Alex’s Guide to Cheap, Shitty Fast Food

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In the month of November 2012, I had a goal to spend only $8 a day. Within this goal, I layered on a mini-experiment: I wanted to try the cheapest, most calorically-efficient item at every fast food establishment. So over the course of 22 workday lunches, I punted any semblance of healthy eating and tried them all.

Without further ado, let’s meet the contestants.

Burger King Spicy CHICK’N CRISP® Sandwich
Calories: 460
Cost: $1.29
Calories/dollar: 357
Pros: Hah.
Cons: These should be labeled with a biohazard sticker. The spicy breading—not spicy enough for flavor, but just spicy enough to induce cold sweats—conceals a whitish-grey chicken mush sandwiched between two white buns, a slathering of mayo, and a leathery leaf of iceberg lettuce. In a related event, I had to shit an hour after consumption.
Grade: F

Jack in the Box Tacos
Calories: 361
Cost: $1.00
Calories/dollar: 361
Pros: A fair price. A liberal application of Jack in the Box’s delightful hot sauce masks any flavoring quirks. I also didn’t have to shit immediately afterwards.
Cons: I don’t know how, but the yellowed taco shells are simultaneously mushy and stale. The only strength of the Frankenmeat soy/beef concoction is that it could be considered edible. I’m about to shatter delusions for frat boys everywhere, because here’s the reality: Jack in the Box tacos are painfully mediocre.
Grade: C+ 

Jack in the Box Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger
Calories: 400
Cost: $1.49
Calories/dollar: 246
Pros: Bacon.
Cons: All bacon is not created equal, and Jack in the Box clearly sources their bacon from the pigs that subsist on a diet of their own shit.
Grade: B-

KFC Chicken Little
Calories: 380
Cost: $1.19
Calories/dollar: 319
Pros: Tasty breading, juicy chicken, and a sesame bun.
Cons: Comically small. Literally finished it in 3 bites.
Grade: B

Taco Bell Soft Taco
Calories: 180
Cost: $1.19
Calories/dollar: 151
Pros: Taco Bell sets the bar for fast food tacos. The meat is salty, and the tortilla, cheese, and lettuce are recognizable, which is as close a compliment one could give to fast food ingredients.
Cons: In a growing list of things I thought I’d never say, Taco Bell is fucking expensive. At a paltry 151 calories per dollar, I had a wave of buyer’s remorse after consuming a taco.
Grade: B-

Taco Bell Bean and Cheese Burrito
Calories: 380
Cost: $1.19
Cost/dollar: 319
Pros: Generally looks like a burrito.
Cons: Its color and consistency are uncannily reminiscent of dog shit, making it the only item on this list which is both literally and figuratively shitty. And yes, I realize I’m already at 4 shit jokes.
Grade: C-

McDonald’s McDouble
Calories: 390
Price: $1.00
Calories/dollar: 390
Pros: The most artfully crafted cheap item on any value menu—two sumptuous meat patties, beautifully melted cheese, toasted fluffy buns, all rounded out by a winning supporting cast of ketchup, mustard, onions, and pickles. The gold standard for cheap fast food—in many ways, I feel more of an attachment to the McDouble than most people I see on a regular basis.
Cons: After 20+ McDoubles consumed in the month of November, I started having a bizarre Pavlovian effect where my mouth started tasting like McDoubles any time I passed by a McDonalds.
Grade: A+

McDonald’s McChicken
Calories: 360
Price: $1.00
Calories/dollar: 360
Pros: The winner of a competitive racket of fast food chicken sandwiches. Has a nice zesty breading on the aforementioned fluffy buns. Actually tastes like chicken.
Cons: A nice complement to the breadwinner of the McDonalds family, the mighty McDouble, but still not worthy of upper echelon status.
Grade: B+

Del Taco Regular Taco
Calories: 200
Cost: $0.59
Calories/dollar: 339
Pros: It is a taco, and I like tacos. Also, for some bizarre reason, I used to love Del Taco when I was 8 years-old, so Del Taco garners bonus points for childhood nostalgia.
Cons: Surprise surprise, eight year-olds are not renowned for their reliable judgment of food quality. Del Taco is fighting tooth-and-nail with Burger King for the shit crown (known cross categorically as “The Nickleback Award”) for worst fast food establishment. Del Taco’s underwhelming taco is emblematic of this achievement.
Grade: C

Del Taco Bean and Cheese Burrito
Calories: 440
Cost: $1.00
Calories/dollar: 440
Pros: Cheap. Very cheap.
Cons: In a shocking turn of events, it’s cheap because it sucks.
Grade: D-

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