Updated on 09.12.07

Does Cooking At Home Really Beat The McDonalds $1 Double Cheeseburger?

Trent Hamm

This is a question I had from a reader (we’ll get to the double cheeseburger in a minute):

My question is about budgeting for food. I’ll be starting my first real job soon so I’m setting up a list of monthly expenses. I haven’t yet lived on my own, so I don’t have a good basis for estimating monthly food expenses. Could you shed some light on the matter?

My rule of thumb is this: for one month, save the receipts on every food item that you buy, whether it’s at the grocery store, eating out, or anywhere else. Then add 10% to that. That should be your food budget for a month.

Why add 10%? I find that almost every budget works better with a bit of breathing room in it. Most months, you’re better off coming in under budget so that you can put the excess away for debt repayment or savings. Also, this allows you to easily handle small emergencies within your monthly budget – you already have the slack in place to handle a blown tire, for instance.

On that note, I’ve read many of your articles about the advantages of preparing food at home. I’ve always been told that this option is less expensive than eating out, but intuitively it seems like the cheapest fast food options might be less expensive. For example, is there any way I can prepare an item – even assuming I buy ingredients on sale or in bulk – and have it cost less per serving than a $1 cheeseburger from McDonald’s? Negative externalities notwithstanding, is it a better option financially? Can you provide a cost-per-serving analysis for some of your recipes to better answer this question?

Okay, let’s break it down. I can get a double cheeseburger from my local McDonalds for $1.07. It weighs 5.8 ounces, has 440 calories, and has 23 grams of fat (here’s more nutrition facts on the item), which is 35% of the daily recommended allowance of fat (three McDonalds dollar menu double cheeseburgers add up to more than 100% of your daily fat intake). I will say that in terms of caloric content, it is a pretty good deal, but the calories you get are pretty unhealthy – I can certainly see why people with limited budgets and growing children might go for such things, even though it’s far from the best choice.

Anyway, there’s roughly three ounces of meat on the burger, plus cheese, ketchup, and a bun, meaning you can make 16 burgers of equivalent size from 3 pounds of hamburger meat.

Using the global grocery list and other online sources, I obtained some prices for the materials you would need to construct 16 such cheeseburgers.

3 pounds hamburger @ $1.99 lb. = $5.97
16 slices cheese, store brand = $1.99
16 hamburger buns, actually 2 packs of 8 = $3.98
1 small bottle ketchup = $1.50
… for a total of $13.44. One doesn’t have to pay sales tax on these products as they’re staple foods. 16 McDonalds double cheeseburgers, on the other hand, cost $17.12.

If you want to do this in bulk, just grill all of the burgers, then freeze them, separating them with pieces of wax paper. Pull out however many you want per meal, warm them up, then assemble them with the bun and whatever items you want on it.

Isn’t that meat price a bit cheap? For making burgers, especially if grilling them, you don’t want the cheapest meat unless you want a very dry burger. Part of the cooking process cooks out the fats, leaving water behind as the fats denature and come out of the meat.

There are other benefits here as well. If you make your own burgers, you can grill them yourself, making them taste fantastic and allowing a lot of the fat to drip out of the meat, making for a leaner, healthier burger. You can also choose the exact condiments you want on it – I myself like just a hint of mayonnaise on mine. You can also choose to include other elements which make it healthier or tastier – lettuce, tomato, etc. – at your discretion.

In other words, you can make a healthier, tastier version of the McDonalds $1 double cheeseburger at home for less than $1 per sandwich. And if you can beat the lowest common denominator in fast food, you can easily beat the price point of most anything else you would eat out.

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  1. Beth says:

    I think you’re being generous to estimate 3 ounces of meat. I worked there many years ago, and at the time their regular burgers were called 10:1 meat – you could get 10 burgers from a pound of meat, or 1.6 ounces each – and I think that’s pre-cooking. I seem to recall that meat loses a fair amount of weight in the cooking process.

    Nice work on the math! I ate an amazingly good veggie taco and a ceviche tostada the other day, for a total of five bucks. I wondered if that was cheaper than making them myself, but now I’m guessing not.

  2. Barry says:

    Even those prices can be beat if you watch closely. Store brand buns often go for just a little over a buck for 8 (around $1.09 if memory serves), and ketchup often for less than a buck (around $.89)!

  3. hickepedia says:

    “One doesn’t have to pay sales tax on these products as they’re staple foods.”

    Sez you! State laws about sales tax on food staples vary widely. Take a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sales_taxes_in_the_United_States
    for more information.

  4. FIRE Finance says:

    From experience, it is most often cheaper and healthier to prepare popular versions of burgers and sandwiches at home. We almost always prepare our veggie burgers and wraps at home, with organic ingredients and the price is comparable with the ones (not organic) sold at popular chains! The secret is to purchase your ingredients in bulk. Plus we have to be committed enough to make the sandwich and not give in to laziness.

  5. Dave says:

    In the McDonalds near mean the Double Cheeseburger is $1.07 so that doubles the meat content.

  6. David says:

    It’s not only cheaper to make your own food, but much healthier. Eating McDonald’s for every dinner will make you very sick after a little while. So add on the cost of your medical bills, and you come out way ahead!

  7. mgroves says:

    This is a good analysis, but there are additional factors: time, dish washing, refrigerator/freezer electricity, not to mention the cost of utensils, oven, George Foreman, etc, assuming one doesn’t already own those things.

    My guess is that starting out on your own with 0 utensils/appliances, it’s probably a wash, or very close to it, between fast food and your own burgers in the short term.

    So in the short term, eat out, in the long term, eat in, from a purely economic perspective.

  8. Brad Parker says:

    @Beth: That’s not being overly generous with the weight of meat. It’s actually conservative if what you say about 1.6 oz per burger. Since this is a double, that’s 3.2 oz for a double cheeseburger. And as for weight lost during cooking, “16 burgers of equivalent size from 3 pounds of beef” is uncooked as well.
    Still, $1.99 is pretty cheap for ground beef, particularly that of any good quality.

  9. Johanna says:

    …but if you consider the time and money (gasoline?) it takes to transport yourself to and from the fast food restaurant, cooking for yourself probably still comes out ahead except in the very very short term.

  10. Alyssa says:

    I wish I could get meat for 1.99 a pound. I pay 3.50 a pound for ground beef when it is on sale.

    BTW… the following statement makes very little sense “For making burgers, especially if grilling them, you don’t want the cheapest meat unless you want a very dry burger. Part of the cooking process cooks out the fats, leaving water behind as the fats denature and come out of the meat.” Did you mean you want the cheapest meat, which also has the most fat? So that you have more fat left in the burgers at the end of the cooking process. And fats don’t denature. Fats melt. You also lose water from the burger as the proteins denature.

  11. s says:

    Based on the nutrition info McDonald’s site, there should be about 20g of protein from the beef (10 is the different between single and double cheeseburger). 75% lean ground beef has 4g of fat per ounce. That would put it close to 5oz of meat. They seem to be less than that though, so I don’t know.

    And yes, it would be “pre-cooked” weight, but so is what you buy at the store.

    Another argument for eating dollar menu items it IS one of the cheapest “foods” that you can get if you forgot lunch or didn’t manage to do the bulk preparations. $1 for enough food to fill you up is a good deal when you’re on the go. Even ready to eat food at the grocery store has a hard time beating it.

    That said, regardless of how good a deal they are (or aren’t), I won’t go near them nor would I recommend adding them to a daily (or weekly or monthly) routine.

  12. Jake Smith says:

    If your grill burgers and then freeze them, does it still taste good once you unfreeze them? Are you supposed to microwave them or regrill them once you want to eat the frozen burgers – anyone?

  13. s says:

    umm.. that “4g of fat per ounce” was supposed to be “4g of protein”

  14. Amanda says:

    There are places where you have to pay sales tax on groceries*, alas, but even with the tax it is still cheaper to eat at home. Much healthier, as well. You don’t even need to eat those artery-clogging cheeseburgers. Things like oatmeal and spaghetti work out to even less money per serving than that.

    * See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sales_taxes_in_the_United_States for a complete list

  15. Emily says:

    I eat a tuna fish sandwich… One can of Tuna (50C), 2 piece of bread (20C), Mayonnaise (10C?), that like 80 cents for a healthy meal. Make a peanut butter one and its even cheaper. You can bring cup o noodles to work, that’s like 25 cents. I eat lean cuisines every day ($1.60 or cheaper depending how much on sale I can get it). Its not that hard to eat cheep for lunch.

  16. Marie says:

    If we’re talking double cheeseburgers, wouldn’t you only need 8 buns, instead of 16?

  17. Another bad ‘fast’ and ‘healthy’ choice I’ve seen recently is the Hillshire Farms Salad fixing. For $3.99 suggested retail you get some basic things but not any lettuce! Silly.

  18. Tyler says:

    Here in Utah we still pay tax on the “staple foods” so that adds a bit to the total – not to mention that you forgot the onions and pickles.

  19. Gatorzone says:

    Good job trent. One thing to consider also is that you are referring to a DOUBLE cheeseburger which would require 2 slices of cheese per bun. Therefore, there would actually be a total of 32 slices of cheese, instead of 16 (another $1.99), and you would have to take into account making two smaller patties, which presumably could be accomplished with the alloted meat. Just thought I would add my 2 cents. This makes the cost not as effective, but still a tremendous amount healthier!

