Updated on 09.24.07

Is The Value Menu Really A Value? Comparing The Homemade Double Cheeseburger To The McDonald’s $1 Version

Trent Hamm

About two weeks ago, I made a brief comparison between a McDonald’s Value Menu double cheeseburger and a homemade cheeseburger, concluding that the homemade one was price competitive. This brought out a ton of commentary from people standing up for the double cheeseburger (as well as fast food critics) questioning the conclusion.

After reading through all these comments, I decided there was only one thing to do: do the thing right.

So I headed to McDonalds.


While there, I bought a single double cheeseburger for $1.06 after tax. I had to wait for a bit to get the double cheeseburger, as there were three people in line in front of me. From the time I stepped out of my vehicle and I got back into my vehicle, I spent eleven minutes at McDonald’s.

I got home, opened up my bag, and here’s what I found:


I will confess that this doesn’t appeal to me at all, although I know that these double cheeseburgers have a lot of fans. I smelled it, shrugged my shoulders, and looked up the nutrition facts (found here at McDonalds.com):

Serving Size: 5.8 oz
Calories: 440
Calories From Fat: 210
Total Fat: 23 grams
% Daily Value: 35%
Saturated Fat: 11 grams
% Daily Value: 54%
Trans Fat: 1.5 grams
% Daily Value: 80%
Cholesterol: 80 grams
% Daily Value: 26%

I don’t really need to go on from there – from a health perspective, it’s definitely worth being concerned about. I did note the serving size – the single cheeseburger is 4 ounces, while the double cheeseburger is 5.8 ounces. That means a beef patty at McDonald’s has a weight of 1.8 ounces and a double cheeseburger has 3.6 ounces of meat. In other words, you can make just about five patties at home out of one pound of beef – each of these patties would have the same amount of beef as a McDonalds’ double cheeseburger.

I opened up the double cheeseburger to see what ingredients were on it:


I spy two slices of cheese, ketchup, diced onions, and some slices of pickles. So, in order to construct a similar burger at home, I need hamburger meat, buns, cheese, ketchup, onions, and pickles.

A confession: I can’t stand ketchup. I like homemade ketchup alright (basically tomatoes boiled down into a thick paste with some vinegar and a bit of spicing), but the store stuff, with high fructose corn syrup as the third ingredient, makes my stomach turn. So, even though it will increase the cost for my own burgers in this price comparison, I’m going to substitute a slice of fresh tomato for that ketchup.

Off to the store. I bought these items as part of a regular shopping excursion, so the time for buying these items was maybe two minutes. I went shopping at a Dahl’s grocery store.

First, I shopped for hamburger meat, and there were several options:



The cheapest option was 80/20 meat at $1.99 a pound. 80/20 means that the meat consists of 20% fat. Since that was the cheapest option, I went for that one, though I would normally tend to spend more and get a pound of the 97/3 meat, which is far healthier.

Here’s the nutrition facts on the 80/20 meat I bought, per one fifth of a pound (I did the conversion from the one ounce numbers), if I were to broil it. I’m actually intending to grill it, which is far healthier as it allows much of the fat to drip away.

Serving Size: 3.2 oz
Calories: 243
Calories From Fat: 144
Total Fat: 16 grams
% Daily Value: 24%
Saturated Fat: 6 grams
% Daily Value: 30%
Trans Fat: 0 grams
% Daily Value: 0%
Cholesterol: 80 milligrams
% Daily Value: 26%

A patty of the 80/20 stuff, even if you just prepare it by broiling it instead of grilling it, is roughly as healthy as the meat on a McDonald’s double cheeseburger.

What about the cheese? Again, several options:


I ended up buying the American slices for $1.89 for 16 slices, which you can check the nutrition facts on here. If you tack the cheese onto the meat, you start to approach the nutritional levels of the McDonald’s double cheeseburger, but this again assumes that you broil the meat instead of grilling it (grilling it is far better for you).

I then picked up a jar of pickles for $2.49, a package of hamburger buns for $1.99 (this was overpriced), an onion for about $0.40, and a tomato for about $0.40. These ingredients are all very healthy, so I won’t reiterate the nutrition facts on these items – the “bad” ingredients are the cheese and the meat.

My total grocery bill for all ingredients was $9.16. Here’s what I bought:


I can assemble five double cheeseburgers from this material. Let’s get started on the cooking.


I pattied and got the burgers on the grill in about two minutes, then I spent the ten minutes that they grilled slicing the tomatoes and dicing the onions and opening up cheese slices. With twelve minutes of effort, here’s the food I had:


So what did this homemade cheeseburger end up looking like? Here’s the opened view, with a giant pickle slice on it:


Note the tomato slice instead of ketchup, a personal choice that makes the burger more healthy, more tasty (for me), but more expensive. Here’s what it looks like assembled:


And here’s that McDonald’s double cheeseburger for comparison:


I’ll allow you to draw your own conclusions.

After eating the meal, though, I had quite a bit of food left over:


That’s six slices of cheese, most of a diced onion, almost all of a jar of pickles (which will last for a long time), and three buns. I have almost all of the ingredients for more sandwiches with the cost already covered!

What about the time? Let’s assume that you’re going to make these burgers at home, and intend to eat them over two meals. It took:
two minutes to shop for the supplies
two minutes to make the patties and get them on the grill
ten minutes for the patties to cook and to prepare the other stuff
one minute to reheat the leftover cheeseburgers later to build more sandwiches
one minute for cleanup (with a dishwasher)

That’s a total of sixteen minutes for the homemade cheeseburger. How about the McDonald’s version? It took me eleven minutes for the burger I bought, so if I went there twice for cheeseburgers for two meals, that’s a total of twenty two minutes for McDonald’s.

That’s right, it was more time-effective to make the homemade cheeseburgers and enjoy them again later than it was to go to McDonald’s twice and pick up the double cheeseburgers.

What about the cost? The burger I assembled above cost $1.83, while the McDonald’s double cheeseburger was $1.06. However, there are a few factors that aren’t considered in those numbers.

First, the homemade burger was healthier. It was grilled, and thus much of the fat dripped out of it. The nutrition facts numbers above consider only a broiled burger, not a grilled one.

Second, the homemade burger had leftovers. That cost per burger assumed no leftovers, but I had most of a diced onion, almost all of a jar of pickles, six slices of cheese, and three hamburger buns left over. Without much more, I can make another meal out of these ingredients – just give me some cold cuts, for instance.

Third, the homemade burger had many more options. I can do whatever I want with my homemade burger in terms of options – for example, I made the audible switching the ketchup for a tomato slice.

Lastly, the homemade burger was far, far tastier (at least for me). I tasted them side by side and it wasn’t even close. Of course, this really is a matter of opinion.

For me, these factors make the homemade cheeseburger blow away the McDonald’s double cheeseburger. I might spend pennies more on the homemade cheeseburger when all the costs are considered, but the healthiness, the flavor, the configurability, and the surprising time efficiency makes the homemade cheeseburger.

What do you think of McDonald’s? Basically, I’m indifferent. I think fast food restaurants fill a role and have some big benefits (convenience, mostly), but it is my belief that the other factors that are negatives towards fast food should usually swing things back towards preparing food at home.

The take home point? Don’t eat fast food because you believe it to be “cheap.” The only real advantage of fast food is convenience – in the end, it has almost nothing to do with money. In fact, if you choose anything but the absolute best value on the menu – which the McDonald’s double cheeseburger might be – it’s going to be far more expensive to eat fast food than eat at home.

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  1. Anna says:

    Excellent analysis, and this doesn’t even take into account the french fry factor. Buying a potato and baking it with some olive oil and salt is going to be WAY healther than the fries at McDonalds.

  2. Dave says:

    Didn’t you say the cheaper fattier beef was better in an earlier blog post?
    “Seriously, if you’re grilling, the cheaper meat is better and it saves some cash (the leaner is preferable for cooking it in a frying pan for other purposes). The fat will drip out, sizzle on the burners, and the smoke from that will float back up into the meat. In the end, the burger won’t be much healthier if you start with 97% lean meat versus 75% lean if you grill the meat and allow the fat to melt and drip out of the burger.”

  3. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    Dave, it makes for a better-tasting burger, but it will have more fat content. Considering that they’re both pretty tasty, I prefer the lower fat.

  4. Ricky Tan says:

    Fair enough – but what about the cost of acquiring a grill and the cost of running it? Also, in many apartments, you just can’t have the grills like the one you possess…And as far as the time factor – while I’m waiting for my meal I’m usually on my cell phone, while you obviously can’t do that while cooking. Thus, although the McDonalds burger may take as much time, the time is being utilized by many for things other than just waiting…Some stuff to think about if you truly want to assess the cost of making burgers at home…Turns out just like KFC, Burger King etc found out, you cannot compete with Mcdonalds!

  5. Since you are comparing these two types of hamburgers on a strictly monetary cost basis, you have left out some very important things that must be factored in when preparing food at home. (I’m not trying to be facetious), but since you are talking strictly in terms of monetary cost, you have to at least give a cursory thought to things like:

    * your kitchen – You have to wash the dishes, and buy the napkins, buy the plates to begin with. Oh and don’t forget that having a kitchen means you have to buy a house.
    * your grill is a huge sunk cost upfront.
    * the cost of the propane to heat up your grill
    * your dishwasher uses lots of water, electricity, and dish soap (not to mention that you had to buy a dishwasher to begin with)

    (Not everybody has all these things.. and so the comparison really only holds for your particular situation)

    So just don’t forget that even if you already own things like a grill, dishwasher, kitchen… they weren’t exactly ‘free’…. and if you were to strictly add up all these true costs… i believe that mcdonalds would become vastly cheaper. They are in a specialized business of making and serving hamburgers, and monetarily you can’t compete with that. (quality is a different story)
    Personally i never eat fast food, but i’m just attempting to illustrate a point about hidden costs. (Except for the time when i lived out of my car for a year and ate a lot of subway sandwiches.)

  6. dee says:

    If you don’t use ALL of the leftovers, they will go to waste. Looks like you bought about 2lbs of hamburger meat….that’s a lot for one person to eat in a setting. If you decide to freeze it, you have to factor in storage costs.

  7. MsEllenT says:

    Um, unless you’re shopping online and having your groceries delivered, I’d like to know how you are only spending TWO minutes grocery shopping.

    Two minutes to make the patties and get them on the grill? Sure, if you dive into the package with your bare hands and don’t stop to wash them afterwards. (Just thoroughly washing and drying them should take almost two minutes.)

    Ten minutes to prepare the other stuff and cook the patties? Only if you leave the patties to burn while you’re chopping, or if you’ve bought pre-chopped onions and tomatoes.

    One minute for cleanup? Sure, if your counter and kitchen table fit in the dishwasher.

