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Is it Cheaper to Eat Fast Food or Real Food?

Updated on April 29, 2010

In the movie Food, Inc. it shows a family going through the drive through of a fast food restaurant and being "forced" to feed their family fast food because they can't afford real food. Later it shows the same family walking through a grocery store claiming they can't afford the fresh food. One daughter wants a pear or something and the parents say they can't afford to buy it for her and pull her away. So is this true? Is it cheaper to feed a family a meal off the dollar menu or is it cheaper to buy real food at the grocery store?

As sad as this video footage was, I totally disagree with it. If this family of four buys dinner off the dollar menu, complete with sodas and fries, my best guess is that it is a minimum of $10. We don't really eat fast food, so I am not positive on the cost. Let's take that same $10 and head to the grocery store. You can buy a bag of carrots for about $.79, a five pound bag of potatoes for $2, a dozen eggs for around $1, a gallon of milk for $2, a loaf of bread for $1, a pound of pasta for $1 or less, a jar of tomato sauce for $1 and a tub of peanut butter for $1.

For the same amount of money I can feed my family breakfast, lunch and dinner with food items left over for another day. Simple, healthy, real food to nourish my family. You have vegetables, grains, dairy and protein. No this menu isn't ideal, but it is much better for you than fast food and it is cheaper. You get at least three meals at home for the same cost as one meal out.

Ten dollars isn't going to go very far if you want steak, but it will go far enough to feed your family healthy meals. And the next $10 you get you could buy some different items to go along with what you already have. Bananas are probably your cheapest fruit, and to get more vegetables in you can buy onions and garlic for minimal cost. You could buy those three items for around $2. Add in a roll of ground beef for $2, more pasta for $1, tomato sauce for $1, eggs for $1, two cans of green beans or peas $1, another loaf of bread $1 and you have spent another $9, but you have enough food for probably two more days.

Are you wondering what you would eat? I have thrown out a bunch of ingredients, but how would you put it together? Breakfast would be eggs. Cook them however you like them and drink with a glass of milk. Lunch would be peanut butter sandwiches and carrot sticks or baked potatoes. Dinner would be spaghetti and toast.

After the second shopping trip you can branch out a little because you should have peanut butter, potatoes and carrots leftover. You can split your ground beef into two meals. The first meal can be a stew of potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic green beans and ground beef. If you have any tomato sauce leftover this would make a nice addition to the stew. You can season with salt and pepper if you have it. You can also have spaghetti with a meat and tomato sauce for another dinner. Garlic and onions can be added to this as well. Serve with peas or carrot sticks. The bananas could be eaten with the sandwiches at lunch and onion can also be added to eggs in the morning.

If you keep to simple, nutrient dense foods, you can get a lot of calories and nutritional benefits from a very low cost menu. This is nothing fancy or exciting, but it will nourish your body and keep you healthy for much cheaper than eating your meals out - even if you choose from the dollar menu. Fast food, soda and French fries are not healthy. This isn't real food. If you are on a limited income please do not waste your hard earned money on junk. Soda does nothing for you. Yes it might taste good, but it isn't going to keep you alive. You can feed yourself and your family on just a little bit of money and it doesn't have to come from a box or a drive through. Eat real food for real health and it will save you money over fast food.


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    • Kelly Habbas profile image

      Kelly Habbas 

      6 years ago from Dallas

      We eat mostly at home, but we love to cook. I guess overall I would say it’s less expensive to eat at home. However, with some of the more gourmet recipes it gets kind of expensive.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I think most people miss the point. If you are not low income, then you can't possibly say what you would do to feed your family of four. My dad worked from 6am to 7pm. My mom worked until about 7pm. If a person is working that much, how can they be lazy. Maybe they are too tired to come home and cook, clean up (not only the kitchen, but the rest of the house), do homework, and get things together for the next day. Maybe they have a working job and not a sit down job. Most low income families live day by day and not week by week or month by month. It is expensive to eat healthy. And I don't think anyone is eating fast food everyday that is truly low income. You can say that it is healthier to cook, but there are just as many people who eat home cooked meals that are over weight as there are people in the fast food line. Junk food from the store is cheaper and stretches far more that healthy food. And with most healthy food, you are still hungry when you finish (esp. After a long days work). The bottom line is that people are poor, and a treat for a poor person is not a video game, a car, vacation or a stick of celery; it's an ice cream cone!

    • LeonJane profile image


      6 years ago from Australia

      I agree with you Jennifer, and I think ky cat is rude. I bet you could make burgers at home for less and they would be tastier than the fast food joint. Plus as you say you usually make more for the same amount of money and that goes to the next days lunch etc. You aren't going to get the same processed taste as KFC or McDonalds for example but you'll have food that you know how it was processed and cooked. Who really needs all the fatty mayo's and sauces anyway, I could make steak burgers cheaper than a patty burger anyday. It's only the convenice and lazyness that you are paying for and ultimatly you'll end up being unhealthy if you belive fast food is cheaper and better!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Your food prices are way off from any grocery store I've ever been to. By buying the cheapest products at the grocery store you usually end up with food that is just as processed and nutritionally lacking as fast food, but you get more of it.