  20. Victor says:

    There were many things left out here:

    1. Spoilage – a $1 cheeseburger can be bought pretty much one time where as grilling meat all at once pretty much commits you to eating them all within a week or two period. Bread will spoil (even if refrigerated) so will cheese, onions, etc.

    2. Labor – If you’re not better off spending two hours researching investments or mowing your lawn rather than grilling burgers then you’re not better off.

    When you factor in these two things, McDonalds has got you beat each and every time. There is a reason why over 10 billion have been sold: convenience.

  21. Daniel says:

    The whole idea behind fast food is convenience. For those of us who work outside of our homes, it’s probably not too convenient to bring in pre-cooked meat patties, heat them up in the office micro, and enjoy a cheeseburger at the office. Opportunity cost is the whole issue here. If I’m spending extra time everyweek at the grocery store, in the kitchen and then preparing each meal myself, am I losing out on money by possibly following other pursuits? Who knows? I really don’t want to think that much about it.

    For me, 2-3 mins in the driver through for my meal doesn’t bother me at all financially or physically. As long as I get to the gym 3-5 times a work and work out for 30-60 mins, I’m feeling great and usually don’t have any desire for fast food anyway.

  22. Wendy says:


    How is mayonnaise healthy? It is made of oil and eggs, and I doubt most manufacturers use the ‘healthier’ oils.

  23. Jeffrey says:

    Health issues notwithstanding, my time is more valuble to me than the dollar or so you’d save fixing your own burgers. In doing analysis’ like this, I think it’s important to also consider the value of the labor involved. Sometimes convenience is king.

    Now this is only one example – there’s lots of other foods out there that are much cheaper to make yourself than to get at a restaurant.

  24. vh says:

    $1.99 for bargain hamburger? Hang onto your hat, Trent: I can get it for 99 cents a pound! At, where else, ritzy-titzy SAFEWAY! Every now & again they have a special on chuck roasts. Schlep a giant roast up to the butcher, counter smile sweetly, and ask if they’ll grind it for you. Nooo problem! Dunno why, but this 99cent/pound burger is mighty delicious…better than the usual $2.something burger in their meat counter.

    Uhm…dare one say: McDonald’s cheeseburger…eeewwww! What happened to your tastebuds? A real hamburger, cooked up in your own castle’s kitchen, actually tastes good.

    Right on, Wendy, about commercial mayo. The stuff is full of sugar, too. Just to prove what a nutcase I am, let me recommend real mayonnaise, easily whipped up in a blender:

    Toss an egg or two in the blender. Dollop in a quarter tsp of mustard (dijon-style is good but any kind will do. Sprinkle in a small amont of (optional) salt.
    Slap the lid on the blender with the little pouring hole open. Turn the blender to hypersonic.
    Squeeze in juice of 1/2 lemon. Or more, if you like it tart. Blend madly.
    Dribble in about a cup of olive oil, verrrrreeee slowly, continuing to blend madly. As time goes by, this will create a lovely thick mayo. You’ll have to stop the blender a couple of times and scrape the thickened sauce down so it will continue to blend. If you feel straight olive oil is a bit strong for your taste, cut it 50-50 with corn oil or some other light-flavored vegetable oil.


  25. Laura says:

    In all fairness, you have left out the mustard, pickles and onions, and most people seem to like lettuce and tomatoes on their burgers, so these items would add to the cost per burger. But that’s kind of splitting hairs. The point is that it’s basically cheaper to make it yourself than eat out, and tastier and healthier too. Yup, eating out is more convenient and occasionally necessary so you might want to build occasional eating-out days into your budget.

    One other comment: if your reader has never lived on his own before, I would not suggest using your first month’s grocery/food bills as a standard bill because he’ll have to buy all his staples all at once to get his pantry set up and it will be far more expensive than an average month when you already have things like oil, flour, milk, sugar, rice, pasta etc on hand. So keep that in mind when considering your average grocery bills.

  26. 150 North says:

    I have to agree that eating at home is much cheaper in the long run. It can seem like you are shelling out some big bucks on that first trip to the store when you pick up many of the “essential” items, such as salt/pepper, ketchup, mustard, etc… along with your planned meal items. However, once those essentials are purchased it is much cheaper. The problem I have is that I know it is much cheaper, but I still have a hard time eating at home and not just running somewhere to eat. Bad habits formed when I was younger and didn’t have a lot of time to cook at home I guess, but I am working on it.

    As a side note, I am currently having to live out of a hotel out of town for a total of 8 weeks while I train for a new job. The hotel of course has no kitchen, not even a small refridgerator or microwave. That means eating out for 3 meals each and every day. My new employers are adamant that I fully utilize the meal expense they allot me which is absolutely crazy. They want me to eat, by myself, $40 of food each day.

    If you want to be cured of eating out, try forcing yourself to never eat at home no matter what and you will get over that quickly.

  27. E.T.Cook says:

    So you are saying that it is worth it to save less than $4 spread out over 16 burgers?

    Goodness gracious. There is thrifty, there is frugal, and then there is just absolutely asinine…the latter describes this article.

    (Health concerns aside of course)

  28. Zeca says:

    So much work for 3 dollars?
    Do you really think it is worth it?

  29. Siena says:

    For a family cooking is definitely cheaper. For a single person it can be harder because buying in bulk can mean food goes bad–costing more than convenience food. But cooking at home is still worth it in terms of health. Yes, Mcdonald’s has salads, but salads made at home are cheaper.

    Because of this site I started keeping track of my cooking costs. Yesterday I made eggs and hash browns for breakfast (organic eggs too!) and it cost me less than 1 dollar per person. I made asian chicken soup w/ rice (with 1/2 a costco chicken) for dinner. I calculated the entire meal cost me around 3 dollars, fed four people, with leftovers! I calculate it cost less than 50 cents a serving for dinner and filled us up way more than 1 cheeseburger could.

  30. Sunny says:

    I have regularly cook for $1/person/meal. It’s a lot harder now because the price of everything is going up. I have had to expand my budget just a bit, but I can still keep it between 1-1.50 per meal. With careful planing, can even *occasionally* buy more expensive meats. We aren’t eating steak every night, but neither are we eating beans and rice all the time either.

  31. Veronica says:

    I don’t think Trent is suggesting that anybody actually do this (can you imagine have to choke down the same burger every night for two and a half weeks? gross). It’s more an exercise in Frugality Theory, if you will- just a dollar-for-dollar comparison.

  32. Debbie M says:

    s – a double cheeseburger also has an extra slice of cheese over a cheeseburger; some of the extra protein is from that.

    150 North – If you are there that many weeks, it’s time to get creative. Maybe you could invest in a hotplate, a skillet, a saucepan, and a cooler that you re-fill with ice every day. If any co-workers live nearby, maybe they’ll let you come to their place to cook if you feed them; people love home-cooked food! Or you could shop daily for single-servings of fruit, milk (for cereal), etc., plus staples that don’t need refrigeration (bread, nuts).

    And for those of you who are saying that this is a tiny amount of savings for the time invested, you are missing the point. The proposition was “it seems like the cheapest fast food options might be less expensive.” The answer is that even these items that look like loss-leaders are cheaper to make yourself; therefore it’s generally quite safe to assume you are saving money by cooking your own food if you have the choice.

    For the folks afraid of spoilage – I think all these ingredients freeze well. (Mayonnaise and lettuce don’t, though.)

  33. Joel says:

    My family of three gets by on less than $125 a week. That’s nine meals a day – breakfast, lunch and dinner. We eat meat at every dinner (chicken, pork or salmon) and have a vegetable with it. Take all three of our lunches and have quick stuff for breakfast. Our diet it well within the American Heart Association’s guidelines. For snacks we stick to beverages – something cold with a slice of lemon or lime (or hot as winter approaches).

  34. Margaret says:

    I imagine for people who are black belt frugal, either by choice or by circumstance, saving a couple bucks over 16 burgers DOES make a difference. If you are not one of them, terrific for you.

    Another thing your reader could try that is convenient but somewhat better than fast food is buying lunch in a grocery store — get a bun or two (if you have bulk bins), a couple slices of deli meat, maybe a slice of deli cheese, and a single banana. That can be fairly inexpensive, and not as unhealthy as fast food. Just something to consider.

  35. Mariette says:

    I had always wondered about this but never bothered with the math since I don’t eat fast food (and am vegetarian.) Thanks for the “exercise in Frugality Theory.”

  36. Sarah says:

    Those buns will mold (if you leave them out) or stale (if you refrigerate them, yuck) well before you could make a dent in the patties. Bulk shopping can be very difficult for the single person.

  37. Sam says:

    The fact that someone feels the need to ask this as a question worthy of serious consideration just illustrates how wilfully self-destructive many Americans appear to be to those of us from other countries.

  38. Webmaster X says:

    Only people who don’t value their time make stupid statements like this.

    “3 pounds hamburger @ $1.99 lb. = $5.97
    16 slices cheese, store brand = $1.99
    16 hamburger buns, actually 2 packs of 8 = $3.98
    1 small bottle ketchup = $1.50
    … for a total of $13.44. One doesn’t have to pay sales tax on these products as they’re staple foods. 16 McDonalds double cheeseburgers, on the other hand, cost $17.12.”