    For a normal person to buy all the ingredients, prepare and cook them, plus clean up afterwards, it takes much longer than the grand total of 16 minutes you’ve come up with. Really, what kind of guesstimation is that? It takes me that long just to drive to the grocery store (and let’s talk about gas wastage) and find a working cart.

    Granted, it tastes better to make your own burger, but time-wise, it’s darn expensive.

  8. Derek Wong says:

    That was a pretty good analysis of comparing cooking at home vs eating out at fast food. I’ve often heard people say that it’s just easier for them to buy something quick than to cook themselves (especially in college). Thanks for the pictures and helpful pointers.

    I also think that saving simply above has some good points about factoring in the tools used in addition to the supplies. Nevertheless, the fact remains that there are countless benefits to cooking instead of eating out.

  9. PJA says:

    Yours burger wins in my opinion.
    Though you forgot the later cost of medication to get your LDL levels down :)
    And the cost to the environment:

  10. Sean says:

    I think you’re being a little hard on fat content when considering the meat. It’s not necessarily true that ground beef with more fat is worse for you. Fat is a necessary part of any diet and there’s nothing wrong with getting some of that fat from beef or any other animal source. Most of the problems associated with fat or sugar are problems of scale rather than absolutes, meaning that the reason people consider fat “bad” and sugar “bad” is that they’re eating too much of these things and not enough, say, vitamins and minerals and simple whole foods.

    It’s also important to consider that the extra fat in the ground beef will often make the food tastier and juicier. True, those juices are basically just liquefied fat, but they make the thing worth eating! I go for 80/20.

    The fat question is a complex one, but calling the leaner beef healthier by nature is a vast oversimplification. Fats, carbohydrates and proteins are not by their nature either good or bad, nor are any of them automatically good or bad for you.

    Still, the point about cooking at home being able to whup McDonald’s is a good one. I never eat that junk.

  11. Norman MIller says:

    I cook from near scratch to scratch daily. It has become so familiar or such a habit, I’d be inconvenienced to go to a fast food place, wait in lines, deal with the stench, and the greasy film that covers everything at a fast food place, and the have to handle cash before eating necessitating a trip to the stinking restroom while my food cools off.

    Then what is the trade off for this so-called convenience, I get to smell like fast food, get an upset stomach from all of the grease, and regret I ever went into the place.

    Just a way of looking at it, I guess enough people love fast food. For me I’d rather eat feces, than fast food.

  12. Good god almighty that thing is nasty lookin. I stopped eating fast food several months back and now cook all my meals at home (save for the occasional meal at my favorite Viet place :). I am so much happier and healthier now!

  13. Jane St. Claire says:

    So, you’re saying it takes you 11 minutes at McD’s, but only 2 minutes to enter a grocery store, make the loop around to gather ingredients, stand in line, and pay? I wish I had that store in my neighborhood.

    I’m all on board with home cooking being healthier and tastier. Since your experiment is trying to prove time-effectiveness, though, you could have used a much more realistic amount of time to grocery shop and still come out ahead. It just undermines your credibility when you tilt the numbers so dramatically to prove your point.

  14. Susy says:

    Enjoyed the article (you should do the same with subway – you’d come out way ahead I think and much better).

    I HATE McDonald’s (perhaps because my parents never took me there when I was young). My husband grew up eating fast food & junk food all his life and he like it when we got married (even craved it at times), but now that we’ve been married for a while he enjoys healthy homemade fair much more than McDonald’s and he even says it makes his stomach turn now to think of eating it!

    I think people have lost their ability to actually taste their food, hence the love of McDonald’s & prepackaged food. Anyone that’s had a homemade pizza with homemade crust, caramelized onions, sautéed baby bellas, real kalamata olives, and sauce made with fresh grilled tomatoes will never want to eat pizza hut again!

    I love the healthy eating along with financial advice! I think I have a cookie recipe you would love (much cheaper than soft batch I’m sure and healthier).

  15. mgroves says:

    Wow, this is entirely too much analysis over a friggin burger!

    Very interesting though. Now, could you also do this for every other menu item at McDonalds, BK, KFC, Wendy’s, Sonic…etc…heh just kidding!

  16. Kat says:

    Another nice aspect to making the burger at home is the fact that you know whose hands have been on it and where those hands have been.

  17. Marina @ Sufficient Thrust says:

    Why would you spend $1.00 on a burger for one meal when you can buy 10 meals worth of ramen for the same amount? Isn’t the point eating on a tight budget? (Barilla pasta, of all things, is actually about the same as ramen and probably much healthier.)

  18. Louise says:

    @saving simply
    If you want to be like that, then what about the car you have to own to get to McDonald’s? What about insurance, gas, a garage, maintenance, and so on? Why not include the cost of clothing? I mean, you aren’t going to walk in to McDonald’s naked, are you? You at least need shoes and a shirt for service. A grill doesn’t care what you wear.

    I’ve managed to grill a burger without plates, a house, propane, a dishwasher, or napkins. Although I do have plates. I just didn’t need them to grill the burger.

    Honestly, people. You don’t HAVE to argue everything Trent says.

  19. SJean says:

    your burgers looked MUCH better =)

    As a single person, it is much easier for me to just get a double cheeseburger from McD’s rather than make 5 burgers and eat them all week (burgers every night isn’t healthy, even if they aren’t as bad as Mcdonalds!). Still, it is something I don’t often do, because it really is a last resort not very appetizing rush dinner.

    I agree with your premise though–cooking at home is usually a better deal and better tasting.

  20. Johanna says:

    There’s more to the healthfulness of a burger than just the fat content:


  21. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    The “two minutes” for grocery shopping is because shopping for groceries is a multi-purpose trip. You don’t go to the store just to buy stuff for burgers, you go there to buy stuff for the entire week.

  22. Jim says:

    Great blog. I noticed in the post you said you opted for the 80/20 because of cost, but in the photo, the 97/3 is pictured.

  23. Sometimes you crack me up. This is a great post. I have to agree with the home cooking. If you look at value/$, in my subjective opinion home cooking wins (almost) every time.

  24. Tyler says:

    I’m a bodybuilder and McD’s is not even on the radar for food unless it’s an emergency situation. Nice breakdown Trent. To those who advocate for McD’s — stop filling your body with junk and learn how to eat. Eat food because your body needs energy, vitamins, minerals, etc to survive. Don’t eat just to fill a craving! I’ll bet 75% of you that eat fast food are overweight, have high blood pressure, obese, have sleep apnea, and are lazy.

  25. ADD says:

    You can buy organic ketchup these days with sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup. Heinz makes some, and Hannaford Supermarkets have a store brand that costs about half as much, not much more than you’d pay for the non-organic, corn syrup kind…

  26. Kenny says:


    Why did you make just single cheeseburgers and not double cheeseburgers? I couldn’t see the two patties in the one you made.

    All you people who are busting on the appearance of the McDonald’s double cheeseburger, you can just step outside and admit you aren’t real double cheeseburger fans. Real double cheeseburger fans will eat any double cheeseburger, any time, from any place.

    And Trent, I suspect if you make a repeat visit and test out other McDonald’s, you will get a better estimate of your waiting time. Perhaps your eleven minutes is long, or maybe short.

    For the extra sizzle, try putting on some chili on that McDonald’s double cheeseburger. That will really make it taste great!

    If it tastes good, it must be good for you, and those McDonald’s double cheeseburgers sure taste good. You don’t look at them, you eat them! And eating them is just heavenly.

    On my Birthday, I go out for cheeseburgers for lunch and more cheeseburgers for dinner, and they are just great. We usually go to Five Guys or Fuddrucker’s.

    FWIW, I am 35-y.o. white male, 6’3″, 185 pounds, and I exercise moderately and can eat like this all I want.


  27. silver says:

    Somewhat off topic (but related to hamburgers). I find home grilled hamburgers to be bland (and McDonald’s to be too salty, so this isn’t an argument against home cooking). What can I add to the ground beef to make the home cooked burgers have some flavor? We usually buy 85% lean beef, make 1/4 lb patties, and grill them. But they just seem to lack any flavor at all. I’ve tried mixing fresh chopped onion into the burger, and it helps some what, but it still is missing something.

  28. Heidi says:

    I think the reason that this is such a hot topic is that you’re really working with two different value sets/lifestyle choices.

    I like to buy local and eat local. I prefer fresh to processed. I would rather keep HFCS & hydrogrenated fat out of my diet alltogether. I prepare a big meal at home once or twice a week, storing a freezing leftovers.

    The challenge for me is all of the planning that goes into making the healthy choice. Trent is assuming that one trip to the grocery store per week and 16 minutes of free time is all you need to be prepared. I often go straight from job one to job two. If I forget to grab a homemade meal from the fridge or the freezer on my way out the door at 7:00 am, I am going to eat whatever crosses my path as I go about my workday. I have never liked McD’s as a matter of personal perfereance, however, I have been known to grab a taco, chicken strips, or a salad from various fastfood joints as I make may way across town. It doesn’t taste nearly as good as my homemade versions, but since my house is 12 miles out of my way and Subway is just down the block, I’m going with Subway. At the moment I have to make the decision, it really is about time.

    Maybe someday I will have paid off my student loans I will have the luxury of time so that I can prepare and enjoy slow food every night.

    On this topic, if you haven’t read “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollen, I highly recommend it. He does a very detailed environmental cost-benefit analysis on McD’s, buying “organic”, and grow-your-own.

  29. Kenny says:

    Sprinkle them with McCormick’s Season All. Not some off-brand seasoned salt, but McCormick’s Season All.

    Once I accidentally sprinkled cinnamon instead of Season All, and that was surprisingly good as well.

    A nice barbecue sauce, like Thomas Sauce, Bone Suckin’ Sauce, or Sweet Baby Ray’s, also enhances most anything on a bun, too.

    And you can’t go wrong with a little bacon, or like I said earlier, chili.

    Be sure to use a nice sturdy bun. Potato buns are good, but you need to make sure you have a proper burger:bun ratio. Big buns scream for bigger burgers.

    Also, make sure your patties are uniformly flat and not bulged out in the middle. So many good burgers are spoiled when they turn out to be tennis-ball shaped.

  30. Dave says:

    I use Montreal steak seasoning on 80/20 beef, make 1/3 – 1/2 pound burgers, and they come out delicious!
    McDonalds can’t even come close to comparing. Every now and then, I might pick up some fast food because I don’t feel like cooking, but you really can’t compare a home grilled burger to the stuff you get at McD’s.

  31. Kat says:

    Also you could try adding in some cracked peppercorn and blue cheese for flavor.

  32. Lori says:

    I love to experiment with different burger seasonings. Curry powder, taco seasoning, cajun spice, or blue cheese and fresh cilantro… really you can mix almost anything with hamburger.

    I order a lot of spices from http://www.penzeys.com, they are cheap and really high quality, and they have a lot of multi-purpose blends that help dress up any food.

  33. John Moore says:

    Worchestshire sauce is good in burgers. Toronto Steak seasoning from McCormick is good too. Mix the diced onions in with the meat if you want!