    • LauraGT profile image


      6 years ago from MA

      Thanks for this interesting article. I do think part of it depends on where you live and what grocery stores are available to you. I do think that fresh, healthy foods do tend to be more expensive than processed foods (especially when considering the caloric density of those foods). That said, if people would consider the longer-terms costs of eating fast food (e.g., illness/disease related to obesity and poor nutrition), they might be more willing to pay a bit more for healthier options. Of course, I also believe that our federal, state, and local governments should do more to make fruits, vegetables, and lean dairy/milk products more affordable and available.

    • Jennifer profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      ky cat, I never said you could make the burgers at home for less. You can just eat real food that is better for you than fast food AND tastes better than fast food. If you think fast food is better than home cooking, then you have never tasted real food cooked well.

    • profile image

      ky cat 

      6 years ago

      you are an idiot, making simple foods such as burgers and tacos fresh is way more expensive than fast food. After u buy the hamburger and everything that goes with it and tacos, cheese , tomatoes, onion, lettuce,bun-taco shell, salsa, mayo, sour cream. way more expensive fresh or everybody would be cooking. made tacos couple weeks ago and i was like, what the hell am i doing just spent a bunch of money on this, it was way more expensive than taco bell and not as good.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Where the heck are you shopping?!

    • Miranda Birt profile image

      Miranda Birt 

      6 years ago from Austin, Texas

      Your article makes a very valid point - it is much cheaper to eat at home than eat out. I used to be a fast-food and restaurant junkie, but I've recently started cooking at home more. I love cooking from scratch and controlling what goes in my food, even the most basic of things! There's just not enough information available for people to see the benefits! Great hub!

    • pandula77 profile image

      Dr Pandula 

      6 years ago from Norway

      I felt the expense when eating outside when I was in Norway where fast food is relatively very expensive when it comes to preparing food by yourself. Its much cheaper to eat home cooked meal not to mention the nutrient value! Great hub.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      It amazes me that McDonalds can be so cheap and yet they claim to use real Australian Ingredients. From my experience going to buy groceries in the supermarkets you pay such a absorbent prices so if you are single or a couple it would make sense to go and eat fast food since it is so cheap. It does seem nowadays that eating organic and healthy is for the more wealthy where the lower economically scale will consume more fast foods and this trend is obvious when you look into the poorer suburbs and see the vast numbers of obese people, make no mistake that America is not the only country with obese people Australia is catching up very fast.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      It amazes me that McDonalds can be so cheap and yet they claim to use real Australian Ingredients. From my experience going to buy groceries in the supermarkets you pay such a absorbent prices so if you are single or a couple it would make sense to go and eat fast food since it is so cheap. It does seem nowadays that eating organic and healthy is for the more wealthy where the lower economically scale will consume more fast foods and this trend is obvious when you look into the poorer suburbs and see the vast numbers of obese people, make no mistake that America is not the only country with obese people Australia is catching up very fast.

    • profile image

      mcm 222333 

      6 years ago

      food is not cheap in canada but still its not good to EAT MCDONALDS ALL THE TIME STOP BEING CHEAP PEOPLE

    • profile image

      Juana la banana 

      6 years ago

      I think you guys are all wrong Jen is right its better eat at home one because its healthier and two because its cheaper and from Southern California and i shop at Ralphs and its not expensive you just have to be smart about the way you shop. Good article Jen it helped me win my argument in class.

    • thost profile image


      6 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Great Hub,

      Healthy food is better than junk food regardless of how much it costs. If you eat junk food every day you will become over weight and your health will suffer. That is a very high price to pay; they will eat that garbage because they do not want to cook their own meals. Vote up.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      50lb bulk oatmeal sells anywhere in mainland USA for 65 bucks maximum including shipping and can be eaten raw if you're really in a rush. (honeyvillegrain is one example) A McDonald's double cheeseburger is 6 ounces for a dollar. Using lenient math, it's $1.5/pound for oatmeal and $2.5/pound for cheeseburger. As for the nutrition, neither oatmeal nor fast food will fit the bill. Nobody is forced to eat fast food.

    • htodd profile image


      6 years ago from United States

      Thanks jennifer ..This is really informative..nice post

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Ok, this is all fine and dandy. But, Jennifer's prices are way out of line...there is not any $2.00 Gal of Milk within a hundred miles of me. Second, the dollar menu is not a "single" hamburger (MacDonalds here has a double cheeseburger for $1, BK has a Whopper Jr for a buck). Third, take out the soda pop and drink water there is no way you can obtain the same caloric level cooking at home AND everyone liking it.

      Finally, add in my rate of $30.00 hour to prepare(including getting the worst thing, going to a store), cook, and present the food. Then not to mention cleaning it up. What about the overhead cost of refrigeration and energy to cook. What about the lost wages when you have to take off of work to cook? Do not know about most of you, but my work day starts at 6am and generally runs to 7, 8, or even are starving to death and need to be fed.