    I can think of 1000 activities I could be doing in place of cooking, freezing, and reheating hamburgers to save under $4.00. Recycling aluminum cans pays better than that.

  39. Kate says:

    Not to disrespect the convenience argument, or ignore the reality that many people work full-time and have children to care for on top of that, but the trump card in this debate is learning to cook well – really well. If you can develop this skill, the debate about eating out vs. preparing your own meals at home sort of becomes redundant.

    When you really learn how to cook delicious food at home, you realize very quickly that it would cost you a small fortune to get food of comparable tastiness in a restaurant. Fast food and chain restaurants can’t even come close to a well prepared home-cooked meal in terms of quality and flavor. Let alone issues of sanitation or nutrition.

    Acquiring this skill does take time and practice – no one will tell you otherwise. But if you’re going to cook at home anyway, you might as well be trying to hone your skills at the same time. There’s nothing magical about cooking well. (I trained and worked professionally as a chef, so I know it’s mostly repetitive practice.) Professional chefs are mortals too; they just have lots more practice than most people. You don’t need exotic equipment or an industrial kitchen to prepare good food at home.

    I heartily recommend America’s Test Kitchen, which has a show on PBS, and also publishes the magazines Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country. These people know what they’re about, and they concentrate on kitchen basics and canonical American classic dishes. They perfect their recipes and make sure that they are practical for busy home cooks. As a former professional, I learn things from them. A non-professional couldn’t find a better guide for developing a repertoire of knock-out meals. Get their cookbooks or magazines from the library, or watch their show on PBS.

  40. Daniel says:

    @ Alyssa : I think he meant that you don’t want the leanest meat for grilling.

    And, fast food burgers are gross.

    That is all.

  41. Chui Tey says:

    As politically incorrect it may be to say it, sometimes eating out can be cheaper. In fact, in poorer parts of the world, eating out can be pretty much on par with eating in, once you factor in what your time is worth, and if you can stomach the occasional tummy ache.

    Certainly when you deal with foods that require deep frying (lot’s of oil… economies of scale matters).

  42. Kenny says:

    Oh, my McDonald’s has 99-cent Happy Meals on Tuesdays. Although the Cheeseburger Happy Meals cost I think 25 cents more, making it $1.24 cheeseburger Happy Meal Tuestay, it’s a great time for me and my three daughters!

    We go there, and four of us eat for less than $6.00 (I get the 99-cent double cheeseburger and mooch off their fries and drink a cup of water), they each get a little toy that entertains for several minutes (sometimes more than an hour and sometimes on multiple occasions, too).

    Then they play on the playground for a few minutes, and out McDonald’s gives out helium balloons to the kids and tiny one-bite ice cream cones on our way out!

    We spend an hour there, and for less than $6.00 we eat, drink and be merry.

    It’s a fun time out, and mom gets all that time of peace and quiet at home. It’s a total win-win situation and totally worth the expense.

    The health issues are another story, which is why we don’t go to the other McDonald’s that has 99-cent Happy Meals on Wednesday…

    Everything in moderation!

  43. Amanda B. says:

    You also have to take into confederation that you will most likely buy overpriced fries and a coke that costs you more per ounce than enriched uranium. All in all, you really should stay home unless it is a special event (like the comment above, thank you for giving mom a break!).

  44. Nick says:

    You would need 32 slices of cheese instead of 16 since it’s there’s 2 slices on the McD DCB

    You also left out the mustard, pickles, and onion.

  45. Barry says:

    Regarding bread only lasting a week or 2, even if placed in the fridge… bread can be frozen, allowing it to last longer. You just take out what you need, place it in a ziplock bag, and let it thaw on it’s own (doesn’t take long). I’ve never noticed a taste diffential at all… it tastes as fresh as the day it was put in the freezer.

    When I was first told about freezing bread, I thought “yuk, that won’t work”… but I was wrong…

  46. ruthie says:

    Time is money. I would never do this.

  47. Don says:

    There are also energy costs in cooking. Nobody ever considers the cost of the energy for the cooking process itself nor in the storing of food. Both are significant. Also, if you cook, you heat up the room you are in which in Texas means that the A/C works twice as hard to cool the room.

  48. Barry says:

    Time is indeed money. Given the choices of eating a fast food burger and doing something constructive to make money, vs. cooking at home and NOT having the time to make money, then it probably makes sense to hit the drive through and make the money. However, a lot of times folks opt for the fast food, then go home and watch tv or do something else with their time.

    Time is only money if you use that time to actually make money.

  49. Nick's Brother says:

    Nick is absolutely correct. 2 slices of cheese per burger, 2 pickle slices (on average, I’ve gotten between 0-3) and the mustard and onions were not taken into account. Nor was the cost of the energy it takes to purchase, store and cook those burgers.

    Most heinous of all is the amount of time you will spend doing this. I don’t know about you, but my time is most certainly NOT “free”. Even assuming you could fit all these activities required to purchase the components and prepare said burgers into an hour (ha!), if I were to work that one hour as overtime, I would be much farther ahead than your extremely theoretical $4 savings (about $30 ahead tbh). I would think it’s probably more than one hour though when you take going to the store, making the patties, frying the burgers, etc. 16 times…

    In fact, if you actually think about the process instead of just thinking about dollars, by not working that time, you’re actually COSTING me money, to the tune of $35/hr by having to shop, cook, etc., so your theory is actually making me POORER.

    Not to mention the fact your “cheaper” version of the McD’s double cheesebuger will taste nothing remotely like what the genuine article will taste like, and believe it or not, some of us actually like McD’s food.

    I’d say your exercise was pretty much a failure, IMHO.

  50. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    These comments have been fascinating. I think I may redo this with some more detail.

  51. misty says:

    I purchase my items in bulk, cook and freeze. Once I’m done with that, I’ll sit down with Excel and do a little math.

    I’ll input the price of the item, input how much I put as a serving (for myself, I go with 1/3 cup for things like spaghetti and soups), and then find the price per serving.

    This way, when I really want to go out to eat, I can see what I have, how much of it I have, and the cost. If I can make the same thing at home for less, then I’ll eat at home and think about how much money I’m saving.

  52. zippy says:

    Hmm….make a tasty, (more) healthy burger at home… or eat a disgusting, grease-soaked, heat lamped, not-fresh cheeseburger made by some 16 year old kid who didn’t wash his hands.

    If you can’t make a good choice on that one, then get a better job, watch Supersize Me, and at least find a better convenience food than McDonalds.

  53. frank says:

    I was once like many of you posting here. But now, going on my 3rd year of no fast food, I can say that I have seen the light. You really have no idea how disgusting those burgers are until you go without them for a while. I tried Wendy’s after a couple years of being clean and it was absolutely horrible (used to be my favorite). I highly doubt actual meat is used by any of those places. Tasted more like plastic and dirt to me. Learn to cook, learn to eat food that tastes good, and you will never have to wonder what is more affordable again. Unless you are a starving college student, McDonald’s should never be an option.

  54. Ron Burgandy says:

    This is a theoretical (sp?) excercise, right? I don’t think Trent is implying you go out and make 16 burgers in one sitting for future consumption. It’s funny how litteraly some people take things on this site.

  55. daydreamr says:

    I agree with you Ron. Not only is is being taken way too seriously, people are down right threatened when it comes to being frugal. They take it to heart. As if illustrating the difference between making 16 burgers @ home or going the easy way is a personal attack.

    People have lost sight of the important things in life. They can’t stop what they are doing to make a meal. Come on people, it doesn’t take that long. Oh but you have to wash the dishes too. Time is $$. Too bad you still have to chew it up, just think of all the money that could be made in the 5 min it takes to eat that burger. Why not swallow it whole? These people must work 24/

    If we don’t have time to prepare a meal, what DO we have time for? Are we going to neglect the kids? Our family? Work on holidays because time is money? Might as well not even have a birthday party for the kid because that would mean spending money and spending time with them.

    When you think about it, eating the cheese burger is practically a waste of time anyway. It’s got little nutritional value. Lots of fat, some protein and carbs. Even the few shreds of lettuce/pickle/tomato/onion that might be consumed.

    You might as well be doing drugs. At least drugs don’t clog your arteries. That’s all it really is anyway. They use flavor enhancers to addict people to this crap. People don’t crave the burgers themselves. They crave the chemicals that work on the pleasure centers in the brain.

  56. Xalem says:

    Don’t bother with hamburgers at home, use ground beef more creatively. I cook ground beef, diced veggies (carrots, broccoli, onion,celery, frozen corn, frozen peas,potatoes) and my secret ingredient–Safeway Select Salsa. It is a lot less effort than patties and grilling, and you can scoop this into a tupperware container to schlep to work.

  57. blackliquorish says:

    Drugs are more expensive than burgers.

  58. ridiculous hat says:

    i mean, while it’s pretty obvious that this is merely a thought exercise and nobody is foolish enough to eat mcdonalds every meal of every day, i see a lot of people who just aren’t willing to cook at home.

    if you want to really see how much money you save, well… a pound of pasta at my local store is $0.59. to cook it, you need a pot, water, a stove, and about 12 minutes. sure, you probably want some sauce and cheese as well, but you can buy all of this stuff for the cost of about one value meal– and you’ll feel a whole lot better after you’re done eating.