    That’s another advantage of making it yourself you can do all sorts of cool add ins. :)

  34. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    The single patty on my burger has the same amount of beef as the two patties on the Mickey D burger. They both weigh slightly over 3 ounces. It’s broken down in the text of the article.

  35. Looby says:

    @ Silver I personally like to add green onions (also known as salad or spring onions) to the beef, with a little diced red chili and some grated parmaesan cheese. I also use an egg to help it all to bind together. It tastes really good, there isn’t enough chili to be spicy it just adds a little kick.

  36. jtimberman says:

    Home-made burgers are certainly more expensive, especially for me. We buy only organic beef, from dairies that have grass-fed, free-range cattle. But the quality is so much better than that of any fast food restaurant’s meat, and my blend of spices that I mix makes for fan-freakin-tastic burgers.

    However, home-made burgers are less expensive than those from a sit-down restaurant. Personally, I really enjoy the process of making burgers by hand and grilling them myself. It helps that I’ve gotten pretty good at it, so they’re damn tasty too :-).

    Anyway, The important comparison that Trent made is the time involvement. Depending how far you are from your favorite fast food place, and how efficient they are generally may be a wash vs making your own at home. The grocery store trip is negligible because you’re going there *anyway*. The time involvement for cooking at home vs a sit-down restaurant is much less, obviously, since a fast food burger is quicker than sit-down and its already a toss up as Trent showed.

  37. DrBdan says:

    @Heidi, funny that you should mention Michael Pollen, I was thinking the same thing. For anyone interested you can find many of his writings online here http://www.michaelpollan.com/write.php .

    In regards to McD’s burgers, people aren’t taking into account the cost of the second meal that I have to eat because I’m hungry again an hour after eating McD’s.

  38. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    Heidi, I have often wondered why a fast food restaurant doesn’t open up that focuses on higher-priced but high quality items for extremely busy people. If it is really all about the time and convenience, it would do blockbuster business, I would think.

  39. plonkee says:

    I may never eat a double cheeseburger from McDonalds again. That thing in the photos looks absolutely disgusting.

  40. Dana says:

    If you calculate with the bean burgers I buy (Morningstar, $2.99 for 4) the cost is astronomical…but I don’t know of any fast food place that has vegan burgers on the menu, so it isn’t a valid comparison. What I would give for a place like that!

  41. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    When push came to shove, the 80/20 didn’t make it to the dinner table. Instead, some 97/3 from the freezer was used. We’ll save the 80/20 for another use.

  42. Monica says:

    If you don’t have a grill, just broil them or fry them in a skillet. I have a two-part broiler pan with slots in it so the fat will drip down to the bottom part. If you fry them you can pour off the fat as it accumulates.

  43. Ricky Tan says:

    Louise – you need a car with insurance and gas and clothes to go to a grocery store and get supplies too…

  44. Jon says:

    lol I love the discussion. This is a great analysis of the cost of a burger. Considering the huge advantage McDonalds has in economies of scale, your cost came pretty darn close! But then again, you didn’t factor in the cost savings of substituting flour or soy for part of the beef…

    The only time I go to fast food places these days is when I get a sheet of coupons in the mail. For the last 2 months, I’ve been getting a great deal at Wendy’s for breakfast: buy any item (like coffee) and get a sandwich free

  45. Cheryl says:

    As far as I’m concerned, there is no comparison to that McNasty Double Grease Burger, and your grilled cheeseburger….I think I’ll go home and grill one up, I have a strange craving now!

  46. Lazy Man says:

    Trent: “Heidi, I have often wondered why a fast food restaurant doesn’t open up that focuses on higher-priced but high quality items for extremely busy people. If it is really all about the time and convenience, it would do blockbuster business, I would think.”

    See Subway subs. Other than the sodium content of the cold cuts, it’s pretty healthy and as healthy as what you’d make at home.

  47. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    I don’t view Subway as being “fast.” I rarely get my food in less than 15 minutes there, in which case I might as well make it at home. I’m basically talking about a drive-through version of Subway, actually, with more select choices so additional prep work can be done, making the order-to-delivery time much, much quicker.

  48. Lazy Man says:

    Isn’t mustard in your burger? Perhaps it’s regional, but it’s always been in my McDonald’s burgers.

  49. Limewater says:


    You’ve already gotten several good suggestion. My favorite is to add some Dale’s seasoning to my burgers. It may be too salty for your taste, but I love it. It’s usually in the grill/barbecue sauce and marinade section.

  50. Heidi says:

    I know that I would be willing to pay a premuim for high quality food that can be accessed via drive thru. I have found that the ready-made salads at the local grocery store will do the trick and I will often grab one of those, or some sushi and a piece of fruit, if time allows.

    jtimberman – We only buy local organic, grass-fed beef as well. Makes the burger much more expensive, but is totally worth it.

    Incidently, there is a drive-thru Subway in Des Moines that I can usually get through in less than five minutes.

  51. yvie says:

    I’m surprised that Trent, who seems to care about nutrition, would even consider eating a McDonald’s hamburger. To me it would be like swimming in a dirty filty lake: it’s water but do you really want to swim in it?

    If I’m going to eat, I’m going to fill my body with nourishing food. Whole unprocessed foods. I’m slim, healthy, energetic, and never get even as much as a cold,and I’m not a young person. I consider Mickey D’s to not even be in the same category as the food I make at home. Most of McD’s food is disgustingly unhealthy, and bad for the planet.

    If I am going to eat out, I eat out with the same principles I use when eating at home: healthy, unprocessed, nourishing food.

  52. Alyssa says:

    Overall Subway is not that healthy. They are just good at making people think that. They have some healthy choices and many unhealthy choices like any fast food place. They only advertise nutritional content for their 6 inches sandwiches with their lowest calorie meat without cheese, olives, or sauces. If you order a 12 inch sub, get any extras, or order a higher calorie meat, you might be better off getting a burger. They also are not high quality sandwiches.

  53. Limewater says:


    I think Subway is pretty honest about their food. They really only advertise a few select sandwiches as being particularly low in fat, and it’s always clearly marked on the menu.

    You can’t blame Subway when someone comes in, orders a salad, and then gets double bacon and extra italian dressing put on top.

    And a twelve inch sub is a lot more food than most burgers.

  54. Chris says:

    Trent, Chipotle is close to what you’re imagining. It’s only burritos/tacos/salads, but it’s definitely in that higher priced, yet higher quality yet fast set. (of course there’s pretty much always a long line, but from order to food is about 5 minutes).

    Jack in the box also experimented with a Higher end fast food line with their JBX concept, but it appears they simply rolled over the ideas into their normal chains instead of splitting the franchise.

    pretty much the segment is the “fast casual dining” segment: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fast_casual_dining_restaurants

    Although quite a few of those places aren’t quite fast enough for what you’re suggesting. (i.e. Panera is great but the food is fairly slow in arrival)

    Oh, and zankou chicken is awesome.

  55. Katie says:

    Trent: “Heidi, I have often wondered why a fast food restaurant doesn’t open up that focuses on higher-priced but high quality items for extremely busy people. If it is really all about the time and convenience, it would do blockbuster business, I would think.”


  56. Victor says:

    There is one big flaw in this comparison that no one has talked about. By cooking burgers at home, you’ve pretty much committed yourself to eating at least 5 more burgers during that week. Perhaps you could stretch it out to two weeks.

    With all the talk about how unhealthy a McDonalds Double cheeseburger is no one seems to be able to do simple math. ONE Mickey D’s Double Cheeseburger = 1 bad meal, 5 Home Made burgers = 5 bad meals which means your 5 times WORSE off cooking at home.

    Bottom line, Trent can finagle the time, energy and money used to make a burger at home vs a MCD burger but McDonalds has the following that make them impossible to beat:

    1. Huge purchasing power
    2. Industrial cooking equipment
    3. Labor force
    4. Economies of Scale

    A home made burger IS better in quality and taste but it is NOT cheaper and everyone can easily spot where the comparisons were skewed to support Trent’s arguement.

    Wendy’s, Jack-in-the-Box, Burger King and others all have $0.99 menus. If you find you can’t stomach a McDonalds burger you can always go elsewhere for different tastes.

  57. Jack says:

    See the link below on an interesting study done; kids say any food wrapped in a McDonald’s wrapper tastes better. Maybe you should add the wrapper to your homemade burger…


  58. Lauren says:

    Trent, you should make this into an ongoing series… preparing the favorite fast food meals at home. My fiance used to order pizza every week, but started making it from scratch over the summer. With ingredients consisting of essentially flour, yeast, canned tomatoes and cheese the cost is extremely low compared to buying it fresh or even frozen, plus we were able to pick up everything in bulk at Costco, lowering the cost even further.

    Even with the simplest items our pizza tastes fantastic, plus we’re able to make adjustments like making a whole wheat crust, using fancy cheeses, etc.

  59. lorax says:

    Hey Trent,

    Great analysis, great story.

    Your burger looked good enough to eat. In the end, it’s not entirely about the money.

  60. Sarah says:

    Setting aside alleged high quality, the calorie and fat content of Chipotle’s offering is absolutely STAGGERING.

  61. David says:

    Definitely one of my favorite posts. I don’t think the “sunk costs” arguement presented by another commentor is relevant though. In a purely economic sense those sunk costs don’t factor into the cost of preparing the meal because, regardless of whether you make a hamburger or not, they can’t be recovered and therefore should not be a part of the arguement.

  62. Siena says:

    What a great experiment! You should take it further and compare costs of salads from McD’s, someone menioned Subway, Chipotle (arghh–I really like their burritos–I hope they’re not too fatty–I get mine without cheese or sour cream), etc . . . I think even the dissenters know it is generally cheaper to cook at home. There have been times when I have eaten fast food because I felt too tired to cook (I once lived off of Taco Bell’s bean burritos and Subway) and I think fast food is there as a fallback, but the main focus for anyone looking to save money (and their health) is to learn to cook at home (had you made homemade buns it would’ve been a lot cheaper).

    I’m pretty sure I read somewhere in a magazine that the double cheeseburger is Mcdonald’s bestselling item (maybe just sandwich), even over their hamburger. I’ve never had one and based on the pics, I am not tempted to try one. =)

  63. Jim says:

    Arby’s market fresh line is probably faster and better than subway.

    Overall though, home made allows the ultimate level of control over what you are eating, and is therefore pretty much always the better ‘value’ in my opinion.

    interesting read.

  64. Wow – great post. Although, I really want one of your homemade burgers now.

  65. Louise,

    I’m not arguing against what Trent says. However, his word is not necessarily the financial gospel. If everybody agreed with what trent(or anybody else for that matter) what would be the point of reading a blog? Isn’t the point of this to have a free exchange of ideas… and maybe hear some different ideas and perspectives, however silly/thought provoking they may be? That’s all I’m saying…
    (btw, I COULD buy hundreds and hundreds of cheeseburgers before I’ve even finished paying for a brand new grill)

  66. Marsha says:

    Trent, I think you wrote a great article – great experiment, great analysis. I’m cracking up at how serious people’s comments are!