    • Botwin Allison profile image

      Botwin Allison 

      6 years ago from Miami

      In my country fast food has become a plague that can't be beaten.Only by educating our young, do we still have a surviving chance.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      PS~ Get involved in LOCAL agriculture... CSA farms are popping up everywhere. Support local, organic food and stop supporting chains such as Walmart (making the rich richer, and the poor even more poor). Cheap food for YOU is costing someone a lousy way of life somewhere else. Find a CSA farm near you!!!!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Some of you are forgetting that some of these families live in food deserts, where fresh produce isn't readily available. What is? Fast food! Corporate Factory-Farmed America has taken these families, profited billions from them and then left them for dead when they get sick from their "food". A tub of peanut butter is a dollar? Maybe if you're buying sugar-laden crap peanut butter with fillers, etc. I pay about 5 bucks a jar! 'm fortunate to have the opportunity to feed my family organic, REAL home cooked from scratch food but I make sacrifices to do so... such as very few meals out (maybe twice a year), no movies out, we shop at thrift stores, share an old car, grow as much of our own food as possible, etc. It's all about priorities. We live in a consumer-based culture where many feel they need the latest gadget, big-screen tv, expensive car, etc. My family is FAR from rich financially but we do spend a lot on food ( a larger percentage of our income than most families).... but our membership to a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm takes some of the financial load off. Most of these farms will do work for food trade also. But for poverty-stricken inner-city families the choices aren't so plentiful. I live in rural Wisconsin. But those of us who DO have the means to make to right choices for their families and to support the small local farmer, but don't out of laziness or apathy, are helping to create the very culture that is hurting those inner city kids living on fast food or chemically-enhanced school lunches ("food" not fit for human consumption IMO). SO until YOU live in an area where the only fruit you see is at the local convenience store ( a banana here, an apple there) but a wide variety of fast food chains are on every corner in your neighborhood, keep your judgements to yourself and change YOUR life first. Lead by example and educate!


    • profile image


      6 years ago


    • rednickle profile image


      6 years ago from New Brunswick Canada

      Though real food is cheaper i believe it also comes down to what is actually good for your health.


    • jbrock2041 profile image


      6 years ago from Park City, UT

      I just came across this hub and appreciate it. It's a hard debate. Because in certain areas it is cheaper to buy fast food in the short term. But buying fast food consistently causes health issues which is a lot more costly than buying real food. The difference eating healthy and clean has on your health insurance is huge.

    • JasonPLittleton profile image


      7 years ago

      Great hub, I love it.

    • Alexander Pease profile image

      Alexander Pease 

      7 years ago from Maine

      Although I have yet to see Food, Inc, I do know that it is actually cheaper to prepare your own meals. The ingredients will last longer and will generally have a better value. Excellent hub!

    • Leptirela profile image


      7 years ago from I don't know half the time

      Cooking yourself is always better :)

      Good Hub informative something new I learn from the other side of the world ... I guess same in the UK in comparisson however, wherever you are home cooked food is ALWAYS better

    • TheSloneGal profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for the hub Jen you point out a very good point here. I have cooked for along time and if I go a fast food place or a home cooked restaurant I can cook the same meal feed my family of four for the same price of cheaper then what I would have paid for a meal that would have just feed one person. Buying and cooking is much more cheaper then eating out. But the saddest thing is that young girls today my age and younger don't cook never plan on it and don't want to learn because they are lazy so it is them that keeps fast food places in on going business

    • profile image

      baby lovers 

      7 years ago

      i would love to buy fast food to eat but food to cook is way more healthier...

    • jtrader profile image


      7 years ago

      With proper planning you get cheaper, more nutritious meals when you buy fresh ingredients and prepare them yourself, especially when feeding more than one person.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I'm a single guy and eat only fast food Im currently 38yrs old and about 44% body fat. 4yrs ago I was 11% bf and only ate the best organic foods and worked out 2hrs a day.

      I live paycheck to paycheck eating out.

      When I went to the grocery store I always had a few hundred bucks left in the bank.

      The reason is simple. I eat waaaay more fast food because of the msg / chemicals its engineered to turn off your "im full" response. And its not nutritious like the chicken, veggies, fruit, oatmeal & water I was eating.

      So best bang for the buck is high protein high fiber foods period.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I just bought two one-half gallons of milk for 79 cents each. I might go back and get another one today it was an awesome price.

      Also people can find cheap frozen foods which can provide more food than fast good. Entire pizzas for $1.50 and such

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Way to go, Jennifer -- a really great article! Home-cooked food is also healthier for you, and you can control that part of it. Love your hubs and your blogs.

    • Emily Owen profile image

      Emily Owen 

      8 years ago from New York

      I think irrespective of the topic, it is important to consider health. Health comes first and then comes the fast food and stuff.

    • Gift Experts profile image

      Gift Experts 

      8 years ago

      Wow, those California prices are high - -ouch! Midwesterner here, too.

    • belliott profile image


      8 years ago

      Great information. The focus on this hub is food but it reminds me once again that we are discovering that in many instances returning to the old way of doing things seems to be better. Doing things the way they used to be done (cooking real food at home, using things that can be cleaned and reused such as coffee cups instead of styrofoam cups in the office, etc) helps with the environment, or can save money, or it's better for you, etc. I see it over and over again. Maybe mom and grandma had it going on and didn't even know it. Great hub!

    • Chris Crow profile image

      Chris Crow 

      8 years ago

      Food can be expensive, but it's one thing worth spending good money on. Fast Food is terrible for you. So many chemicals and no nutrients.

    • rebekahELLE profile image


      8 years ago from Tampa Bay

      the focus of Food, Inc is the quality and source of the food. it all depends what you consider 'real' food. I don't consider a loaf of white bread real food or a head of light green lettuce which is void of any nutrition. choosing healthy food takes a little more work and reading labels. as some have stated, it's not necessarily cheaper to eat cheap store bought food if it translates to poor nutrition. choose foods with the most nutrition even if you have to buy less.