  59. Melikoth says:

    I for one am a very hungry guy, and the measly little double cheeseburger isn’t ever enough to fill me up anyhow.

    Quite a few people responding are so utterly obsessed with the whole “time is money” deal that they will eat out every time simply because it saves them time that they could be better using for other things. In keeping with that you should remember that replying here is netting you no money as all your doing is wasting time telling people you won’t waste time cooking.

    Aside from health reason to cook your own burgers, you should consider the taste of the burger. If you’ve worked at a McDonald’s you know that “Flame Broiled” means that it comes out of the freezer with grill marks on it, a truly flame broiled burger is infinitely more delicious. Ever have the minimum wage guy put something on your McD’s burger your allergic to? “No onions” takes on a different meaning when it’s really “No onions, I might die.” My roommate has that problem with alarming frequency.

    We could nitpick it all day about how you have take the time to cook, and wash the dishes, and go to the store and pay for the gas and electric required in the process. Think of it like this, your time is only money when it is actively detracting from your work. If you work a 9-5 job and it is 8 in the evening, take the time to grill a tasty burger. Your off work right now, so technically your time is worth $0 per hour, stop using time is money as a defense for being lazy.

  60. Jacob says:

    My former roommate used to buy the dollar menu burger, then go to the 7-11 next door.

    Why? 7-11s have lettuce, onions, pickles, sauerkraut (sometimes?) and jalepeno peppers.

    Just sneak in, load up your dollar hamburger, and yay! A deluxe hamburger for a buck! If you’re so inclined, feel free to grab a bunch of the little half-and-half and irish creme cartons that they have for coffee. Instant milkshake.

  61. Lars says:

    To compare prices, in Norway Miccy’d takes around $3,40 for a simple cheeseburger. (Smallest kind)

    It would cost more to create burgers@home, but it is 100% more healty. Prices for vegz are high, but in a chinese shops we can get goot rates.

    The pricing here is quite twisted, my wife & I use around $450 in food each month. Eating much of our salary.

  62. John says:

    I agree that making you own food at home is much healthier, but the prices that you quote for that are no where around what we pay here in SE Kansas. Ground meat $2.69lb ( the cheep stuff on sale ) Cheese $2.99 16 slices of store brand. We also pay sales tax on these at 7.3%. I still opt for making my food at home. My son worked in a McDonalds in High School and I will never eat there again. YUCK.

  63. wally says:

    love the discussion! and for the most part, appreciate how the author broke down the costs to get this conversation going. but it is a half-truth to analyze costs without, as many have said, taking all costs into consideration. in addition to time and labor, let’s not brush aside the hidden costs of making poor choices. if you had to eat a burger everyday that contained high levels of known carcinogens in order to earn $x, what would be the value of x be? when do we begin to trade health and sanitation for coin?

    for the sake of this theorizing, we must assume a rational agent weighing ALL of the options. we cant do economics in a vacuum.

  64. HostICan says:

    Reading some of these comments really opens my eyes to the problem of US. Where’s the $1 value salads? I honestly think the government shouldn’t allow $1 burgers, period.

    Oh well, to each, their own…. heart attack.

  65. Lynch says:

    Not all states have zero tax on food. I live in TN and the taxes between all gov’t parts on food and everything else is 10%, just FYI

  66. Chris Taylor says:

    Actually I am thinking McDonalds beats homemade for price. Your calculations were way off. Pickels and Onions are not cheap. and NO you can not easily get ground meat for $2/lb its more like $2.99 a pound for the CHEAP stuff on sale. I can buy pork/fish/chicken for less than ground beef.

    Also 70% chuck means you lose 25% of it roughly when you cook it. so to make a 3oz burger you need nearly 4oz of meat at the minimum. And I bet its even higher than 25% because even my 98% lean ground (expensive as hell) shrinks when I cook it. I am going to have to buy some chuck and pull out the triple beam for some fun.

    Ketchup is free you can walk into a mcdics or wawa and take some packs for nothing.

    BUT your right home made tastes SO much better

    there are other costs as well. Electricity is not free. Neither is Propane. Both are quite expensive when used for this purpose (relatively speaking)

    I pay roughly .000136 cents per watt for electricity. So my 1200watt burner will cost me roughly $1.63 per hour to run.

    I can cook 4 patties at a shot so 2 burgers “per shot” each shot will take at least 15 minutes minimum and I like mine well done so closer to 20 minutes. thats means I can make 6 double cheesburgers per hour for $1.63 figure $2 for “warm up” time. So as you see the cost of E is not insignificant here. thats 33 cents per burger added cost. You can get frying pans for $1 at a dollar store so lets not worry about that cost.

    As for propane I do not know. I have never figured out how much lp I need in order to cook a burger and it would be a little faster. I imagine it will be even MORE expensive seeing as how filling a tank is more than $20 and I Have had a tank run out in 1 evening of heavy cooking so I imagine its a bit more than 33cents a burger ALTHOUGH I can cook maybe 10-12 patties at a shot on a grill which will spread the cost maybe making it competitive with E (and taste a lot better too)

    SO in the end I am betting the $1 double cheesburger is a LOT cheaper than I can possibly make at home.

    Then again at home I would not make a dinky double cheesburger :-) I would make a nice thick meaty single cheesburger with all the fixings. It might cost me twice as much of thrice but it would taste so much better and be so much healthier. Whole weat bun lots of veg toppings. etc…

    If you want to eat cheap at home you have to find your local “discount grind shop” we have this place called bensalem meats and so many things are Sooo cheap there (except ground meat for some reason) Pork Loin roasts for $1 a pound. Flounder $1 a pound. I have 4 cases (thats 12 cans 1 pound EACH can) of pure crab meat. $1 a can !!! its $16.99 a can in superfresh :-) I bought a ton of that stuff and hope to get even more!

    They usually (not always) have boneless skinless chicken for $1 a pound in 10 pound bags. (I have a large high efficiency freezer in the basement worth every penny it cost me)

    They have a lot of usually very expensive meats for $1 a pound. you do have to be careful. I stay away from packages with heavy seasoning applied since I have found the meat tends to taste funny (low qual or old) Many times I can get “expired” packages of meat (sausage knockwurt bratwurst etc..) if it seems like its been kept frozen its fine I just over cook it a bit to be safe. Never had a problem.

    They sell slightly out of date BRAND name cereal for $1 a box (getting the theme here :-) these are the $4 a box cereals you find in regular stores.

    The problem is you have to BUY IN BULK and store properly. The cereal must be removed from its normal boxes and putt in plastic sealed containers (4quart container will hold 2-3 boxes of cereal and is $1 at dollar tree. I apply a bead of “hot glue” inside the lid so that when I screw it down (after it dries) I get a pretty hermetic seal and I toss in some silica gel packs. (absorb moisture)

    this is important. When you buy 30 boxes of cereal 20 of them WILL BE BUG RIDDEN if you leave them as they are and try to eat them one by one.

    If you can afford a good freezer and shop right you can eat cheap. the PROBLEM is eating WELL

    No matter what vegatables are just crazy expensive and you can never ever stock up. I found brocolli for 99cents a 2 pound bag !! WOW I only bought 4 bags and 2 STILL went bad before I could eat it all :-( I am going to have to try freezing some fresh veggies and “see what happens”

    Therein lies the problem. its VERY expensive to eat healthy. (the gasoline to go GET fresh food and you have to get it once or twice a week) is NOT insignificant at about 25 cents a mile. 4 miles to the grocery thats 8 miles or $2 in gas minimum. (yeah surprising what you would think is not worth calculating is more expensive than what you might be buying!)

  67. Bob says:

    You can eat healthy easy and save tonnes of money.

    Cheap 0.79C Pasta + Vegetable pausta sauce


    Bread + Peanut butter + jam/jelly (etc)

    Loafs of bread, buy in bulk… FREEZE the other loafs you wont be able to use as soon as you get home (Mom taught me that trick and it friggin works!) bread will stay good as long as it’s frozen.

    Bulk – Bags of mixed frozen vegetables.

    There’s TONNES of ways to eat fucking cheap and healthy, you’d just have to be a wuss or a slave to unhealthy food

  68. Richard Lennox says:

    I’d much rather have a bunch of sassy teens preparing and spitting in my food for me for a few cents more and save my valuable valuable time for arguing about why fast food burgers are better in the comments section of a blogpost on the interent. You damned frugal cheapskates can never take that right away from me.

  69. Dave Winzler says:

    And keep in mind that McDonalds uses “utility grade” beef, and what you buy is a few grades better; homemade burgers always beat McD’s.

  70. PsiliPharm says:

    mmmm… Pleasure Centers… I do agree that cooking your burgers at home may be cheaper in the sense of materials… but not in comparison of Labor & Time plus Energy Costs… some say the gas going to and from McDonalds would also count… but not if you live close enough to walk… oh yeah nobody walks these days… only those without a car…

  71. Rayhood says:

    The price you pay to your health should be added to the price of a mcdonalds burger, although that probably can’t be quantified.