    Slow food is where it’s at now, man! :D

  67. Imelda says:

    This is fantastic–minor quibbles like “initial cost of the grill” or electricity and water usage are totally out-of-place. Of course it also costs money to drive your car to McDonalds, and obviously, over the life of the grill, the money saved by cooking at home makes up for the initial investment.

    I really like the way you dug into this and actually performed both options. A real treat for us frugal zealots!!

  68. Christine says:

    if you can enter a Safeway or any supermarket, gather all those ingredients in 2 minutes AND check out within those same two minutes I would love to know where that supermarket is.

    I cook most meat in my cast iron, which you can not put in a dish washer, that that is more than 1 minute of clean up there.

    The biggest reason I eat at McDonald’s is convenience. Do you know how annoying and time consuming it is to go back home to cook between errands. (or classes the time it would take me to BART/bus home, cook, and BART/bus back to school I would have missed my next class.)

    You also left out the mustard on the burger.

  69. Limewater says:


    We’re talking about a quantitative issue here. It’s not a matter of agreeing or disagreeing. People don’t agree or disagree over the value of pi.

    It is true that he did not factor in cooking fuel cost. He also did not factor in vehicle fuel cost in his travel to McDonalds, vehicle insurance, bus fare, the cost of a spatula amortized over each time it is used to turn a piece of food, insect repellent, sun screen, the guy outside of McDonalds asking you for a dollar, a lifetime if health issues related to an all-cheeseburger diet, whether one prefers one’s burgers rare or well-done, or the caloric expenditure and perspiration loss incurred while grilling or travelling. This is pretty reasonable, because the cost of these things are either negligible or vary drastically with one’s situation.

  70. Limewater says:


    Trent answered the grocery shopping time question earlier. The assumption is that the person in question actually goes grocery shopping on a somewhat regular basis. Very few people do not go grocery shopping.

    Since one is in the store buying staples anyway, it only takes a couple of minutes to pick up the necessary ingredients.

    The idea about the burgers is that you grill several, and you can then carry a burger with you and microwave it for lunch at work or school. Most campus food courts offer somewhere to microwave food.

  71. Kenny says:

    But Trent,

    You’re trying to comapre a homemade double cheeseburger to the McDonald’s double cheeseburger.

    By combining two patties into one at home, you have essentially made this into a “McDonald’s double cheeseburger vs. homemade cheesevurger” contest.

    It’s Apples and oranges you’re comparing here.

    The awesomeness of the double cheeseburger comes from the two patties. By cutting the number of patties in half, you change the entire essence of the burger.

    With a double cheeseburger, you have two patties, that means double the area of burger flavor.

    I think you should go back and make a homemade double cheeseburger like you advertised. You cheated by making just half the patties, man!

    Other than that, awesome story.

  72. Kenny says:

    (sorry about the typos, I blame the early hour, but probably it’s just my incabable typing skills)

  73. Mitch says:

    Great post.

    I can’t even fathom trying to save money by eating fast food. If the point of being financially independent is to enjoy your life, then you couldn’t sabotage yourself any worse than by dropping the ball on your diet. As a lot of posts on this site and others have pointed out, you can make healthy, delicious meals at home without breaking the bank. Trying to save some pennies by going to McD’s is just guaranteeing yourself a life of ill health before you finally kick off several decades early.

  74. PJ says:

    I understand your theroy but your way off base ,I eat mcdonalds I’m done.I didn’t use propane ,or time, valuable water,cleaning supplies,etc which were uncounted in your experiment.Healthy yes ,convenient no.

  75. Joel Quile says:


    What you didn’t factor in was the average cost of a triple bypass surgery – $50,000. Granted, insurance will absorb the majority but still… I’d like to meet the guy who can walk into McDonald’s and order 1 double cheeseburger and walk out. I used to eat fast food (before I saw the movie Super Size Me) and the fries and the coke (Super Sized of course) would put the wrestling moves on my will power (and wallet and waste line for that matter) and I just couldn’t resist. I think there is really two types of people coming down on two sides of the issue. People that like to cook at home and people that like to enjoy a relaxing and romantic dining experience beneath the golden arches.

    As usual, I read this post and thought the same two thoughts:

    1. Great post! I’m so glad he shared that with us!

    2. Where does this dude find the time? Does God give him 25 hours in his days and the rest of us poor suckers get 24?

  76. Andy says:

    I lost a bunch of weight in a week when I went on my McDonalds and Coca-Cola diet (granted I was only eating one meal a day). Their double cheeseburgers are cheap and delicious. I live in NYC and often go to chef Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack where the burgers are (relatively) expensive and delicious. I appreciate both.

    Just a quick correction in your article. You write:

    “That means a beef patty at McDonald’s has a weight of 1.8 ounces and a double cheeseburger has 3.6 ounces of meat. In other words, you can make just about five patties at home out of one pound of beef – each of these patties would have the same amount of beef as a McDonalds’ double cheeseburger.”

    That’s not quite true. You can’t compare the weight of cooked beef to uncooked beef. A pound of raw ground beef usually cooks down to 11 or 12 ounces. So you would get about 3 double-cheeseburger equivalent single patties from a pound of ground beef.

  77. HSW says:

    To answer a question asked in the comments earlier — I am not sure if they’re vegan but Burger King has vegetarian burgers that I’ve had from time to time in both the US and when I was vacationing in the UK (I liked the UK one better since it was part of a vegetarian kids meal which I had to order because it was so cool that they offered it in that format). My husband and I have found that stopping eating out entirely makes us feel healthier. The last time I tried some take out pizza it made me feel really gross so I don’t think I could go back to that stuff even if I thought I wanted to.

  78. Laura says:

    I think Trent has done a fantastic job of pointing out the obvious. I admire his tenacity in making life better for his family, and sharing it with the rest of us. Being a single mom and raising two boys, I have done this for years. Buy in bulk, cook in bulk, freeze in bulk, if there are any leftovers, all while not breaking the budget. Everyone managed to eat well, be healthy, and happy (most of the time), and I now have two young adult men who can cook and sustain themselves. Cooking and eating together are some of our most memorable times. Eating out was for special occasions. The hardest thing for me now, is cooking just for myself, I tend to over do it. I have always worked, sometimes two jobs, and have always packed a lunch, mainly because I couldn’t afford to eat out. If I have nothing else in the house, a good old peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat always works with a banana It’s relatively healthy, doesn’t spoil, it keeps your stomach from growling and gets you through the rest of the work day. It’s better than McD’s anyday of the week.

  79. icup says:

    I thought everybody knew that you aren’t actually supposed to *go into* McDonald’s when you get food from it. That is what the drive thru is for. If you go in, you run the risk of seeing something that ruins your appetite.

  80. monica says:

    Personally, I think McDonald’s food is just AWFUL!! THE last time i ate there i took 2 bites and threw the rest out! The hamburgers taste fake!

  81. Helen says:

    I can’t believe you Americans have high fructose syrup in your tomato sauce. *shudder* – that stuff is practically toxic.

    Personally, I eat at McDonald’s fairly regularly – it is a treat for the kids and a night off cooking, when we are all starving after music lessons finish late. Occasionally I’ll have a small cheeseburger snack. If you want a junk food fix, it’s fine. I’m not stupid. I don’t have an oversize megaburger three times a week. If you basically eat healthy, an occasional cheesburger ain’t gonna kill you.

    But how could you call a double cheeseburger a meal? All that fat! Where are the veggies? Where is the fiber?

    As for their healthy options – one of the issues I have with commercial salads is that they have to be handled and stored properly, so you are taking a health gamble, and they are overpriced. I find they are rarely as picky about their salad greens as I am – soggy lettuce, green tomatoes – yuk. There’s a lot that you just can’t beat about home cooking – you can choose healthy, high fiber ingredients, combine them how you want, and you are in control of the hygiene.

    I must say, McD’s is NOT cheap if you are feeding a family on typical choices – hubby’s large Big Mac meal, happy meals with OJ for the kids and a medium cheeseburger meal for me, and that’s over $22 Australian. I can make a good family meal for less than ten dollars. (we don’t drink ‘soda’ at home) Even allowing for ‘hidden costs’, homecooked is better and cheaper.

    There is also the waste issue – all that packaging is not an environmentally sound option.

    Great post, Trent, thought provoking!

  82. Ex McInmate says:

    I’d love to see a real apples vs apples comparison. Trent, you seem to keep missing the mark a bit.

    McDonalds burger and big mac patties are 1.6 ounces each, which yields 10 patties per pound. Back in my days of high school burger flipping, the parlance was “10 to 1 patties”. Conversation with current McInmates indicates this has not changed.

    The burger clowns double cheese burger consists of:

    2 1.6 oz patties

    1 4″ non-seeded bun, cut sides toasted (easily done with a flat grill or griddle!)

    2 cheese slices



    reconstituted dried onions

    2 dill pickle chips.



    The closest recipe I’ve seen for home reproduction is at:

    This recipe calls for the addition of MSG and onion powder to the seasoning mix, but there are not in the actual McDonalds seasoning.

    Suprisingly enough, flat grilling is an important component to the overall taste of a Mcburger. Patties are seared within 20 seconds of contact with the flat grill. This process slightly caramelizes the surface of the patty and also seals the patty to retain some of the internal moisture.

    The web page I cite also has recipes for other McBurgers. It would be interesting to so a comparison in pricing between other fast food products, but only on a level playing field… same ingredients, similar process, etc, to yield similar flavor.


  83. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    My cheeseburger consisted of:
    a single 3.2 ounce patty (instead of 2 1.6 ounce patties)
    a non-seeded bun
    2 cheese slices
    tomato (a substitute for the rancid ketchup)
    fresh minced onions
    a large dill pickle slice
    seasoning to taste (optional)

    That’s pretty close, and in many cases (fresh onion vs. reconstituted onion, unquestionably) better.

  84. Chef John says:

    Dearest Trent,

    You are, as ever, the man. I love how you took your original post all the way downtown and tested it with a full accounting and full photographic evidence. Morgan Spurlock would be proud.

    I’m a new evangelist for the slow-food and/or cook-it-yerself movement, and I believe that it’s possible to surpass both the cost AND the convenience of fast “food”. Beyond that, there’s a couple of additional factors to consider:

    1. Quality: if McDo’s is going to be making a profit on these incredibly cheap burgers – and they DO – while paying for labor, usually decent real estate, marketing, class-action lawsuits, defaming Morgan Spurlock, etc. – IMAGINE how cheaply they must be buying their raw ingredients, and tell me you’re not terrified of getting the kind of quality that pays for.

