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May 18, 2012 at 4:06 PMComments: 3 Faves: 0

3 High-Class Meals That are Cheaper Than Family Dinner at McDonald's


It is a common belief that eating healthy is more expensive than a standard American diet of fast food and processed pre-packed meals. But do healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and meats REALLY cost more than convenience foods?

The vast majority of consumers would answer "yes." In fact, I did an informal survey during several of the weekly cooking classes I offer.  

mcdonald'sThis group of wanna-be chefs are considered educated, middle-to-upper income, over the age of 30 and are interested in health and wellness and yet, overwhelmingly they agreed with the argument that fast food and junk food is cheaper and they believe is the cause for obesity in this country. One reasoned:

"...if you only had 4 bucks in your pocket why would buy 1 bag of carrots when you can get a 2 bags of chips cheaper?”

Although most of these people do not eat fast food on a regular basis and are focused on health, they are STILL under the belief that eating healthy is pricy.

Hmmm! I challenge this myth!

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I believe that many people will justify eating fast food with a lack of dough, but in reality are just not interested in taking the time to cook. Let’s face it, cooking takes time and many of us have busy lives and choose to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible. However, going out to dinner and grabbing a fast bite is considerably more fattening and loaded with all sorts of ingredients you may not be able to identify.

The excuse, “I’m just too busy” does not cut it with me when the average American, regardless of weekly earnings, watches no less than an hour and a half of television per day.

Did you know that in the 1950’s the average housewife would spend two hours a day preparing the family meals? Today we spend an average of 15 minutes per day preparing foods for our families and that includes drive through times.

A typical  McDonald's order for a family of four:

Mom and Dad's Order + (2 Big Macs + 2 Medium Fries + Two Medium Drinks)

Little Sister's Order + (Cheeseburger + Small Fry + Small Drink)

Big Brother's Order (Six Piece Chicken McNuggests + Small Fry + Small Drink)


Costs about $28.

At your local grocery store, you could grab a rotisserie chicken, a head of broccoli, a bag salad, rice and milk to feed a family of four for as little as $15. All you’ll need to do is cook the rice and broccoli and have a healthy nutritious meal in less than 20 minutes! ( And it probably took you at least that long to drive to McDonald's and get your order anyway!)

3 Meals That are Cheaper Than Family Dinner at McDonald's

Now there is no excuse to not eat healthy! And to help you, I’ve included 3 dinner menus that any home cook can prepare within 30 minutes using ingredients that are affordable, healthy and delicious. Bon Appetit!

Mexican Style Vegetarian Diner

  • Black Bean Burger
  • Bag Salad with light vinaigrette
  • Guacamole with toasted pita wedges
  • Milk

Cost: $12
Time: 20 minutes

Absolutely Summer Fish Dinner

  • White Wine and Lemon Poached Salmon
  • Packaged wild rice such as seeds of time
  • Cucumber salad (sliced cucumbers tossed with rice vinegar and sesame seeds)
  • Lemonade

Cost: $19
Time: 15 minutes

Delightfully European Dinner

  • Tri-Color Frittata
  • French bread with olive oil
  • Antipasto salad from olive bar
  • Sparkling water

Cost: $17
Time: 15 minutes

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  • Nice sue, you make it sound so easy! (and way more healthy)

  • This all sounds fine and good for those who have a family, but I'm just a single guy. Do I really want 7-8 meals of poached salmon? That would be the only way to keep it at this price. I love the idea, but it seems to work best for the big family, not so much for the single. I have this battle with myself almost every day. I can go to the store and pay about double what I would at the fast food joint, thereby creating about 3 meals for myself. But do I really want that three times before it goes bad? And I know, "you should freeze it! It's just as good." Well, whoever I just quoted is a liar. Refrozen and unfrozen food is not as good as fresh. I just don't know what to do in that situation. Any thoughts, Sue?

  • Good points Rex. It is often difficult cooking healthy and economically for one. Especially when so many items are prepackaged in large amounts. I would recommend choosing recipes that have ingredients that can be purchased in any size you choose. For example you can go to the meat and seafood counters at your local grocery store and ask them to cut and weigh any size you want. The salad bar offers many vegetables that are already pre-cut and can be purchased by weight instead of whole or by the bag.
    The freezer does take away from the taste and quality of fresh foods however there are some foods that freeze quit well. Fort example beef, fish, shrimp, and chicken. The key is to get all the air out of the bag or container that you are storing your meat in. Air causes freezer burn and will dramatically effect the taste and quality. Zip lock bags are perfect for this. Simply place your meat in the bag and roll the bag towards the zip end squeezing the air out as you go. Zip and you done. It should hold for a good three months.

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