  72. elek says:

    I’ve known this from past experience!
    grilling can be quite possibly one of the cheapest and easiest was to get food
    so long as you have the tools to make food
    charcoal is cheap short term and i assume propane is cheap long term.
    however you can get three pounds of pork loins for like a 1.09
    and like 5 lamb chops for around 2.30
    and hey in april here in utah (and some surrounding states) you can get bufalo in the months of april.

    and hey if you really, really wanna go cheap.
    move into the mountains buy a shitload of bullets.
    and hunt your own food!
    its almost free, and not to mention completely

    and yes drugs totally are more expensive than burgers. well by weight i guess…

  73. Liz1 says:

    For the time is money crew–keep in mind that if you were microwaving the burgers and eating them at home, it is far less time than actually making 16 trips to McDonalds. You just had to shop and cook once.

    Sometimes the drivethru is 2-3 mins., and sometimes there is a line. Sometimes it is convenient and on the way home, and sometimes you have to go out of your way and there is traffic.

    I’m just following the exercise here. I don’t always desire to minimize time spent on preparing and eating food. To me that defeats the point and partially explains why there is an obesity problem.

  74. not an idiot says:

    No wonder everyone in america is fat!

    listen to yourselves, “my time is valuable…”

    Spending time to prepare a meal is not a waste of time it is a daily routine that adds to your quality of life, unlike sitting on your —- watching the TV. if everyone who eats fast food because their time is valuable then this country would be awash in millionaires!!!!

    get real, stop the excuses!

  75. James says:

    Your question is really: Can’t I eat out as much as I want because really, store bought food is just as expensive?

    And the answer, no matter how straight forward, is something everyone learns on their own. As you get older you’ll become more and more aware of what your body can take. Truth is, more than a few cheezeburgers a week will render you useless. You’ll hate your life. You’ll be fat, unproductive, greasy, and missing other vital nutrients that effect how you feel.

    This blog is meaningless. People find these answers on their own. If they didn’t, there’d be no such thing as the home kitchen anymore, and all people would die around the age of 28.

  76. mirko says:

    You added 10% to the cost of the McDo and omitted the cost of water, electricity, etc. involved in yuor hamburger preparation.
    You could also have suggested some equally priced recipes that would have been better than these piece of shit (sorry but this is what hamburgers remind me of).

  77. Jamie says:

    ok. ok. here is the deal. last time i checked. a double cheese burger had 2 peices of meat. 2 slices of cheese. mustard. ketchup. pickles. and minced onion. a hamburger bun. u forgot the extra 16 slices of cheese and burger patty. mustard pickle and onion.

  78. Jake says:

    I don’t know if someone has pointed this out or not yet, but the McDonald’s double cheeseburger comes with onions, pickles and mustard on it, as well as the ketchup you mentioned. Also, you should figure in the cost of preparing the food, electricty/gas/charcoal isn’t free :P

  79. Unregistered says:

    You left out energy cost. Cost of cleaning up. Cost of convenience. And the cost of the toy that you get in the Happy Meal.

  80. Zach says:

    You’ve left out pickles, mustard, and onions

  81. Justin says:

    What a bunch of cranky people you all are. “trent you forgot the onion bits”, “trent you forgot the 2 pennies here”, “trent call the wahmbulance for me”.

    Seriously, an excellent little article and you all have to nitpick it to death and argue semantics. I hope you all go eat those mcdonalds burgers and die of heart attacks while trent lives to be 120 on healthy burgers that taste better and don’t drip a shot glass full of grease when you take the first bite.

  82. arthur says:

    Actually, you want a healthier burger, don’t use beef. Get ground turkey. It comes frozen in a tube, and costs between 99c and $1.50 USD. Not only that, but its very lean. I make patties out of them all the time, however I use egg and stove top stuffing to add flavor.

    The other option is to get a box of pre-made burgers at wal-mart. A box of 24 burgers is around 20 bucks, and they are 1/4 lb patties.

  83. harry potter says:

    but then you have to buy wax paper (probably $3+).

  84. Madelyne says:

    Seriously. Are you all arguing for McDonald?? Make me SICK. If youre arguing for it. go ahead. eat away. I dont care if it cost me six dollars more I can always decide if I want one two or nine pieces of cheese because I’m making it by myself.. Id rather know whose REALLY touching my food.. Stop nitpicking and start WALKING!! :X

  85. Madelyne says:

    p.s. GO JAMES!!!

  86. Tim Fuller says:

    It’s obvious this is a good housekeeping site and not an economics blog. There is no way you can compete with Mcdonalds on hamburger prices. You can make a different, perhaps healthier or tastier burger, but not cheaper.

    Taken to a logical extreme, again removing all the ‘opportunity costs’ associated with procurring and preparing the burgers, I could come up with a cost approaching zero for the product. Granted, it’s propably not easy growing your own wheat and making your own buns, nor is the thought of homemade cheese particularly appealing, but I’ve got a green thumb for pickes and tomatoes!

    Raising that cow in the guest bedroom is gonna require some SERIOUS forethought however.


  87. Bruce says:

    “When you factor in these two things, McDonalds has got you beat each and every time. There is a reason why over 10 billion have been sold: convenience.”

    “I can think of 1000 activities I could be doing in place of cooking, freezing, and reheating hamburgers to save under $4.00.”

    So it’s convenient for you to get in your car, drive several blocks in traffic, to stand on line for at least ten or fifteen minutes while some minimum-wage lacky chats with his co-workers as your burger gets cold?

    That’s your idea of efficient use of your time? Cooking a burger at home takes me all of ten minutes (if that!), start to finish. I know, because I’ve been cooking them a lot lately since ground beef has been cheap at my local Kroger assimilatee. The burger will be fresh, hot, juicy and best of all I didn’t have to waste and $3/gallon gasoline just to get it.

  88. deepsea33 says:

    Forgot the mustard, onions and pickles on a double cheeseburger, include those items you might be closer to the cost of the double cheeseburgers.

    plus you can get one hot & fresh almost anytime, so the convenience cost is relatively low to buy Double Cheeseburgers!

  89. Most people going to fast food (esp. for lunch) are not making some special long, epic trip there). It’s probably on the way or closeby. So the gas argument is not going to cut it.

    Also, if you value your time (which you should), you should figure out how much you are worth per hour after taxes, then figure out how much time it takes to make your own burgers (or whatever), THEN decide if it’s still really a better deal.

    I am worth $16.34/hour after taxes, so unless I can make all those burgers and wrap them up in less the 15 MINUTES, I actually lose money by not going to McDonalds.

  90. chris says:

    As has been stated, theres a lot of problems with this:
    * forgot to factor cost of onions, pickles, mustard, etc.
    * who wants to eat 16 burgers in the time it takes before many of the ingredients go bad?
    * time spent in preparation and on materials to store and transport raw/cooked materials (ziplock bags, plastic wrap whatever)

    Yes, mcdonalds is gross, and it’s certainly not a good option for your health, but there’s no way you can say it is by any means cheaper to make your own. Unless you really like eating the same thing every single day. This is especially true if you are trying to cook for one.

    To the toolbox above who says that we are just whining, when the price difference is *so* small, and then the author says ‘oh well, its a lot more economical, and this means that all fast food is cheaper to make yourself’ you obviously have to point out that even at this ‘lowest denominator’ the math doesn’t add up and the argument is flawed.

  91. leslie says:

    ” For those of us who work outside of our homes, it’s probably not too convenient to bring in pre-cooked meat patties, heat them up in the office micro, and enjoy a cheeseburger at the office.”

    I don’t understand. I bring in leftovers to heat up in the microwave at work all the time. Much more convenient for me to take 15 steps into the kitchen and spend 5 mins. to make my lunch than to walk to my car, drive 15mins (traffic) to mcdonalds, place order, wait, and then drive back.

    I consider making my own food as being lazy. It takes just as much, if not less, energy as ordering out. (okay excluding delivery!)

  92. Limewater says:

    This has been previously stated at least once in the comments, but it is worth repeating.

    Your time is only worth you hourly wage if you would be engaging in moneymaking activities instead of cooking burgers.

    Unless you work almost every waking hour of every day then you cannot just value your time at your hourly wage.

    For almost everyone who has posted, your opportunity cost for making burgers is not time you could be generating $X per hour in income. Your opportunity cost is an hour of watching reruns of “Friends” or posting comments on blogs.

  93. Barry says:

    WOW… all of this from a cheeseburger. Oops… sorry… DOUBLE cheeseburger.

  94. Ben says:

    Spending the amount of time this takes working instead of preparing food more than makes up the price difference.
    Plus you’re not stuck eating burgers for two weeks.

  95. workflow says:

    I have a craving for McDonalds frenchfries now.

  96. Limewater says:

    Ben, that only works if you are choosing to make burgers INSTEAD of working.
    Most people are capped at some point on the number of hours they can be on the job in a given week, either by their boss, by their family, or by their desire to not go insane.

  97. darknyht says:

    Everyone complaining about onions and pickles needs remember the onions on the Double-Cheeseburger are diced and probably come from a single onion ring. A single yellow onion (because it sure isn’t red onions) probably would cover all 16 burgers and then some. As for pickles, buy an economy jar of them and you can put 2 pickles on your burgers for probably the next 100 or more burgers.