    2. Food safety: while McDo’s is usually careful to nuke their stuff into oblivion before serving (their only short-term safety issue is magma-hot coffee) think of all the issues with fast-food e. coli (Jack in the Box, anyone?) and other food-borne beasties. I’d say 1 out of 3 times I have eaten at Chipotle, someone who at with me complained of a stomach ache afterwards. Chipotle is essentially a buffet, and buffets are jumbo petri dishes.

    So much for Chipotle being the “upscale” option. $6 for something that’s 90% rice, beans, and tortilla? Chi-please. I admit it’s delicious. That’s why I’ve started making them at home from scratch, and my kids (who also love Chipotle) say Dad’s is better.

    Tell you what, Trent, if you want I’ll send you my Chipotle recipe, and you can compare that to the “real” thing, too! You have certainly demonstrated your competence as a frugal documentarian, and I salute you. Keep up the good work!!!

  85. 2million says:

    Crunching overseas Mcdonalds costs isn’t a fair comparision to the US comparisions. People like me are happy to pay that premium when outside the US to get a meal (somewhat closely) resembling a meal from home.

  86. rob says:

    I think I lost my appetite for McDonald’s (and fast food in general) after reading this post. That double cheeseburger really looks unappetizing.

  87. Helen says:

    @2million, if you meant my comment on Australian McDonalds’ costs, it is relevant to me as I live in Australia, as I’m sure many readers also do. The comparison is probably equivalent, I think – the double-beef cheeseburger costs about 30c less than our normal single-beef cheeseburger, but our wage structure probably levels out the cost difference.

    I’d expect a full ‘meal’ of burger, drinks and fries for each member of a family of four would still work out more expensive than a reasonable (not premium) home-cooked meal, no matter where you live.

    Our local fish’n’chip shop does a huge serve of chunky fries for $3 AU, which is waaaayy better value, and healthier too, than Macca’s fries.

  88. Tim Marman says:

    I won’t rehash what everyone has already said about the cost of owning and maintaining the means to cook, but that’s certainly a concern.

    But beyond that, there’s also the cost of time. Even waiting 11 minutes (which as another suggested is a small sample size), you can eat the fast-food burger immediately. You don’t have to drive home, prepare to cook, cook, and then clean up (all of which seem like low estimates on your side).

    Just remember – you’re not paying for the quality of the ingredients with fast food, you’re paying for the convenience. This is the same reason you probably pay the same cost for a cold 20oz bottle of soda vs. a 2 liter bottle from your grocery. It’s market segmentation.

    While I personally don’t eat at McDonald’s, I think the more accurate tradeoff is quality vs. convenience.

  89. Anonymous says:

    It took far more than 2 minutes to purchase those ingredients! You spend more than that most of the time standing in line.

    But, the sentiment of the article is appreciated. I personally would buy organic or at least grass fed beef. I’d leave off the onion (or at least, cook it in the hamburger, buy organic lettuce and tomato, and likely leave off the cheese (not a cheeseburger fan). More expense, but far better taste and quality.

    Mind, I’m not above stopping in McDonalds for a double-cheeseburger-extra-pickles-no cheese for $1.06 when I’m out and don’t want to spend a lot on something to eat. It’s not as healthy as what I can eat at home, but it’s not less healthy than most of what you can get in a restaurant for far more cost and time. Not great if you do it on a daily basis, but once every two or four weeks is ok. Many appetizers at restaurants have far more fat, salt, and calories than the McDonald’s double-cheeseburger without the cheese!

  90. Anonymous says:

    I’d like to also comment on your prep=time: it should be taking you a good 1 minute at least to thoroughly wash your hands after handling the meat so I don’t agree with your prep time at all. Chopping onions alone takes me more than two minutes, considering getting out utensil, board, peeling off outer layer, chopping, and cleaning up.

  91. Amy says:

    A couple of comments after reading the comments….

    Making the five patties doesn’t commit you to eating burgers all week – just cook what you want for that meal and freeze the other patties. Voila – pre-made burgers which saves you time the next time you have a burger craving.

    Regarding the health issues – someone mentioned the fat content and the fact that “you need fat”… well, you certainly do, but saturated ain’t where it’s at: Even a Little Splurge May Be Too Much

  92. Amy says:

    Oh… and if you’ve been cooking at home a while (ie you’ve had a bit of practice and know the proper technique to chop an onion) – you can easily chop an onion in less than two minutes, even including the time it takes to get out the supplies. Time yourself – you’ll be surprised.

  93. Rob in Madrid says:

    excellent post, won’t say anymore as everyone else have left excellent comments

  94. vh says:

    ” What can I add to the ground beef to make the home cooked burgers have some flavor?”

    One evening while he was visiting my son made this incredible burger:

    Place raw hamburger in a bowl. Mince a clove or two of fresh garlic. Add a chunk of blue cheese. Toss in an egg. Add a small splash of olive oil. Sprinkle on some wine. Mix together gently but thoroughly. Form into patties and broil or grill as usual.

    To die for.

    “Just remember – you’re not paying for the quality of the ingredients with fast food, you’re paying for the convenience.”

    I dunno… :-) I just can’t see what’s convenient about driving through the traffic when you’re tired and would like to get home, fighting for a parking spot at the fast food joint, standing in line interminably, listening to other people yakking on their cell phones and to their kids hollering (or sitting in a car inhaling the fumes from idling cars in front of you until the cows come home, listening to your own kids holler)….only to get…what? That scrumptious-looking McDonald’s in the photo? Urk.

  95. Dave Thomas says:

    The double cheesburger has two pieces of cheese, each 1/2 oz. That means each uncooked McDonalds patty isn’t 1.8 oz, it’s 1.3 oz.

  96. Leslie M-B says:

    Interesting exercise.

    Neither hamburger looks appealing to me–I’m a vegetarian!

    I don’t tend to be evangelical about being vegetarian. But maybe the bigger question needs to be whether we should be eating burgers at all. It’s much more costly to our environment to eat beef than it is to eat lower on the food chain. :)

  97. Anil says:

    How about hungry roommates? Sometimes it is cheaper if you live with other people who are going to eat all the extra leftovers you bought anyway.

  98. I don’t think your individual burger cost as much as you think. The actual proportions of the ingredients in your burger is a lot more than in a McDonalds. First you have WAY too much pickle. You can ignore the cost of the tomato since McDs doesn’t have one. Your onions are far bigger than the tiny slivers on the McDs.

    You bought presliced pickles, and you should have bought whole and then sliced them yourself. That would have better approximated the McD pickles.

    Prepackaged, processed, sliced cheese is expensive. It is cheaper to buy block and slice it yourself. Of course determining the cost per slice would be much harder. The ketchup is probably about half a teaspoon, smeared all thin on there like that.

    Your buns are also bigger than the McDonalds bread. I don’t think even the super cheap discount generic brand store buns are as small and lousy as the McDonalds buns.

    I like this experiment. The fundamental flaw that I see is that you didn’t try to replicate the McDonald’s burger, you just made a burger with similar ingredients. You ended up with a much better burger, which accounts for its higher expense. If my wife doesn’t commit me, I might try to replicate your experiment this weekend.

  99. Shadowman says:

    Quoting your Article: “That’s right, it was more time-effective to make the homemade cheeseburgers and enjoy them again later than it was to go to McDonald’s twice and pick up the double cheeseburgers.”

    One problem with your comparison is that you made extra with the homeburger and saved some for later, but compared that to TWO trips to McDonald’s. A closer comparison would be to make only one trip to McDonald’s and buy extra burgers for later.

  100. Jason says:

    I haven’t eaten at McDonalds in 6+ years. Nothing sounds very appetizing.

  101. DanGarion says:

    I’m not sure if anyone else has already mentioned this but your calculations on the weight of the patties at McD’s is all wrong. You did not take into consideration that they give you an additional slice of cheese on the double.

  102. Bill says:


    MC D’s uses dehydrated onions that they let steep in a bit of cold water to rehydrate them… so you might have saved a bit of $ by buying a box of dehyrated onions versus a whole fresh onion in the long run.

  103. Homsar says:

    Chipotle is a high-quality fast-food restaurant without high prices. To do this analysis right you should only eat out for a week (or some period of time) and then make similar food from scratch for a week and compare the total costs. I prefer homemade burgers, but have been known to indulge in some McD’s when I am feeling lazy/short on time.

  104. Michael says:

    I work at a Dahls, and those buns are indeed overpriced. Go for the Dahl’s branded ones instead. I believe they are cheaper and they’re nice and chewy.

    I like how you skipped over the Dahl’s cheese even on a budget- that stuff sucks.

    We restock cheese on Mondays BTW.

  105. Kate says:

    McDonald’s burger meat is 10:1. That means that they get 10 patties to each pound.

  106. Nathan says:

    Oh, come on. Can you maybe do this without commenting here and there about how healthy and noble you are? I have trouble believing that ketchup actually makes you sick to your stomach when you eat it. I think it’s more like you want us to think that you’re so enlightened that you understand corn syrup isn’t good for you. And it’s nice to know that you usually use lean meat when you make burgers, but it’s irrelevant to this story.

    And I can’t help but note that you didn’t actually do what you did. You didn’t duplicate the McDonald’s burger – you made modifications, and used different ingredients.

  107. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    I love homemade ketchup, but that’s completely not valid to use in this comparison. Store-purchased ketchup is pretty foul, though – it tastes like syrup to me, and that’s not something I want on my cheeseburger.

  108. Melvin says:

    Oh, man, now I have to drive 12 miles into town and 12 miles back to get me a double c burger!

    I do think there’s something about McD burgers that makes them so good, and this cannot be duplicated at home.

    That being said homemade burgers are awesome, too. It’s almost like they are two different foods, McD burgers and homemade burgers. They are both tasty but not similar enough to be compared in this context.

  109. unxzst says:

    solution: dont eat cheezburger. cost: less than a dollar.

  110. Burgerlover says:

    good article, but your time analysis was done with a bias to your homemade version and this undermines the validity of what you are trying to do.

    You measured the time for the McD burger from when you stepped out of your vehicle until you stepped into your vehicle again for the acquisitions of one burger. You did not apply this same standard to the purchase of your homemade version and estimated that the burger ingredients add two minutes to the time an ordinary person would spend shopping for staples.

    By this standard, I could go into a McD’s and order a double cheeseburger, two big macs, a large fries, a chocolate milkshake, two side salads and an apple pie. If I can do this timed from vehicle exit to vehicle entrance in 13 minutes then the time spent on the the double cheeseburger would be about 90 seconds or less. Probably faster if you use the drive through.

    Please repeat the experiment and this time apply the same standards of measurement to both of the burgers. When you went to the store for your burger ingredients, and only the burger ingredients, what was the time spent from the exit of the vehicle until you entered it again?

  111. N. Zyme says:

    @ Amy (post of 9:06 am September 28th, 2007)
    > saturated ain’t where it’s at: Even a Little
    > Splurge May Be Too Much

    The article mentioned is not the first time the American Journal of ardiology has printed hysteria against saturated fats. Check out http://www.westonaprice.org/knowyourfats/fats_junkscience.html .