    • Denise K Zimmerma profile image

      Denise K Zimmerma 

      8 years ago from Illinois

      I rather spend more money on preparing food than I would, eating fast food. I find it healthier in more ways than one I know what I put in it for one. If I do eat fast food it would be Sub Way. There the food I know is healthier for you. I love to cook also so it does not matter to me how much time is involved in cooking. Especially when it is more rewarding in doing it the kids and family love it more and appreciate it even more.

    • Wendy Krick profile image

      Wendy Krick 

      8 years ago from Maryland

      Totally enjoyed your hub. In the long run it is cheaper to eat "real" food. Look at the savings down the road when your are healthy. In the long run, fast food will kill you and do damage to your health.

    • Morayma Rodriguez profile image

      Morayma Rodriguez 

      8 years ago from Lehigh Acers, Florida

      Wow, you're pretty lucky to have a store that sells groceries that cheep. I hope the gas is just as affordable. My mother has been shopping at this new store that opened sometime during the last month and it's a gold mind for bargain hunters and budget makers. Thank goodness too, because they are raising the price of out rent and we might have to cancel out phone services because its getting harder and harder to pay the bills.

    • The Loan Arranger profile image

      The Loan Arranger 

      8 years ago

      How much does eating fast food cost in the long run? Check out the film 'Supersize me'

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great hub you got there!

      You don't only pay for food itself in fast food..indirectly you are also paying for the operation expenses, a part of it goes to the wage of the crew, in short, it almost always turns out to be more expensive than real food.

    • Raymondho profile image


      8 years ago

      Funny reading all these posts how everyone has the opposite opinion! I live in brisbane, Australia and fast food is very cheap ( do not mistake take away as fast food i.e = Mc $19.95 family deal,KFC bucket$15,Dominios large pizza $4.95)

      Fast food is terrible but it is cheaper than real food

    • earnestshub profile image


      8 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      In Australia it is a no contest. Take away food is very expensive when you consider how much food you get in their "budget" meals.

      Our fruit and vegetables are not cheap, but much cheaper than take-away.

    • kellydove profile image


      8 years ago

      great hub

    • Runway profile image


      8 years ago from New York

      I think what's hard is preparing the food and making something yummy that's good to eat. That's why lots of people just pick up McDonald's. Thanks for the interesting hub.

    • bspilner profile image


      8 years ago from Altanta, Ga.

      Food Inc totally changed my perspective on Food. I only eat organically at home and it does come with an expensive but I feel so much better about what I am putting into my body. Plus Whole Foods is a lot of fun to shop at.

    • Milli Mill profile image

      Milli Mill 

      8 years ago from Canada

      Food inc. has opened eyes for a lot of people. Eating real food is like a new phenomenon. Something that every or most adults should already know. Well no matter how late at least people are waking up!!

    • USMCwifey09 profile image


      8 years ago

      An excellent hub. My husband and I watched Food Inc., and needless to say, it totally changed our eating habits. Now, we eat home-cooked meals, our health has improved tremendously, and we're saving money. Thank you for the insight!

    • Emorysfall profile image


      8 years ago

      My wife and I have 2 children going on 3. Thank God, My wife is able to stay at home with our children while they are young. In order for her to stay home, we have to make sure we monitor our spending, which includes how we spend our money on food.

      Food is not cheap here in New Jersey, but it certainly saves us more money shopping for our food rather than eating out. My wife takes the kids out to eat about once a week and let me tell adds up!!

      Everytime we go to eat out as a family, I think to myself what we could have bought from the grocery store with the money we spend eating out. BUT......

      Although it is not the healthiest choice, I think it is a nice treat for her and the kids. I also think it's important that My wife and I spend time alone eating a nice dinner out of the house (not Lobster or Huge Expensive Steaks). If money is a concern, just be smart and choose wisely.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Good question....a lot of people have answered you in many ways as they perceive. As for me I see this as How important is the food we eat? We all choose different routes to go. And when it comes to money, that's another topic all together. It's cheaper to eat both fast and real food. The choice is ours to make...the money is the extra bonus on where we spend it.

      I hope I haven't confused anyone here as this is just my opinion on the subject.

      Take care everyone and have a Blessed sunny Day.

    • rkhyclak profile image


      8 years ago from Ohio

      haha well I like honesty AND good food! I much prefer small, privately owned restaurants over chains. Prices are indeed lower and the quality is much better!

    • outdoorsguy profile image


      8 years ago from Tenn

      LOL. My major failing im honest..

      the truth is the small hole in the wall shops and mom and pop stores are generaly fairly priced. with maybe a ten percent mark up from their costs.

      the larger chains though. its the same in retail to be honest. its all about how much you think convience is worth as a customer.