  98. tony margiotta says:

    In examining your budgeting argument in favor of home made burgers, I have only one question:
    I am the shopper in the family and I just bought 3 pounds of chopped meat (jumbo packaging is always less expensive) and paid $3.49 per pound.
    Please tell me where on earth anyone can purchase chopped meat for $1.99 per pound!!!!
    I cannot remember the last time I saw edible chopped beef on sale for $1.99 per pound!
    If one faces reality, you have to accept that your equation is incorrect and eating hamburgers at MacDonalds is much more affordable option.

  99. honky says:

    i love this thread…only now at this time in space could we ever have this discussion.

  100. lorax says:

    I too figured that it cost more to make it at home. Wait for a sale, buy dozens, then freeze them. Take them out, zap-em in the microwave, and add lettuce and tomato.

    The fries and especially the drinks are NOT FRUGAL. The soda is sold for a huge markup. They’ll also try to upsell you to a bigger burger with more markup.

    So, buy the single or double burger. But resist the urge to buy the soda and the fries. Keep a healthy diet in mind.

  101. steve says:

    freaking single layer cheeseburger in Australia is $1.95(mcdonalds), $1.6 USD, you guys getting a damn good deal lol.

  102. Leo says:

    First off, it’s really hard to beat McDonalds in most parts of the world. It is impossible here in San Francisco where the cost of groceries is significantly higher. If you factor in grocery shopping, prep time, and food freshness, you will never beat McDonald’s up-front cost. So I contest that you’ve really beaten them, since a $.07 margin is meaningless if it means having to make 16 at a time, and if it takes you two hours plus driving to source ingredients and assemble them. You can compare well, but you can’t win.

    But, the more important point is that you should never endeavor to be beating McDonald’s at their own game. For the better part of a century, they’ve constructed a multinational corporation who’s primary focus is getting that double cheeseburger in your hands faster and cheaper than anyone else can.

    Eric Schlosser made an excellent point in his interviews and writings that food from McDonalds (and by extension, food like it), is only cheap initially, but becomes rather expensive over time in its cost to your health, as “The cost of a 99-cent hamburger doesn’t include the dialysis you may need years later.”

    McDonalds’ food, and other foods like it are also too cheap, as they take a dramatic toll on the communities in which industrial agriculture takes place, by poisoning the water supplies and spreading foodborne illness, etc, etc. People die to make meat that cheap.

    But this is getting overly political, and the message is about preparing your own food and saving money.

    We shouldn’t be teaching people the value of preparing food by trying to compare it to McDonalds, because their food is *too cheap* in many senses. You’re playing the wrong game.

    A much more dramatic point could be made by demonstrating how a meal at a sit-down family restaurant that costs maybe $12-15 can be replicated for about $20, but feed 4 people instead of 1. Or that the fat and calorie content of self prepared food is more in-line with a healthy diet, and that you are less likely to over-eat or waste food if its prepared at home. Cost savings is just one of many benefits to eating at home vs. restaurant food.

  103. flurbex says:

    what about the mustard, onions and pickles?

    there goes your prices theory

    not to mention the cost of the resources to cook it

  104. Barry says:

    Trent’s equation is not incorrect… he was just quoting prices that are available in his area. Like Trent, ground beef can be found at a variety of stores for $1.99/lb. I actually found a couple of his prices to be a tad high, compared to the prices in my area (such as on the buns and the ketchup).

    Bottom line… if you like the idea, try it. If you can work and earn extra money instead of staying home and making burgers, do it. If you prefer the taste of McDonald’s burgers, buy them. If prices are too high in your area to make it practical, don’t do it.

    Not everything works for all people. This works for Trent. As it happens, my family cooks a lot at home too. It works for us. Do what works for you. If financial success came in a “one size fits all” package, there wouldn’t be a library full of books on the subject!

  105. Limewater says:


    This morning I bought a 1.21lb pack of 93% lean ground beef on sale for $1.99/lb at the local Kroger in Atlanta.

    You just have to choose where to shop and watch for sales. And when keep an eye on the sales the bulk package isn’t always the cheapest option.

    Good luck!

  106. Lib says:

    In the long run it is cheaper to eat in. Yeah, you don’t eat the same thing all the time, and most stuff can be kept in the freezer. Mayo lasts a freakishly long time. For the lettuce and tomato most people eat salads or put those on other sandwiches. Also eating in allows you to be creative and not being stuck with the same choices.

    You don’t have time or too busy?? Most things can be made ahead of time and put in the freezer in those glad containers, then the morning of take it out and put in the refrigerator to thaw or night of take from freezer and put in microwave/oven. Or make a sandwich or salad.

    Also eating fast food all the time makes feel ill, I spent a weekend in Nashville and we ate out every meal and by the time I got home I wanted anything that wasn’t greasy.

    I don’t know why I’m saying this, not like people are going to change, besides it’s their money and their life.

  107. Johanna says:

    “Like Trent, ground beef can be found at a variety of stores for $1.99/lb.”

    At what store can I buy Trent for $1.99/lb? That sounds like good value.

  108. Barry says:

    Everybody’s a comedian… ;)

    I meant to say “Like Trent, I have found ground beef at a variety of stores for $1.99/lb”… but my fingers got ahead of my brain…

  109. Dave Thomas says:

    I don’t think McDonalds double cheeseburger has 3 ounces of meat. From the McDonalds nutrition chart the weight difference between the cheeseburger and hamburger is 0.5 ounces, which is the weight of the cheese. The difference between a cheeseburger and a double cheeseburger is 1.8 ounces. Since the 1.8 ounce difference is cheese and hamburger, the “beef patty” is 1.3 ounces, precooked. For fun, remove one of the patties, scrape off the cheese and condiments and then weight it. Tip: The post office has accurate scales.

  110. Rob says:

    Thank you for pointing out to these people that it is not cheaper! The problem is that people just don’t care anymore.

    Most parents don’t even care about their own kid’s health.

    Anyone who feeds their kids McDonald’s instead of cooking a nice homemade meal for diner should be thrown in jail for neglect. You are poisoning your kids with this junk. Do you even know what they put in those burgers? If you did you would get sick!

  111. Kenny says:

    hey, I like watching “Friends” reruns.

    I have about 150 episodes on my little DVR.

    That’s like three solid days of Friends pleasure.

    If only I could put them in sequential order and watch them all in a row…

  112. kat says:

    I can has cheezburger?

  113. chris says:

    its not fair comparing actual *food* to mcdonald’s hamburgers.

    roadkill left on the hood of a dark-colored car during august is the fair equivalent. find a big specimen (deer, for instance), keep it in the freezer, and the major item of effort can be amortized over dozens of servings.

    just dont forget to wipe your butt with your hand before making the patties, for the full fast-food experience1

  114. brad says:

    so feces on my burger is a bonus, right?

  115. Robert says:

    All this talk about hamburgers is making me hungry. Nobody seems to realize that McDonalds is also an American tradition(albeit marginalized by profit these days). Who cares what you pay for food if you don’t eat you die! Go with a $1 menu burger or a 5lb deal on ground round it doesn’t matter – you’re stuck with what you get. If you can’t afford one or the other you’re probably eating spam anyways.

  116. Greg says:

    Not that it costs a lot, but the burgers also have onions, pickles, and mustard.

    I believe a large % of the taste ( at least the good part) is from the ketchup/mustard/onion/pickle combination. using just ketchup has a much blander taste.

    I have had “McDonald’s night at Home” before and the overall cost and taste/quality was better. For myself, wife, and 6 year old- I basically make a double quarter pounder, 2 hamburgers, and homemade fries ( we prefer onion rings though, so it’s not all a mcDonalds copy). The cost is a pound of beef, a few rolls, a couple potatoes. Cost of condiments a few cents. Plus the quality control and freshness are superior.

  117. Stacy says:

    I try to eat sensibly, I exercise every day and in general try to do as much as I can to keep myself healthy. That said, I do like fast food once in a while, and the $1 cheeseburger is a bargain. I know homemade is better for you and may be cheaper. But honestly…I want a sandwich for a quick meal. I can drive to the supermarket, buy all these ingredients, lug them home, make the patties, cook them up in a pan, assemble the sandwiches, etc., etc. Then I have to clean up the utensils and pots I have used. But who wants to do all that? I can go to McD’s, plunk down the $1.07 (in PA) eat my double cheeseburger, leave and come home. I don’t have to shop for the food, take it home, prepare it, then clean up afterwards.
    You’re kidding, right?!
    Also, I think you mean you want the cheapest meat for hamburgers. Every try making a burger with 93% lean ground beef. It doesn’t work.

  118. Carly says:

    … while I understand the whole “time is money” concept, I’d like to see what kind of money these people make that prohibit them from spending 10 minutes standing in the kitchen to driving to, waiting in, and returning from a fast food restaurant. Much easier to sit on your bottom, though.

    After a long day at work, I’d rather take a few extra minutes and eat a good, homemade meal than sitting around in a drive-thru.