    Recommend you read a really good introduction to lipid science called “Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol” by biochemist Dr Mary Enig. Although a bit dry, you will learn from it how saturated fats are less prone to oxidisation than monounsaturated or, worse still, polyunsaturated fats. If you’ve heard about the importance of anti-oxidants in suppressing free radicals in the body, you will be horrified at your linked article actually promoting polyunsaturates – these oils are the most fragile and likeliest to oxidise, a prime source of free radicals. The dangers connected with polyunsaturates has led to the promotion of “healthy” olive oil (a monounsaturate) by margarine companies etc in recent years. Go to a health food shop and lood at cod liver oil – a polyunsaturate that we need – and you’ll see that good brands are stored in a fridge and in dark brown glass or metal bottles to prevent the fragile oil reacting with heat & light. Industrially processed polyunsaturated oils however are subjected to heat on their extraction and processing, and are rancid/patrially oxidised before they even hit the room-temperature supremarket shelf in a clear plastic bottle. Deodorisation has to occur before sale as nobody could stand the rancid stench – just go to a margarine or oil factory to find out how bad it smells.

    Just like the article I linked to above, the Uni of Sydney appears to have used junk food (cake and milk shakes), which introduces other factors which have not been mentioned. Was the cake made with margarine (source of trans fats) or butter? Was there sugar in the cake and the milk shake flavouring (sugar has negative health effects)? What other flavouring additives were in the ingredients? Presumably pasteurised milk was used, so that means the mael was entirely devoid of enzymes (killed by cooking), placing digestive stress on the body (forced to make all required digestive enzymes instead of receiving assistance from enzymes in the meal).

    HDL is mentioned by your article as protecting “the inner lining of the arteries from inflammatory agents”. This is inaccurate. The function of High Density Lipoprotein is to transport old cholesterol back to the liver for disposal. LDL is the lipoprotein that transports new cholesterol out from the liver to the cells of the body, that need it for cell wall integrity etc. Arterial inflammation can eventually lead to scarring or lesions, and cholesterol plays a part in the body’s repair response. Repeated internal abrasion, imflammation, scarring and repair can lead to a THICKENING of the arterial walls: scar tissue, of which cholesterol is a component, thickens the arterial wall from within. Cholesterol does not clog up your arteries like deposits on the interior wall of a pipe – if it did, the infinitely smaller capillaries at your extremities would be the first things to clog up. The key to heart disease is to find out what causes the inflammation of arteries – and cholesterol has not been scientifically shown to be that cause – check out Anthony Colpo’s excellent 2006 book “The Great Cholesterol Con” (contains over 1400 citations of scientific journals and research reports), where he examines the results of about 20 major scientific medical trials costing millions of dollars, conducted from the late 1950s through to the early 21st century. Of these, only 4 or 5 had any statistically significant result, and some of those were dodgey (like the Finnish Mental Hospital Trial where short-term and even patients admitted only for a day were included in the research data – its results are seriously flawed and were criticised at the time).

    As cholesterol is rushed to the sites of inflammation as a repair response, blaming it for heart disease is about as silly as blaming ambulance crews and paramedics for being the cause of a road accident. They are a sign that another event has ocurred, not the cause of it. Instead of trying to find the cause, certain scientists have been barking up the wrong tree for the last 50 years, with powerful money-making industries (processed food, medical and pharmaceutical) enthusiastically encouraging them in this with research funding, consumer brainwa-, sorry, advertising, gifts, free and subsidised trips to medical conferences in exotic locations, etc.

    That a cheap tin-pot Sydney Uni study with 14 participants can somehow suddenly “prove” something that numerous other million dollar studies conducted with tens of thousands of patricipants over periods lasting for years and even decades have consistently failed to prove, reeks of shillism. What is more interesting than the Sydney Uni study results would be to know who was motivated to perform the study and exactly why, where the study’s funding came from, and whether or not any corporate donations in cash or kind, sponsorship or research funding were “coincidentally” received.

    On the topic of burgers, the Macca burger label recorded a trans-fat content- not at all good if you want healthy cell metabolism and to avoid cancer. Also, unlike Trent’s ground beef, fast food burgers (not necessarily Macca’s, but who knows) can sometimes be “thinned out” with soy or other cheap fillers, so less of the more expensive real meat is used. And check out “Fast Food Nation” (the book or the movie) – there can definitely be more than you bargained for in a fast food burger patty, as food poisoning cases have shown.

  112. Trevor says:

    You know, you can go to McDonald’s and ask for a double cheeseburger, no ketchup, with tomato…

  113. PiFreak says:


    I’m slim and athletic too. I thank my mom and my metabolism for that. I play water polo, have four clubs a week, three college courses in high school, and rarely have time for a real meal. I eat some of the most unhealthy junk in the world, and am still lean and fairly athletic. My mom makes sure I get a good meal whenever I’m home for dinner, but during all-day tournaments, especially on cold day, I rely on fast food. We’re given $5 for lunch, and when the choice is a sit-down restaurant ($10 for a meal or more, $8 for an appetizer) or McDonalds ($3 for 3 burgers, and $2 for fries), I’ll spend less money, and get more food at McDonalds.

    Just my view.

    Fast food does have a time and a place

  114. Jon says:

    I personally enjoy the 99 cent Texas Double Cheeseburger from Wendy’s. It comes with mustard, but if you say, “No mustard, add mayo and ketchup…” it is just like the more expensive Wendy’s Double. And it is light years ahead of McDonald’s with lettuce, tomato, and onion already on it. For me, its hard to beat from a price point and a taste point.

  115. Carl says:

    Found this thread looking for salt content in McD’s double cheeseburger. http://www.mcdonalds.com/app_controller.nutrition.index1.html has it: 1150mg ! http://www.annecollins.com/sodium-rda-diet.htm shows the US RDA less than 2400mg/day and UK Recommended Nutritional Intake (RNI) less than 1,600 mg/day. Today might be the last time I ate at McD’s.

    What happened to salt shakers or packets? Does everything have to served salted-to-death? Is there anybody that likes that much salt? I am so thirsty right now.

  116. partgypsy says:

    My dad is in the restaurant business and had the opportunity to invest in McDonald’s at the ground floor. He declined, thinking, why would anyone buy hamburgers when they can be so inexpensively and tastily made at home? Needless to say he was wrong – I guess it’s about the convenience, and I suppose some people like how it tastes. I guess it’s an acquired taste.
    The first time I went to mcDonalds is when I won a lunch trip from school for getting good grades or something. At the time I took a couple bites. I didn’t want to finish it but I thought it was inpolite not to eat it so I hid it under my napkin! My family’s style was to stop at owner operated diners than fast food restaurants if we needed to eat while traveling.
    Nowadays I do eat fast food if I am traveling on the road, for the convenience and a way to get out of the car, but that’s only a couple times a year.

  117. Raz says:

    Great article/experiment. I agree that food prepared at home is almost always healthier and looks better. Back when I was in college I would eat fast food for almost all my meals because I was lazy to cook, wanted to hurry up and go out with friends, and I thought it was cheaper.. and really it boils down to laziness. People today are so used to having things when they want, that they can’t even spend a little time learning to make a great meal. I used to warm up hot pockets every afternoon and one day I just got so tired of the same thing I decided to talk to friends to teach me to cook. I’m glad to say I haven’t been to a McDonald’s in almost 4 years.

  118. I like this article/blog, but I have to point out that Wendy’s and BurgerKing both offer double cheeseburgers at the $1 price. Carl’s Jr. offers the big burger (without cheese) at $1, and the size of the burger is comparable to that of the McDonald’s double cheese. McDonalds is carcinogenic – but that is besides the point. Wendy’s, Carl’s Jr. and BurgerKing are all better quality in terms of meat, condiments, etc. and are in the same ballpark in terms of price.

    If your homemade burgers were made with relish I would ask you for one, that is, if we were friends, or even a fairly distant relative that would come to visit every once in a while. Which brings me up to this point, do you visit your relatives? Because if you are eating McDonald’s – you don’t have much time left on this earth!!! I hate McDonalds, as well as guitar center and carlson guitars, costco, wal-mart, um….. pizzacato (a crappy franchise-chain of trendy crap-food) this mexican restaurant down the street that messed up my order and then gave me food they sent home with someone else, and refused to re-cook my food because the guy had “just picked at it” and not actually eaten it…. I also strongly dislike Hillary Clinton, but I am ok with John Huckabilly, John McCain, and John B. Obama. Lot’s of Johns running for prez, funny how Johns follow Georges?!?

    So what irritates me is all the people that are like “oh, you forgot to factor in your gas and drive time” and “you forgot to add in your freezer and frige energy costs” and “technically you had to cook it yourself instead of having someone (literally) sweat over the grill (and possibly lose their pubes and saliva in your meal) and your shopping time”

    What kind of morons sit on the internet, find a total stranger’s blog, and then leave a really long and ANNOYING blurg on what they think, how they like to use run-on sentences, and what the dangers of buying a crappy guitar when you are high on drugs?!?! Oh, that would be me. I bought a carlson guitars PG70 with a broken neck at guitar center, I knew it was used and looked and played really awesome, but I didn’t know that it had a cracked neck. Inbetween the fretboard and the maple was a break and when I took it back the next day they said they couldn’t do anything. RETARDS!

    Makes me want to eat a hamburger, or 2 or 3… I think I will go get a McDonalds double cheese right now at 2:25am and start in on developing advanced cancer from their chemically altered “food”. I LOVE AMERICA, don’t you!?

    PS, I also love the internet.


  119. Mike says:

    What’s wrong with carlson guitars?

  120. Jason says:

    For those of you who love the McDonalds puck…y’all are crazy. The analysis clearly shows that the cost is cheaper at home…is it as convenient no maybe not, but it is definately cheaper. Too many lazy Americans are just that too lazy to make their own food. And what is this nonsense about a grill costing too much…there are umpteen thousand types of grills out there, and if you live in an apartment or a dorm room, get yourself a little George Foreman. But for gods sake dont even compare a McDonalds Burger to the real home made thing. The meat is full of fillers and bought from the cheapest vender, I am sure there is absolutely no freshness…you are eating junk, if this is a daily staple of yours then you can start adding in some silly costs we can associate with a diet rich in McDonalds dollar menu crap….obesity, diabetes, these will increase your health insurance costs…and mine…hmm what else, oh how about the gas if your driving to McDonalds…everyone HAS to go to the store at some point in time, get all your stuff for the week…now if you are going to McDonalds every day…whats the gas price now? $4+ dollars a gallon…A vehicle that gets 20 miles per gallon…your gonna spend what .20 cents a mile…couple miles there and back..thats .40 cents x 5 days thats two bucks you just wasted just on getting to McDonalds. I could go on and on with this nonsense…bottom line, We have become lazy and dependent on a crappy burger chain serving crap food at what appear to be cheap prices…do yourself a favor, make yourself the home made burger.