      I fought to keep our prices down. hunted down the best bargians I could becuase I truly enjoyed doing the job. and loved most of the customers. we bought fresh produce and meat becuase it was cheaper. sold thicker burgers and steaks larger portions. nothing chaps my butt more than paying 15 dollars for a plate of food that has more plate showing than food.

      so honestly if you want or have to eat out. give your business to the small places. those folks usualy love what they are doing and are fighting to stay afloat while the bigger chains just produce cookie cutter, cardboard food and dont realy care about the customer.

      these days Im running an outdoors guide business on the side. the Restaurant biz is suffering badly thanks to the economy. but I do still cook for my clients.. Steak, cajun, Tex mex. all kinds of stuff. just becuase your camping doesnt mean you have to eat rabbit food. LOL

    • rkhyclak profile image


      8 years ago from Ohio

      lol outdoors guy, I think your comment is great! It's nice to hear from the perspective of someone in the food biz...good to hear that we're getting ripped off-maybe it will encourage more folks to cook themselves!

    • outdoorsguy profile image


      8 years ago from Tenn

      having owned and ran a small Restaurant for a few years I can say.. its cheaper to eat in.

      just for example. I would buy a five pound pack of hamburger meat for about six dollars and could make 14 hamburgers out if. pretty thick ones at that.

      Considering the prices most places charge for a burger your alot better off making them than buying them. your paying for convience, taxes and payroll.

      I loved running the place. and do miss it but reality is , its cheaper at home. If you want to treat yourselves go out and eat. but if you think your saving money by eating out.. your not.

      if you like steak..and I do. go out and buy a whole one and have them cut it for you. or save a little extra cash and slice it yourself I do. I buy whole rib eyes for about 5.99 a pound. the price varies some. but I get 12. 1 inch thick steaks out of the thing. considering id pay 16 to 25 dollars for a 1/4 thick steak at a Steak house I find that to be a bargain.

      Nikki the only reason they offer really great specials is they have been milking you for a long time before they decided to drop the prices to keep customers.

      keep in mind that the largest money maker in a fast food place are the soda's it costs them ten cents a drink and they charge you a buck plus.

      places like mine that charged a decent rate are usually facing an unfair advantage to the bigger places becuase they actually get cheaper prices on wholesale. and we dont have the money to advertise like the big boys who are taking you to the cleaners.

      heres a few prices what I paid wholesale... case of french fries. 19.99. five one pound bags of Fries in each case. when they charge you 99 cents for about three ounces of fries. they are cleaning up on every sale.

      onion rings same cost. and same amount per case. and onion rings are usually more expensive at fast food places.

      case of lettuce. ten dollars.

      Frozen biscuits. 21 dollars. twenty pound box.

      Season curly fries.. again 20 dollars.

      costs are regional. and.. the more you buy the less it costs.

      which is where the big busines's have IMO an unfair advantage over smaller places.

      now your average family can go down and buy two pounds of hamburger for about eight dollars, a pound bag of fries for 3.99. letuce for about a buck a head. giver or take some change. lets just say all the fixings on it for about six dollars.

      and you have enough stuff to fix eight good sized meals and with stuff left over to use with other meals.

      and Im rambling on.. LOL you folks have a good one.

    • nikki1 profile image


      8 years ago

      Loved ur hub.

      Well, it depend on where you chose to eat. They can go hand in hand if you do the research. Some fast food restaurants offer awesome specials. Also, picking only the generic foods in the stores you shop can save you a lot as well. Good luck :D

    • lesterd2009 profile image


      8 years ago from Beaches Of Florida

      Great Hub I prefer homemade meals, but I do confess to eating fast food

    • abbyfam profile image


      8 years ago

      yeah good hub

    • abbyfam profile image


      8 years ago

      that looks so good!

    • healthtipscity profile image


      8 years ago

      Very good and Clean information in your hub. I like it very much...

    • qing122 profile image


      8 years ago from

      good hub

      I like food

    • Eileen Hughes profile image

      Eileen Hughes 

      8 years ago from Northam Western Australia

      Jennifer a great try at getting the message through. It is hard I know and most people understand too. Our food in australia is a lot more expensive than the prices you show BUT. We should ALL be growing our own fresh vegetables instead of paying high prices for fresh vegetables and make a lot of your own products like breadcrumbs out of leftover bread crusts etc. Good effort

    • KFlippin profile image


      8 years ago from Amazon

      Great hub, Jennifer, and having grown up in a family of 7 in the recession of the 70's, I saw first hand how you overcome that grocery store being 30 miles or more away, and how to eat, and eat healthy, on the cheap. Every 2 weeks we went to the big town and bought groceries, dropped by the day old bread store and got bread and some honey buns, a big treat for us. Breads went in to the freezer, milk was stretched with powedered, yuck, and myself and everyone of my sisters can to this day whip up a pan of cornbread and have it ready to bake in about 5 minutes. We ate more beans and cornbread and rice than most today could ever conceive. Definitely then, and now, it is cheaper to cook than eat out anywhere. New time constraints these days on working parents is a real new factor, but your own refrigerator and freezer can hold your own cooked and frozen food as well as a restaurant holds their own. And on the soda's, what's with kids growing up not enjoying a big glass of iced tea anymore? Soda was for special occasions, or your bought yourself one with money you earned babysitting or mowing yards.

      Burgers and FF's must be the biggest money making things in food history, there ought to be a new history chapter in the books for that one. Those McD value burgers have what, an ounze of meat on them? And are we counting them as having actual 'vegetable' content with the fixings? And is there any nutrition left in a fast food fried potatoe?