    So I’m going to enjoy my $2.59 per meal homemade chicken tortilla soup tonight. Have fun eating your tasteless $1 McD’s burger (plus drink and fries, I’m sure)! :-)

  119. Sahil says:

    I’m a vegetarian so can’t give much advice here on burger calculations. But, if being budgety is what you’re aiming for, try my veggie combinations at home. Try consuming salads and sandwiches. All you need is a jar of mayonnaise, some soya sauce and a jar of mixed-jam. Of course, 3-4 lb of cabbage/broccoli would be needed. You can have (3X3) matrix combinations of your favorite salads/sandwiches (soy has proteins too). Russian salads, Coleslaw sandwich and I’m able to stretch a whole week for around $17-18/week. I’m a student and this meal plan really keeps me alive.

  120. Eric Cooley says:

    So a $1 burger at Mcdonald’s is a few cents cheaper, BIG DEAL! What about real food? Trying fiding a burger with the same quality of one that can be made at home cheaper at a restuarant. It can’t be done! Try finding a steak at a restuarant cheaper than you can make it at home. It can’t be done! Try finding anything that matches the quality of homemade food cheaper at a restuarant, IT CAN’T BE DONE! This whole argument is so stupid! If you really want to eat double cheesburgers from McDonald’s everyday then go ahead. Just don’t expect to live past thirty. Even Mcdonalds says a diet based solely on their food would be dangerous to a person’s health. Watch SUPERSIZE ME and then decide if you want to spare the few extra cents to eat at home.

  121. jb says:

    this article is a failure because it does not account for the opportunity cost of time lost. really, all there is to say about that.

  122. Michael says:

    I’d rather eat anything home-made vs eating out. However I didn’t see anything about cooking and cleaning by making burgers at home. Cooking uses electricity or gas. Then afterwards you have to clean. If you use a dishwasher then theres is some more electricity to pay for plus the soap. By hand then the gas/electricity to wash in hot water, plus soap. If we are to bag and freeze then how about the cost of wax paper and bags? What about the cost to run your freezer to keep your burgers frozen?

    Now getting my lazy butt up and driving to McD’s, I buy, eat and then throw away.
    Vegetarian – Indian word for “poor hunter”

  123. nb says:

    to the above post, did you ever take in consideration of the wait AT restaurants? On average a meal out in ANY restaurant will be between 1- 1/2 hours if you want to have a full course meal. The line up at McDonald’s sometimes can take up to 15 minutes depending on when you go, then take in account of some dumb cashier that can’t get your order right so you wait another 5-10 minutes for your mistake to be corrected, that’s a minimum of 25 minutes JUST to WAIT in line.

    There are tons of cook books out there now that compensate for time, I can make a delicious full three course meal(and not just pasta and ice-cream, I’m talking steak, burgers, fish, tiramisu, you name it) in under 30 minutes, in between my food cooking I have time to talk to people if I’m cooking for more than myself, or I can get a lot of chores done like vacuuming and cleaning the kitchen. I think that’s a much better use of my 30 minutes than waiting for my food to arrive or waiting in line.

  124. Sceptical says:

    From a purely cost point of view, fast food IS cheap. It is also cheap in terms of time and (debatable) better taste. There is no point trying to beat them at this – the above home made burger would taste horrible.
    Home made IS better in terms of nutrition. Most people don’t care about nutrition though.

  125. Michael says:

    I believe the article was directed at fast-food not a full course meal restraunt and about saving money and not time; even though saving time isn’t all that bad in itself. In any case I’ve never had to wait no more than 10min to get my Mc Cholesterol and extra large size of Dr Diabetes. If I see one place is has too many customers I’ll go elsewhere. Also note the time it took to go to the store, all that food had to get into your fridge somehow unless you got you one of those magic fridges. How long did you spend at the store? What about the time to wash dishes and put them away?

    Don’t get me wrong however, I’d rather cook at home regardless of how long or how much it took to cook my food.

    Aside from price, time, taste and nutrition what about health. I trust myself or my wife more to handle my food than the kids behind the register to prepare and handle my food.

  126. @15 Emily says:

    Tuna fish and Mayonaise is the opposite of a healthy sandwich. Between the Mercury and the cholesterol, I am surprised you are still alive to type that. Oops that was 2007, maybe you’re not!

  127. Brian says:

    Well don’t forget about the small stuff. McDonald’s has free napkins and other goodies. You can take packets of ketchup and mustard home with you. They give you trays to eat on. So you don’t have to wash dishes (dish detergent, electricty, gas for hot water).

    Regarding the driving… if you are on your way home from work and you hit the drive-thru during that time, there isn’t much time lost. If you leave your house to go get food instead of cooking, there is some time lost.

    Regarding time lost = money. Some argued that it doesn’t equal money unless you’d be working during that time. But don’t forget one thing – most people would pay for extra free time. For instance, would you pay $20 to have Friday off from work? Of course. Would you pay $2 if I could give you 3 free hours during the evening? Yes! So time has a value even if you aren’t going to use it to earn money…

  128. Will says:

    I may have missed this, but mustard and pickles are missing…which would bring the cost up to the same I’d expect. But still an excellent article!

  129. TheEpicure says:

    Someone doesn’t know how to do math.

    The post talks about 16 DOUBLE cheeseburgers. For DOUBLE, you have to DOUBLE the amount of cheese (TWO slices) and DOUBLE the number of hamburgers. It seems more appropriate for SINGLE hamburgers.

    It is also a bit off in terms of costs. Except for sale items, I have never seen $1.99 a pound burger meat. $2.99 is much more typical for 83% lean meat (which is what McDonald’s uses for the hamburger; they use 87% lean beef for the Quarter Pounder)

    On the other hand, 3 ounces is too high an estimate (weight before cooking) for a hamburger. The reality is that 2 patties weigh 3.5 ounces, meaning 32 patties (16 double cheeseburgers) require 3.5 pounds.

    And we’re forgetting the mustard, the pickles and the onions.

    Let’s recalculate, this time without the errors of ommision and commision:

    1.75 ounces per patty x 32 patties = 56 ounces at $2.99 a pound = $10.47

    2 slices of cheese x 16 burgers= 32 slices at $1.99 per 16 = $3.98

    16 buns at $1.99 per 8 = $3.98
    1 small ketchup $1.50
    1 large onion $1.29
    1 small mustard $0.99
    1 small jar pickles $1.50
    (I’ll ignore the cost of the salt and pepper)
    TOTAL $23.71

    Not counting your cost of grilling/frying the burgers, washing utensils and plates, and the time and energy consumed in buying. Plus you place zero value on your own time, and you come to the realization that these double cheeseburgers are incredible value.

    Now, more expensive sandwiches and higher-end restaurant food can clearly be made more cheaply at home, but this particular comparison is rather inane, inappropriate and incorrect.

  130. Quinn says:

    You know, as a single person living paycheck to paycheck at the moment, I think some of you miss the point here.

    Not being able to buy in bulk adds a pretty substantial cost to cooking.

    In addition to that, spoilage becomes a huge concern. For instance, I can’t finish a loaf of fresh bread by myself before it spoils. True I could freeze it, but then of course it tastes like ass which kind of defeats the whole purpose.

    If I buy groceries for an entire 7 day period, I’m very hard pressed to come in under $100, and the truth is that a single person can eat somewhat decently on $15 dollars a day (however, healthy is right out).

    Here’s an example of the kind of thing you run into: somebody above said just make pasta. All right, well if I’m eating spaghetti, a fairly basic pasta I’m going to spend the following

    $1 on noodles
    $3 on sauce
    $2 on mushrooms
    $1.50 on onion
    $1.50 on peppers (pepper prices suck right now)
    $3.00 on cheese (I won’t use anything approaching all of this but I will want it, and it will likely go bad, but I can’t buy less so I’ll buy it anyway)
    $.50 on fat

    So, I could have just had the noodles and sauce, however if I’m going to the trouble of cooking, I don’t want it to taste like crap, so I’m going to shell out for what amount to necessities. That’s 2 meals for me, and we’re looking at roughly the price of any kind of quick meal at a lower end restaurant (not necessarily fast food mind you). It’s also got no meat in it, which as a non-veggie is gonna be a rarity in my meals.

    Could I cook at home for less than the price of eating out and make tasty healthy meals? I don’t doubt that I could. However, if you don’t allow that A. The cost is going to be pretty darn close to eating out, and B. it takes a tremendous amount of planning and skill to do this, I don’t think you’re realistically assessing what grocery store prices are like these days.

    If I just said tomorrow, “I’m going to eat good quality meals that I cook myself” I would spend substantially more at the grocery store than I do now. It would take an awful lot of research, price comparison, and creativity to accomplish this goal.

    If I haven’t made this clear yet, I like to cook, and I’m pretty good at it. I’d prefer to eat all of my meals at home. However, at the moment I lack the discipline and planning to pull this off. To dismiss both of these as trivial or easy is, I think a disservice.

    It’s a disservice because economic reality pushes a whole lot of people into eating a whole lot of shitty food, and that’s a result of the way agro-business works.

    I just don’t think it’s fair to act like a bunch of the single people who end up eating a fair amount of fast food do so because they’re crazy or dumb.

  131. john says:

    Why do people think grocery store meat is so much healthier than McDonalds meat? Lean and extra lean beef might be healthier but not ground chuck and the other cheap stuff. If you factored in the high costs of lean and extra lean then it would be more expensive than the $1 double cheeseburger (its something a little less than like $5 a lb at Walmart, probably more like $6 at Safeway/Kingsoopers since they are usually much more expensive). Extra Lean costs the same as Buffalo (which is also extra lean but much tastier).