  121. Ionait says:

    A lot of people are really picking at this thing to death. I thing the fact is, if you are a McDonald’s fan, nothing will change that. Not Super Size Me, not this article, not your favorite cousin eating it every day and suffering horrible obesity.

    We all like what we like.

    This article was just throwing another point of view on McDonald’s vs. cooking at home and I believe it did a grand job of it. Maybe it wasn’t completely objective, but who can be? All of our likes tend to shine through.

    This person took a lot of their own time to perform this little experiment and even went to a restaurant to buy food they knew they didn’t like! Be appreciative you didn’t have to go through that trouble to reach this conclusion.

  122. Flipz says:

    Your math was incorrect.

    -From Above-
    “the single cheeseburger is 4 ounces, while the double cheeseburger is 5.8 ounces. That means a beef patty at McDonald’s has a weight of 1.8 ounces”

    Wrong, you forgot to factor in the second slice of cheese, so the weight of of each McDonald’s patty would actually be less than 1.8 oz

  123. bob says:

    How is the cost cheaper at home? “The burger I assembled above cost $1.83, while the McDonald’s double cheeseburger was $1.06.” That’s a 50% difference in price. And, that cost doesn’t include:
    Labor (included in Mickey D’s)
    Fuel (included in Mickey D’s)
    Opportunity cost

    I’d say the time it take to go to Mickeys v. time to shop for ingredients is a wash.

    You’re far better off having a bowl of rice, some veggies, and a small serving of fish or meat than either of these choices, plus it’s cheaper.

    But if what you need are calories, fast, Mickey D’s certainly seems to stack up.

    Also, if I can remember my animal husbandry class correctly, I believe that Mickey D’s is the worlds #1 purchaser of Choice beef on the planet. I suspect that the beef quality is probably a little higher in the McD’s version, but can’t say for sure.

  124. deepali says:

    You forgot the amount of your tax dollars that goes towards the subsidies that McDonalds receives from the government… so you paid a bit more then $1.06 for the double cheeseburger…

  125. pax says:

    I really do not think that those frozen patties from McDs are 100% all beef? I think these frozen pucks they buy from their vendors are not made from the greatest beef parts either to top off and are loaded with unhealthy fillers … and also sodium-ified to death… they taste horrible– I have a friend who works for a company that sells cases of wholesale burgers to companies and I think one is McDs and I had a box here he gave us and even the cats wouldn’t eat them–ugh!!

    I would say if you want to stretch the most expensive part of the meal–the beef– use healthy fillers yourself like ground oatmeal, bran flakes and even some tvp…. less fat, calories more bulk and you dont notice it at all if done correctly … and you know exactly what filler is going into your beef…
    Also someone mentioned the gas prices– if McDs is a few miles away factor the gas into the drive as well as the time spent driving back and forth etc…and hope you dont have a gas guzzlng suv…gas around here is $4.20 a gallon…

    Hmmmm… maybe walking to and from McDs might be a better option for more than one reason!!
    I am not into fast food and the few times a year if that we get some it is at Wendys and only a burger or 2…
    I myself make and eat veggie/bean burgers-cheapest yet and healthy and loasded with anything you wanna put in them to make them a hamburger consistency..all you need is a good little food chopper!!
    … and I freeze them in patties for future use….

  126. Merlin says:

    I know other have mentioned the time-at-the-supermarket question, and Trent addressed it saying he would be there buying staples anyway, but I still think he’s waaaaaay off base on this one. I would submit that most people who routinely live on various forms of takeaway [like pizzas, chicken, kebabs, fish’n’chips etc] would NOT be going to the supermarket once a week anyway. I might go once every 6 – 8 weeks or so for things like shampoo or razors or cleaning supplies. I can’t remember the last time I spent less than 20 minutes in a queue at the checkout. Why do they always have 8 – 10 terminals sitting there doing nothing and only two or three girls working?

    And as far as cooking time goes – anyone who can chop up an onion in less than 2 minutes must be a qualified chef. For me, knives and fingers don’t mix…

  127. Alana says:

    I’m sorry but I wouldn’t buy anything from McDonald’s. I wouldn’t even go there even if it was free. The food is unhealthy and disgusting. I prefer the homemade version because down the road, the price to pay, healthwise is too high eating this fast food stuff.

  128. Matt says:

    I have to chime in and agree that Trent’s analysis wasn’t accurate, both in terms of time and cost. If an average time to wait at McDonalds was 11 minutes, no one would go there. Plus, whether you get 5 hamburgers or 1 hamburger, the wait time is the same. And I must be sick, but the picture of that disgusting looking McDonald hamburger gives me cravings, lol

    That being said, an 80/20 hamburger is what McDonald’s uses. And grilling it does make it healthier (if you use 97/3 meat, though, grilling it doesn’t really make it any healthier). And since there are leftover buns, onions, etc, just use the portion of what you used and don’t count the leftovers, because you could just buy another pound of beef and keep going until it’s all used up.

    Here’s a good recipe for hamburgers: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Garlic-and-Onion-Burgers/Detail.aspx?ms=1&prop25=10935348&prop26=DailyDish&prop27=2008-07-02&prop28=DailyRecipe&prop29=FullRecipe&me=1

    I don’t remember the last time I’ve gotten a burger from McDonald’s. And I love grilling at home. But I hate to say it, there is a definite cost and time savings by eating off the $1 menu, no matter what type of spin you put on the analysis. Sorry, Trent :-/

    As for taste… McDonald’s doesn’t come close. Unfortunately, that doesn’t matter to the more-and-more obese American culture. I’ll take the homemade one any day of the week…. but this analysis was on time and cost, and McDonalds wins on those two fronts.

  129. MinHee says:

    I would like you to put sugar free and fat free icecream (vanilla or chocolate sundae) on the dollar menu. This is very important the only sugar free sweetner you should use in the sugar free icecream is splenda. It is the safest sugar free sweetner for diabetics. I want you to also make sugar free and fat free milkshakes for my mom and all the rest of the diabetics in this world. Please also make vanilla and chocolate milkshakes. Also remember that the sugar free sweetner in the vanilla and chocolate milkshakes needs to only contain this sugar free sweetner splenda. I want you to do this for my mom who is diabetic and also for all the other people in this world who are diabetic as well.
    I know my mom and all the other diabetics in this world would really appreciate this. Please show your kindness for my mom and all the other diabetics in this world.

  130. Michel says:

    Well, the price of groceries Trent mentioned were so far outside my (ridiculously inflated D.C. metro area) experience at grocery stores, so I checked out Peapod (Giant’s online shopping site) to do the math for myself. And, well, decided to share my figures just because it gives a bit of geographical balance, and ok really because I’m bored at work :)

    I found that in D.C. you can make the same basic burger Trent made for $2.05, which while like Trent’s is about double the dollar-menu double cheeseburger, the difference in quality makes it worthwhile in my eyes. Here are my numbers (please note that I do, however, love both ketchup and onions, so I always have both well-stocked for other recipes, so for me they are a sunk cost and a smidgen used in these recipes were too negligible to include in my estimates):
    *Beef $4.29 1lb (the very cheapest possible)
    *Am Chs grocery brand $2.50
    *Pickles $2.19
    *Buns grocery brand $1.29
    =Total $10.27
    At 5 hamburgers $2.05 each (with 2 extra buns, and a whole lot of pickles left over)

    For me, the time spent cooking/cleaning would be more than you allotted, but not a lot… there are definitely days that I don’t have the time to drive home, make dinner, and then drive back to wherever I need to be next, which for me is often more important than the time spent making the actual meal, which is why sometimes I stop for fast food.

    Trent, thanks for the comparison, you’re definitely on to something.

  131. Sam says:

    Both are absolutely fine in moderation. Either will make you a fat, unhealthy pig eating them every day.

    Homemade burgers taste better of course but take much more time to prepare, you’re kidding yourself with the time estimates on the homemade burger.

  132. Jen says:

    That is asolutely untrue. If you eat one burger a day it is about 1/3 of your daily fat and calorie allowance on a 1500 calorie diet. If your other meals are reasonable as well, you can be perfectly healthy, especially if you get some exercise.

    There is no need to eat a burger every day either. Eat it once a week. All the ingredients will keep for a month or more in the freezer or fridge. Make other healthy and even cheaper food at home the other days of the week.

  133. Bettsi says:

    People are so funny! I always get such a kick out of the comments on this blog. Everyone speaks with such authority!

    One thing I would like to point out is that a better way to calculate the cost per burger would be to take, say, the pickles. It was $2.49 for the jar. How many servings in the jar? Divide $2.49 by the amount of servings and put that in a “cost per burger” equation. Same for each ingredient. That way you get a true cost instead of “$9 makes five burgers plus a whole bunch of leftover stuff.” If it’s worth it to you. Amy Dacyczyn would do it that way, you know! LOL. Thanks for a thought-provoking post, as usual.

  134. Merlin says:

    the trouble with that is you can’t go up to the checkout with 28c and ask them for 1/9th of a jar of pickles. Or a fifth of a tomato.

    The few times I’ve tried to buy healthy food, I’ve ended up throwing out more than triple the amount I’ve actually eaten. Who can eat a whole watermelon before it goes off? or even a pineapple?

    I still maintain, [and I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit lately, trying to reduce my bills in general] that cooking at home just doesn’t work unless you’re cooking for a small tribe.

  135. TJ says:

    Your hypothetical shopping time is wildly inaccurate. TWO MINUTES TO SHOP FOR THE SUPPLIES!? I can just about walk down the apartment stairs to my car and back in two minutes. Add driving to Safeway (5 minutes), navigating the multitude of aisles pickout out the items (about 10 minutes), checking out (5 minimum), driving home (another 5), and it’s about a half hour. BUT, I can get to Micky Ds and back with my double cheeseburger in about 10. And darn if things just don’t taste better when others cook it!

  136. nola says:

    I always make my burgers at home since my time as a food safety inspector….
    Your burger is healthier, cheaper and a lot nicer to look at. And, if you wash hands, you might produce it in a more hygienic way…

  137. Whoa, I live in Asia where no one owns a dishwasher, everyone does it by hand! I don’t use napkins either, though I do have plates and a kitchen.

    Would love a grill but unfortunately I live in an apartment.

    I do admit that McDo can do it cheaper and faster but when I do my own cooking I often use partially organic ingredients which improves the quality of the food (and the price).

  138. Mansi says:

    Hi Trent,

    I’m a fairly regular reader of your site and recently came across this post. Being a resident of India, where homemade food is still the norm and we’re just starting the war of fast food, I found your article quite fascinating.

    I remember when KFC had earlier opened in Delhi, I was perhaps in college, the fascination that I had for the taste of its Zinger Burger.