    • CarpetDiem profile image


      8 years ago from Southern California

      hi Jennifer,

      Great question (I'd like to see Fast Food Nation). I think it's cheaper to buy mac and cheese at the store, but I'm not sure about fruits and veggies, and I personally couldn't eat mac and cheese forever. I do thing the "value menu" for hamburgers really is a value (there is no way one can make a $1 burger at home), but the key is moderation, and one should skip the soda... there's no value in that!

      But in the end, the best food is the food you buy (or grow) and cook at home, and eat at the family dinner table with your family. That food is "priceless". :)

      I like your hub!

      ~ Steve

      PS. Another good "food" movie is King Corn.

    • Origin profile image


      8 years ago from Minneapolis

      Well, I know you can buy 5 pounds of potatoes for like $1 if you shop right. You can also buy other types of fruits and vegetables for dirt cheap too! Although, there are some forms of fast food that are relatively cheap as well, and perhaps even cheaper in certain circumstances.

    • Better Yourself profile image

      Better Yourself 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Home cooking is the best.There are a lot of cheap, nutritious and filling meals you can make at home.Great hub

    • Annk65 profile image


      8 years ago

      I didn't read all the comments...but it is also important to consider the health value of food. In the long run it is "cheaper" to but and eat quality foods because you will have fewer medical issues!

    • Allie Johnson profile image

      Allie Johnson 

      8 years ago


      This is a great hub - and I totally I agree with you. I also agree with other commenters that many people don't know how to cook wholesome food cheaply. We are on a tight budget right now because my husband is a grad student, and we sometimes buy groceries and toiletries for the week on about $50 (not always, but sometimes.)

      On those weeks when money is really tight, I often make dishes that involve dried beans or lentils ($1 a bag) and brown rice (maybe $2.) You get multiple, hearty meals for just a few dollars. Last night, I made a lentil rice bake that took 2 cups of lentils and 1 cup of rice, plus one onion (about $1) along with water or veg stock and a few herbs (oregano, basil, garlic powder.) For just a few dollars (since I didn't use all of the bag of lentils or all of the bag of rice) this made dinner for us last night (served with a simple salad of cucumber on top) and will make dinner again tonight. (I will pick up some tortillas ($2) and serve it as lentil rice wraps with a simple vinaigrette and some greens from our garden so it doesn't get boring.)

      Also, frozen veggies tend to be pretty cheap, so you can always supplement a beans and rice meal with frozen veggies (ie; black beans and brown rice served with a corn/red pepper mix.) It is also super cheap and easy to grow greens in your yard ... once you have prepared the soil, all you do is sprinkle the seeds. Last year, we had chard that lasted from spring, through summer and fall until we got snow, all for the price of a packet of seeds. Chard can be pricy in the store, but it was practically free for us for little effort. Of course, some veggies, such as tomatoes, require more time and effort for less yield, but greens are nutritional powerhouses that even busy people without gardening skills should be able to grow.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Hi Jennifer, I just joined,and ran into you. Here where I live, we can get alot of name brand food for $2.00 and less. It has always been less expensive to simply cook at home. Alot of the fast foods have additives. Out here a fast food got caught using kangaroo meat rather than beef. That was on the news for about week.It was quite some years ago but, you just never know when your out there what you are getting into!!!! SAFE JUST COOKING AT HOME!!

    • dansmith86 profile image


      8 years ago

      Very informative and good to read article Jennifer, thanks!

    • Metalhobbit7 profile image


      8 years ago

      that aint because they can't afford it, it's just lazyness. It's just a terible excuse to stick to their fast food. With $10 at Walmart, you can get yourself a week's worth of Cambell's soup.

    • dobo700 profile image


      8 years ago from Australia

      I saw that program! I disagree with it too.

    • jorrddann profile image


      8 years ago

      great information, and good read!

    • twisteddman profile image


      8 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      Great hub.I agree that some of your prices in the article are on the low side. Even so you are still correct. No matter what that same $10 will make at least 2 meals instead of one empty one if you are frugal.

      The problem seems to be that people dont cook any more. They are either too lazy or just never learned how. Also when people buy groceries these days they buy "fast" food still. Convenient foods, snack foods , junky cereals and snacks for the kids. Then they wonder why the groceries they bought do not go very far and figure eating out is cheaper. Just look at some ones grocery cart at Wal mart next time your there. Those empty "fast" foods may seem cheap but they dont go very far and get eaten right away. A lot of this has to do with advertising pressures. Parents seem to believe that not buying those things is depriving there family of something. Which is exactly what they are doing by buying that junk.

      I have Been able to eat on $50.00 a week and I am on a low carb diet that does not allow me to actually buy any cheap foods like rice, pasta, potatos and bread. If I could buy the cheap stuff I could live on half that easy. make a small investment in spices and I could live on it and enjoy it, and I am a big guy. I eat enough for two. So doing the math that still comes out to about $15 a person for 7 days of food. times a family of four is $60.00 a week. There is no way fast food is cheaper than this. Plus cooking is fun once you start doing it.

