It’s easy to sneer at the success of giant fast food chains, ubiquitous on every street corner.
The bane of all paleo diet attempts. But there’s a reason such places thrive: Value. When the factors of time, taste and money all collide — and health concerns are left out in the cold — nothing beats the bang for the buck offered up by cookie-cutter grease pits.
Better still, competition in the industry is fierce, rendering prices resistant to inflation. Like UFC fighters, fast food giants are always undercutting, grappling and swift-kicking each other in the jaw to edge one another out for the most attention.
I’ve spent my entire adult life judging the cage matches, and here are the five most consistently brain-bending deals that have swift-kicked me in the jaw:
Subway — The $5 Footlong
Subway is my daily driver for lunch because it offers something somewhat resembling a healthy, well-balanced meal, in sandwich form, and for cheap. I pick something off the $5 menu and eat half that day and the rest the next.
No drink, no chips.
Spending only $2.50 a day on lunch makes me feel less guilty for not packing PBJs like I know I should. I’m in heaven during months such as JanuANY, when Subway goes local used car salesman guy-crazy and offers all sandwiches for $5.
Chick-fil-A — Cow Appreciation Day
Sure, it only comes but once a year, but what a day it is. Boasting the unbeatable price of free, the place that claims to have invented the chicken sandwich — which strikes me as tantamount to Dr. Evil’s dad saying he invented the question mark — dishes out combo meals to those dressed up as cows July 12.
The definition of what counts as “dressed a cow” is loose. I use crude paper cutouts to affix ears to my head and spots to my torso and legs.
Taco Bell — Bean Burrito
Prices vary depending on your locale, but in general, the simple, filling and mighty tasty concoction costs $1.09.
A pair of these makes up a beast of a meal that costs less than half a $5 footlong. There are fancier, fuller-featured dishes on the menu — even the value menu — but most come at several times the cost of this luscious building block. If you don’t like the Taco Bell bean burrito, you just don’t like Taco Bell. Which means you don’t go through as many breath-rescuing peppermints as I do.
Little Caesar’s — Hot-N-Ready
My go-to for post soccer practice pizza night is this smoking deal, which offers a large one-topping pizza for $5.
Up until a few months ago, one Hot-N-Ready managed to feed my brood of five, but now that my boys have become as gluttonous as I have I need to fork over the cash for a second pie. It’s still a cost-effective proposition, especially since it leaves me with enough leftovers for lunch the next day.
McDonald’s — The McDouble and McDonald’s $1-any-size drinks
Let me open by saying that McDonald’s food, on the whole, sort of bores me. Just about every one of its competitors offers better quality and variety at similar prices, but none match the killer Dollar Menu drink and burger offers.
I am partial to the McDouble, with two anorexic patties that, together, just about form something acceptable as a regular patty. The standing offer of any size drink for a $1 is another winner, although somewhat dampened by the retaurant’s slim choice of drink options. That said, if I ever decide to detach from society and walk the earth as a hobo, it will be doubtlessly be $2 meals from McDonald’s that sustain me.
What’s your favorite dirt-cheap dirty food?
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