    Since then, we have the MacD and the KFC at every corner, and slowly but steadily, the meals there have lost their shine.

    These days, when I crave for a burger, I just throw some marinated chicken onto the grill for a quick spicy tikka, put it between a bun with a slice of pickle, and some mint mayonnaise.

    Its delicious and both I and my husband prefer it infintely to the flat and plastic tasting fast food.

    I would recommend you to try some Indian snack recipes, given how much you love cooking. If you’ve ever had Indian food at a restaurant, believe me, what we eat at home everyday doesnt taste like that at all. Its much healthier, simpler and easier to prepare.


  139. Mansi says:

    In addition to my comment earlier, I also want to add that I do not own a fancy grill, I just have a grilling option in my tiny budget microwave. I find it quite adequate for simple activities like making a tikka.

  140. Matt says:

    Did it honestly take you two minutes to get ALL of the supplies? That was the only B.S. part that I found in the article. Otherwise, great work!

  141. Jihan says:

    Hello, I just wan tot leave a little comment, I hope no one is offended by my opinion on this:

    “* your kitchen – You have to wash the dishes, and buy the napkins, buy the plates to begin with. Oh and don’t forget that having a kitchen means you have to buy a house.
    * your grill is a huge sunk cost upfront.
    * the cost of the propane to heat up your grill
    * your dishwasher uses lots of water, electricity, and dish soap (not to mention that you had to buy a dishwasher to begin with)”


    1) To eat a burger you don’t always have to wash dishes, you can put it on a napkin basically. I don’t think napkins only apply to this burger online. You’re going to need napkins for other things too, aren’t you? Unless you’re a sloppy person, you’re not going to need more than one napkin. Having a kitchen means you have to have a house? What about people who live in APARTMENTS? Does that mean only people with homes have kitchens? What about McDonalds, they needed a kitchen too.

    2) Of course you don’t always have to buy a grill… I think this recipe works on a huge pan too. If it DOES need a grill, you can skip making it.

    3) I don’t know how much that’s going to cost, so I cannot argue with it.

    4) What if you don’t use a dishwasher? It doesn’t take long to rub a plate with soap and then rinse it off. Not to mention as I said earlier, you don’t have to use a plate.

    I just think a lot of people here overexamine the idea. Don’t forget, Trent is also takes time to blog and show you the differences between the McDonalds and home made burger. The homemade one looks a lot more healthy, the only reason why the McDonald’s one is a lot cheaper and takes no time to prepare is because someone else is doing the work for you you and also, it’s a lot more unhealthy. I don’t like burgers that much myself though, but usually, something coming from a fast food restuarant is always deemed unhealthy in many ways.

  142. James says:

    I do agree the analysis in time is a bit off, but I want to chime in and say it is ridiculous reading into all of the extra costs of propane and grills, etc

    Well think about it, if you buy the McD’s burger, you still have gas in the car you paid for, that grill, frying pan, kitchen, apartment or house are still an expense anyway, its not like those items just dont exist as a cost if you dont use them.

    At the same time, he calculated his time for just going to the store specifically for these burgers, most people would buy this stuff while being at the store regularly anyway. Going grocery shopping is a necessity, so you buy your meals for the week while you are there. Going to McD’s though is NOT a necessity and really is going out of your way after work, the right way to go is straight home. For the extra 15 minutes you would spend getting through traffic and waiting for your burger is 15 minutes closer to home you can be or if you live less than that home like I do, you may already be making your burger at that point.

  143. Linsay says:

    Speaking of hidden costs, what about the cost of gas to get to McDonalds for each meal? The wear and tear on your car? The costs to buy the car? The fuel you waste in the drive-thru at meal times? Much more cost effective to go to the grocery store once per week, than McDonalds several times.

  144. Aileen says:

    1) this is why LA (it was LA, right?) has banned any additional fast food restaurants from being built and they’re adding incentives for grocery stores to build there. For those of you commenting on the effort of going to a fast food restaurant vs going to the grocery store, in some areas of the country, that’s reversed. I have to walk past a dozen+ fast food places to get to one(!) local grocery store, which is hugely overpriced, in my urban neighborhood.
    2) Again, regionality… in many urban areas you will find the kind of upscale fast food restaurants you’re talking about, Trent. To the commenter who said that’s what Chipotle is like, I beg to differ. Chipotle’s menu items are so over-salted that they are basically inedible if you aren’t used to them (at least in my neck of the wooods).

  145. john says:

    Let’s get a life. The reason why Mickey D’s cheeseburger are 1.06 and smaller than something you can make is because of the labor. It costs 8.00/hr to pay somebody to make these things and they can probably only make about 50-75/hr so you are probably paying 25-30 cents alone for the labor. The contents are probably 60cents and profit might be a nickle to a dime. That’s it.

    So if you can make a double cheeseburger for 60cents I’d say go for it, otherwise shut up and enjoy the cheese burger.

  146. Gregory Glouster says:

    Umm, they make it for you. You have to include that in the price haha. Wow.

  147. k2000k says:

    I would go with the homemade burgers, not necessarily because they are healthier, you can make them just as unhealthy at home and as an aside no restaurant is really healthy, but because of the freedom factor. Lastly, don’t use super size me as an accurate illustration of the effects of fast food. There were a lot of things wrong with that documentary when it came to its method, i.e changing more than one variable, 3 examples consumption increase of McDonald’s, method of traveling, and portion control; or having a test subject that couldn’t even finish a big mac without vomiting. It was entertaining, but overblown. Anyways, Trents pictures alone should illustrate why homemade trumps Mike Ds with or without factoring the dozens of ways we could amortize this.

  148. J says:

    I’m a little confused…How is the meat with less fat healthier? Dietary fat, especially from beef is essential to the human diet.

  149. Catherine says:

    Um. No. Saturated fat, the type found in beef is NOT essential to the human diet, but a detriment. Fat is an essential part of a healthy diet, but definitely not fat from animal sources. That is the stuff that hardens in arteries and leads to CAD. The fact is, the only fats that have any positive health benefits are the unsaturated fats, like olive, canola and walnut oil.

  150. steve says:

    I want to see you make a burger press so they are the exact same size and thickness as the MCD ones, then freeze them first to help get that “Mickie Dee” texture. Maybe add some wheat gluten in to the beef or something to stretch it out, I bet they do at McD’s. Then use a microwave to cook them.

    also measure the pickle thickness and custom slice your pickles to the right spec.

  151. Johnny Dozer says:

    @Steve LOL Let’s not get too pedantic.

  152. Claire says:

    I believe Burger King now offers a vegan “burger”. Also, Taco Bell’s Al Fresca menu is great, you can get a chicken taco w. fresh pico de gallo on it, yum. I take them home and add a little fat free sour cream on top.

  153. Megan says:

    I go to McDonald’s (and Wendy’s) for convenience, sure, but when I do so I make sure I order, the cheapest, healthiest items on the menu: yogurt parfait, apple dippers, mandarin oranges, grilled chicken wraps, baked potatoes, chili, etc. I know I pay more for these foods than if I were to pick them up at, say, a grocery store and/or prepare them at home, but the difference is worth it to me.

  154. Brittney says:

    Some of you guys saying that home costs like plates, grill (or stove/oven) should be included. THINK ABOUT IT. You will have these things for years and even if you broke down the price per item cooked on the appliance it would only add a few cents. You use a stove, dishwasher, grill thousands of times before you buy a new one, if you use it 1,000 times before it breaks and it costs $1,00 that’s 1 cent per item cooked. Get real here in the long run it will only add a few cents, even if you round up the home-made to $2.00 it still is healthier, and cheaper if you want more items on your burger since most fast food places charge about .50 cents for extra or added item. We all eat out once in a while which is fine, we just need to stop making excuses of why we do. So you like Mcdonalds? Good for you! If someone asks you why didn’t you just make it at home? Say why! “I just was craving Mcdonalds and I like Mcdonalds, so sue me.” We all eat it once in a while, and that’s fine. Just man up and quit trying to use excuses of why you can’t serve your family or yourself a healthy meal. It is exactly like the excuses people make when they don’t want to exercise, the only difference here is that people find the excuses about fast food except-able while with exercise are rarely accepted and the person is told to stop making excuses, or something similar to that.

  155. Shell says:

    When I make burgers for my family, I add oats or fresh bread crumbs. I find it makes the burger more tender and they usually rave about them and ask what I did to the burgers. I just smile and say, “my secret.” It stretches the meat, gives added nutrition (oats). So far, no complaints, only compliments. I also use fresh tomatoes instead of ketchup. We usually have oven baked fries with this.

  156. molly says:

    i agrre with you im a vegetarian nothing at mcdonalds is real when u made your own hamburgers it was much healthier and i think it probly tasted better

  157. Rebecca says:

    “I’d like to meet the guy who can walk into McDonald’s and order 1 double cheeseburger and walk out.”

    That is definitely tough. Hubby and I like to hit the Whataburger drive-thru a couple times a month, just because we love the taste of their burgers. To help keep the cost and the calories down we make baked fries at home before going, and bring our reusable bottle from home. It doesn’t really work if you go spontaneously, but since we usually don’t, it works for us.

    “I don’t tend to be evangelical about being vegetarian. But maybe the bigger question needs to be whether we should be eating burgers at all. It’s much more costly to our environment to eat beef than it is to eat lower on the food chain. :)”

    If you don’t want to eat meat, don’t. I will continue to eat meat, and enjoy it.

  158. Steve in W MA says:

    The Double Stack on the Wendy’s dollar menu pwns the Mcdonald’s dollar menu cheeseburger. Wendy’s has a really tasty mandarin orange cup on the dollar menu too.

  159. TigerLily says:

    Also, in the long run, the fast-food, less healthy alternative will come back to “bite” you in the way of healthcare costs related to poor diet such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

    Great write up!

  160. Pat says:

    The Best Dollar menu burger is Rally’s / Checkers
    you get a burger patty, a slice of tomato, a partial slice of raw white onion, some iceberg lettuce, and some dressing (ketchup and mustard) possibly some mayo (not sure) and I can’t remember if there was a pickle or not. a napkin, a bag, a burger wrapper, and part of the receipt tape. For the price this beat’s anyone else’s dollar burger hands down. How they do this so cheap I haven’t a clue I would stop there all the time, but I don’t care for their fries.
    Please someone do a comparison and show what you’d have to do to get the same value at home, as I’d like to try. When adding the time you are not listing the time to drive to the store, but you’d have to drive to rally’s to, so that’s a wash.
    how someone is able to shop for all the necessary items in only 2 minutes is beyond me. I’d like to know how to do this. in doing the comparison you don’t need to add necessary hardware you’d have anyway. and keep in mind that rally’s has to pay someone minimum wage per hour. so in some respects they have it harder, while in others like bulk pricing easier.
    So are you able to make a burger at home compared to rally’s checkers dressed dollar burger for about the same price?

  161. This website was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something that helped me.
    Many thanks!

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