    • rkhyclak profile image


      8 years ago from Ohio

      I read this hub awhile ago, but just saw SteveoMc's comment-and completely agree! I know that I, myself, am usually still hungry after 1 burger and the nearly empty calories of fries and completely empty calories of a soda. So, yeah, real food is definitely better :)

    • SteveoMc profile image


      8 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      The hub is interesting and it really is true that everyone can eat healthier. Sometimes it costs more. But it is worth every penny. It costs about 150% of the prices you were quoting, however, peanut butter would probably be a little more. So I agree with those that say your shopping list would cost more than you estimated. However, and this is very important, there is no way you could feed a family of four on $10 from the dollar menu. First of all, the dollar items are small. There would be no sharing of anything and most of the family would be still hungry after one each of hamburger, fries, and drink. It is more likely that the father would want at least 4 items, and the mother may as well. If either of the children are teenagers, they are going to want at least 5 items. I'll let the younger sister have three items. This comes to 16 items at $16 plus sales tax here of $1.40 bringing the total to $17.40. So I believe that you underestimated both comparing to our prices and the real food not only wins, but you can add turkey, or chicken and still beat the price.

    • esatchel profile image


      8 years ago from Kentucky

      We primarily make our food from scratch. I can hardly stand to eat out anymore because we cook better tasting food and it is far more economical. Still there is a segment of American society - largely urban, very poor - where there really are no accessible grocery stores, even as the areas are over run with fast food restaurants and gas station type markets. This type of grocery shopping can be very, very expensive and makes, for these folks, fast food $1 menus actually reasonable, and perhaps the only bit of the American Dream they can afford.

    • JustColl profile image


      8 years ago from Durban, South Africa

      Oh yeah, another interesting and informative Hub. Thank you. And I completely agree with what you have said. My home made pizzas, burger patties, pastas, pies and more are cheaper, tastier, and healthier than any fast food establishment, PLUS I know who had made my food. Who could beat that?

    • Manna in the wild profile image

      Manna in the wild 

      8 years ago from Australia

      Yes! I worked out a bad of chips cost $60 a kilo while bananas are $2 a kilo (Here in Australia).

    • STRADIGY101 profile image


      8 years ago

      You would be able to make your own food for less. Buy a proofer, flour, yeast, sugar and you will have the bread down after a few good tries. you want cheese buy a cow, I wouldnt be able to butcher my animals though so I would have to buy all the meat. either that or go fishing, or hunting. I dont own a fishing pole or a gun, so for now that is out of the question.

    • Research Analyst profile image

      Research Analyst 

      8 years ago

      I am able to buy a bag of brown rice for 79 cents and some dried lentils for 1 dollar, and I can usually get a bag of potatoes for 2 dollars, my favorite food is beans and rice, its cheap and tastes good too. My second favorite food is potatoes because you can bake them, boil them, fry them and use them in potato salad. Just the best.

    • profile image

      Jean Gleason 

      8 years ago

      I agree. Home cooking is the way to go. Your forgot the beans! It doesn't matter where you live, they are dirt cheap, especially if you skip the can and start with dried. All you have to do is boil, and you can feed a family of four for less that $2. Lentils, black beans, garbanzos, kidney beans, navy beans they are all nutrient dense!

    • romper20 profile image


      8 years ago from California

      Definitely sticking to eating at home : )Great hub

    • stricktlydating profile image


      8 years ago from Australia

      It's actually quite expensive for fresh fruit and vegetables here in Australia at the moment. For example - One Avacado $4.65 is the same price as an Eagle Boys family size Super Supreme Pan Pizza. There is more competition with the fast food stores than there is with Supermarket prices of fruit and veg (They are blaming extreme whether conditions for the hike in these prices - floods/droughts etc in farming areas). Of course, I prefer fresh food, but it's far cheaper to get takeaway!

    • Gyspy Writer profile image

      Gyspy Writer 

      8 years ago from Midwest

      I agree with you. Even if you determine that you can't afford healthy food at the grocery store, you can buy unhealthy food there and still save a ton of money over eating out!

    • profile image

      Melanie Munn 

      8 years ago

      A tub of peanut butter for one dollar? Where do you live? Or better yet, what century are you from? I do not think anyone should ever eat fast food, but these supermarket prices are not correct.

    • jamesbrownbete profile image


      8 years ago from Philippines

      Fast foods can be cheaper and more advantageous in some other reasons, but I will still prefer to eat home cooked foods since its more nutritional and more options we do have.

    • IdeaMorphist profile image


      8 years ago from Chicagoland

      Oh how I wish my grocery stores charged what those in Ohio do! However, Im sure our fast food chains charge more. Hands down, it is cheaper and healthier to cook at home. It is difficult to find the right dishes to make on a budget, but if you plan accordingly you can make it work! Also, I find it helpful if I add up the costs on my list as I shop. I use the calculator function on my cell phone. That way, I get my necessary cooking items out of the way before I pick up additional things like prepped foods, pop tarts or bakery items... This ensures I dont go over budget on things that wont be helpful on avoiding the drive thru.

      If anyone is interested I have a recipe posted for a chicken dish that is quite affordable!

    • FashionFame profile image


      8 years ago from California

      I like fast food but not on the cost of real food. I totally agree with you that one can easily afford basic food. Liked your hub. Joining your fan club and would like to invite you too.

    • Jennifer profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      I think I need to clarify my prices for the food purchased. I am not talking about organic food here. Yes that is the healthiest, but most people can't afford it. I am talking the very basics. It won't be the best thing for you, but so much better than fast food. And all the meals I came up with are very fast and require only basic cooking knowledge or a microwave.