    Also since Mcdonalds imports a lot of beef from Australia and New Zealand it is potentially safer than the factory farm american stuff at the grocery stores since those countries have high standards for their cattle raising compared to America (I say potentially because McDonalds is not 100% foreign beef). A lot of countries have switched from american beef imports to Australian and Argentina beef not only because of mad cow fears but because of the ridiculous amount of hormones used in american beef.

    If you want a healthy and safer burger compared to McDonalds then you better buy the expensive restaurant quality stuff that comes in boxes in the freezer aisle. Otherwise you definitely arent eating any healthier by buying store brand ground chuck.

  132. Jonathan says:

    This is what I got:

    $1.05 Ketchup
    $1.05 Mustard
    $2.05 Pickles
    $4.78 Buns (2 Pkg at 2.39 each)
    $18.27 Meat (3 Pkg at 6.09 each [lb])
    $3.19 Dehydrated Onions
    $9.50 Cheese (2 pkg at 4.75 each)
    $39.89 TOTAL

  133. jade says:

    Your kidding me right?
    This is crazy.
    You can easily buy the cheeseburgers, its your dinner and its up to you.
    But medically you know its not the best option for you.
    Not to mention who wants to eat a cheeseburger everyday and for every meal?

    Like you guys are getting way too excited. Who cares what the price of the meat is and how much per pound it is.
    Its cheaper to buy any food in bulk and make it yourself then to buy a $1.07 double cheese burger 3 times a day.

    Settle children, settle…

  134. dani says:

    when this article was written the double cheeseburger was only $1, but now it has gone up. So with the price having gone up, it’s even a better idea to eat at home. Besides, the meat at McDonald’s comes frozen, and then they fry it in such a way that is fast, but does not allow the exess fat to drain off that we normally get when we fry them at home.
    When you buy in bulk the meat, it tastes way better to divide the meat up BEFORE cooking, placing them in individual ziplock baggies, and than in a bigger baggie, and then into the freezer. Doing it that way actually preserves them meat longer (they can hang out in the freezer without it being a big deal) and they will actually taste better. You just defrost in the microwave however many you want and then you can fry them in the frying pan, adding whatever seasonings that you like.

  135. mrshamel3808 says:

    I work at a church and run a snack shack for our youth group every Wednesday night. I have everything priced out from Sam’s Club and buying pre-made burger patties, hamburger buns, sliced cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, 1 each of the mayo, mustard & ketchup packets, a bag of chips/or apple, a soda/water/or juice, an ice cream/or candy (we have a large selection) PLUS the napkin & paper plate I only have to charge $2.25 to make a profit. And that’s basing the price off of the most expensive choices they can make, which would be a gatorade to drink and a Snicker’s bar for their candy. If they choose a water and 3 Airhead candies it lowers the actual cost by about $0.30. And people say my burgers are way better than fast food, and all I do is throw them on the George Forman grill (I had one donated first which broke, but still a new one cost me only $40) for 4 minutes and slap it all together (seriously, it takes me max 10 min. to fill an order, what’s the average drive thru wait during meal times?). Most kids don’t order them with everything but even if they do I make a profit (all proceeds are donations to our youth group). You can’t get that much food at any fast food restaurant for that price! And if I bought ground beef in bulk and made my own patties it’d be even cheaper! Also, I can’t buy the lettuce or tomato in bulk because we only use it once/week and it will go bad. So this cost is with alot of the ingredients NOT being bought at the cheapest they come.

  136. McDonalds says:

    Double cheeseburgers have two slices of cheese each whereas you only counted one. They also have pickles and onions. That definitely ups the cost.

  137. Tessa says:

    I season my meat,form the patties and then place them in between little sheets of wax paper and then in a freezer bag. I can throw them in the pan or on the grill frozen, and use as little or as many as I need. I buy buns when they are on sale (50 cents), and put them in freezer bags to prevent them from becoming stale. I also stock up on my condiments when they are on sale (75 cents or so) and always have extras. All summer holidays – Fourth of July, Labor Day, Memorial Day, etc. these item are always drastically reduced.

  138. Why would anyway try and compare eating from McDonalds to eating your own food prepared at home from ingredients you know?

    It doesn’t matter about the price, what matters is the health aspect and eating at home will always be preferable to any fast food joint.

  139. Matt says:

    For all you people talking about the cost of electricity and other hidden cost involved in the home cooking process make sure you also take into consideration all the factors involved in driving your vehicle to the restaurant such as:
    1. possibility of increased vehicle insurance premiums due to accident; 2. maintenance cost for wear/tear on vehicle (breaks, oil, tires, etc);
    3. the environmental impact.

    One final thought inspired by this article and all the comments is that I would enjoy seeing a future article giving a Risk Analysis Assesment comparing the risk of cooking at home versus the risk of eating out when taking such factors as homicide rates, fires, injuries etc into consideration. Maybe I can get some of that Government Cheese to fund a research grant to look into this matter.

  140. Vanessa says:

    Why does everyone obsess so much over the ‘lost’ value of time? If you are the kind of person who things experiments like this are fun, or if you can happily do it during a time when you would otherwise be completely unproductive (like watching TV, then your time is not lost – in fact, it will be gained in future convenience. While a lot of us think we don’t have the time to spend several hours on a project to save just a few dollars, we all manage to find the time to watch TV or be similarly lazy – why not make it relaxing and productive??

  141. kirstie says:

    There is a very real financial cost to poor health caused by poor nutrition. Children who have poor diets don’t do so well at school which effects their future earnings, adults who have poor diets are more susceptible to illness and are more likely to miss work.

    Its just about possible that going to McDonald’s saves time. However, given that it is possible to prepare a healthy meal at home in 10-15 minutes, you would have to live/work pretty close to a Mcdonald’s for this to be really true.

    However, eating at McDonald’s certainly won’t increase productivity.

  142. steve says:

    @ Quinn,

    I agree that it takes some skill (but no planning), but as an example my grocery bill is under $50 a week, actually sfrequently sometimes under $40.

    However I am a vegan. But even when I was eating meat, it wasn’t much more than that, maybe $60 a week.

    If you want to and you stick to cooking from scratch, you can get down to the $50 and under range while eating well, even while eating meat and dairy. but not a lot of meat and dairy of course. I tended to stick to .99 cent a # roasters, and use all of them and make stock with the bones, and store brand cheese, and always buy my butter on sale, when I was eating those things.

  143. steve says:

    BTW, that grocery bill (just above) is usually actually my entire food budget as I don’t eat out at all these days except maybe once a month and I pack all my lunches and don’t go to cafes for coffee but pack my own. So the $50 or $40 a month is probably pretty rock bottom for food costs and if you eat out at all the cost will go up.

  144. steve says:

    I mean, $50 or $40 a week, not a month.

  145. Ryan says:

    Excellent points there Steve! Very enjoyable article this btw, I will be certainly popping back in the very near future. Have a great week.

  146. tony gott says:

    Absolutely it does. My wife fills a bagel everyday for my lunch and yet if I went o McDonalds or any other fast food place it would cost me at least twice what it cost to fill that bagel with ham and cheese or whatever. No comparison at all, home is best by far.

  147. Lisa says:

    Is the cost based on 16 ‘cheeseburgers’ or 16 ‘double cheeseburgers’? There are references to them both, and the cost would be significantly different. That being said, when you look at the cost of production at McDonald’s vs. the cost of production at home, you can find exactly what you are looking for. For instance, if you really do not want to cook at home, you can find all the reasons you want to explain why McDonald’s is cheaper in the long run. If you are truly looking to save money, you will inevitably gravitate toward justifying the cost of ‘homemade’ meals. The key to reducing costs for homemade meals is compounding your tasks, or making your meals work for you.

    If you are making double cheeseburgers, form all 16 patties. Cooking them all at once is a matter of preference. If you don’t want precooked meat, fine. Freeze the formed patties, and store between wax paper sheets for later- saving a step.
    If you have extra beef, brown if up for tomorrow’s chili or spaghetti. If you are slicing tomatoes, slice or dice some up for tomorrow’s omelet or chef salad lunch. Step savers such as these are what you can use to cost justify what your time is worth. $4 doesn’t seem like alot, but let’s say that you save an average of $4 per meal for the month. $4 times 3 meals per day, times 30 days in the month= $360. That is an annual savings of $4320. Is your time worth it now?

  148. Priswell says:

    In the long run, it’s cheaper, healthier and generally “better” to cook and eat at home. In my experience, though, there are a lot of people out there that really don’t know how to cook. Once, at a potluck, the ladies in the kitchen didn’t know how to make gravy without a packet. Last night, we had friends over for dinner, and at least one person in the group didn’t know how to cook a pot of beans. I also have friends that are amazed that I make home-made spaghetti sauce.

    So, I think that part of the “eating out is better” crowd are at least somewhat influenced by the lack of kitchen skills. If you don’t know how, driving through to pick something up is way easier than experimenting in the kitchen after a long day’s work.

  149. Clifton says:

    C’est un véritable bonheur de visiter votre site web

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