $9
Okay, let's do some math. My goal was to find delicious meals that are less than $9. Ideally I can get more than 1 meal for $9 because then I'm getting more bang for the buck. So, based on that, how does Subway rate out?
$6 for a Subway footlong
1.25 meals worth for $6
That means I'm getting 1.875 meals for my $9 and less than 1 meal per day based on the $4.50/day for SNAP. This is the lowest score yet, and clearly, not the best use of money if you need to get full. BUT it's going to be the healthiest meal you can get at that price point, and if that matters to you, don't let a 1.875 stop you.
I believe that being frugal and making smart money choices is like any other exercise. As we continue to practice good habits in saving money where possible, finding deals for what we want, and having a good time at it, then we become better at dealing for a living.
I'm committed to sharing my experiences with getting the most out of using credit cards, saving and spending tips, and I might even add a slice of perspective without trying to be a psychoanalyst like some other personal finance folks out there.
Please let me know what you think and if you'd like to hear my take on a specific topic.
PS. I've also started writing on my own site: dealforaliving.com.