    • gracenotes profile image


      8 years ago from North Texas

      Very nice hub. I'm in Dallas/Fort Worth, and I don't know any place I could get 1 pound of ground beef for $2.00. However, we have had an ALDI's just open its doors, so I need to go and check them out.

      If you would eat in the most healthy manner, you need fresh vegetables and fruit. Fresh produce isn't cheap either, and as a matter of fact, that's where grocery stores make most of their profits. At local farmer's markets here, I don't see it being much cheaper than the store.

      I tend to be real picky about my produce. Since fresh produce will break you at the market, I've decided to invest my time in gardening in my back yard. You never know until you try. So far, so good.

      About the low-income people, it is sad that they are eating a lot of fast food, but there is probably so much about their lifestyle that we can't fathom. It does take time to plan nutritious meals, shop, and cook.

    • Polly C profile image

      Polly C 

      8 years ago from UK

      Here in the UK I cannot imagine being able to feed my whole family fast food on $10 (not that I would want to!). I can, however, make them a fairly cheap, healthy meal cooked from scratch. I prefer to use organic vegetables, but I could make it even cheaper if I didn't do that. I don't eat meat either, so obviously that lowers the cost, but even so, I believe that feeding your family fast food is more expensive, not cheaper. Families who do this, I'm sure, have become lazy and unmotivated, for wahtever reason. Thank you for an interesting read.

      There was a programme on in the UK, quite a long time ago now, where a presenter ate nothing but fast food like McDonalds for a month. This was to determine how unhealthy this was, and the results were horrific - even in that short time his health was suffering, his blood pressure raised and the danger of him suffering health complications such as stroke etc. was increased. Thanks again for a good read :)

    • prowork profile image


      8 years ago from Marietta , Ohio USA

      I do believe the fast food is sometimes cheaper however not as good for you . I also do not believe you get as filled up on fast food as home cooked food .

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Although there are exceptions of course, there are many instances in which eating healthier is more expensive. For example, healthy organic strawberries cost more than non-organic strawberries. Students on a budget will eat non-healthy Ramen pre-package cup-of-noodles that will fill one stomach for much less than if they were to get a good healthy salad with all the healthy ingredients. I'm not talking about a salad with just lettuce. I'm talking about a salad with tomatoes and avocados (both are very healthy). Avocados in high-cost-of-living states can cost $1.50 each. When I ask for guacamole on my Subway sandwich and/or my Chipotle burrito because I wanted the health benefits of avocados, they have to charge me extra.

      As featured in Food Inc -- which I saw and wrote about here -- Chipotle gets their ingredients from naturally raised pork (healthier). That is why their burritos (around $6) cost more than El Pollo Loco (which they have a burrito in their $1 menu).

      One of the point in the documentary is that low income families like the one featured has to work multiple jobs where they are out the door by 6am and don't get home until 9pm. Many work 7 days a week. How are they going to be able to cook at home? How will they even have time to shop at a grocery? The best they can do is a 10 minute stop at a drive thru on their way home. It is the time constraint that cause many people to have to rely on fast food. They have to work many hours due to their low hourly wage.

    • CASE1WORKER profile image


      8 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

      the problem is motivation- however you look at it cooking form scratch is not only cheaper but it is much better for you. However when there is no preperation time you can convince yourself that Mcdonalds is so cheap- yes it is cheap but as a treat not the main form of nutrition

    • Anna Evanswood profile image


      8 years ago from Malaysia

      mmm I think that health advocates would say eat the non organic non processsed food if the choice is that or fast food. The small time gain in time and convenience for eating rubbish will catch up with our populations when they get older and health problems like diabetes and obesity are at epidemic proportions.

      Great hub and discussion!!


    • Raven1001 profile image


      8 years ago from Washington

      This is freaking depressing. Your hub is great but my local prices are only about 10 cents cheaper than california's.

      I both agree and disagree here. Fast food is definately not cheaper. But when people I know discuss 'real, fresh,healthy food' they are referring to organically grown non processed food. According health advicates eating regular fresh apple that has pesticides,dyes, etc is almost as bad for you as fast food.

      And if the prices you're describing here ARE organic food I'm gonna fall over in a dead faint. A gallon of "organic" milk will run me almost $5 , brocolli $2.85 lb on a good sale, 1 pack of hot dogs $4, I would share more but at this point I had to leave that section of the store.

      It just so darn confusing to know What eating healthy even is any more.

    • lender3212000 profile image


      8 years ago from Beverly Hills, CA

      I think people need to start considering the cost of food in terms of how it can impact your health as well as your wallet. What looks cheap at first can actually be very costly down the road in terms of health issues, medical bills, etc. Garbage in, garbage out! Great hub, an enjoyable read.

    • DixieMockingbird profile image

      Jan Charles 

      8 years ago from East Tennessee

      Months ago I started my own hubs - and I've repeatedly preached using 'real' food. I'll occasionaly rely on prepackaged - simply because of an occasional time contraint. But real food isn't hard to make - nothing I cook is difficult. It takes a little knowledge and planning - that's all.

      Real food is far cheaper. Not only economically - the dollars spent every week. But think of the extra time at work to pay for the cruddy prepackaged or fast food - or the health effects. Real food tastes better, is better for you, and is far easier to prepare than you'd think. Great job!


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