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Keeping Your Bill Under $2 At The Drive-Through

The cost of fast food is going through the roof, but there are still some bargains to be had. I love the dollar menu when indulging in fast food (which I don't do more than a couple of times per week). McDonald's now calls it Dollar Menu & More, Wendy's calls it the 'Right Price Right Size Menu' and Burger King has a 'Value Menu.' So called dollar or value menus offer smaller portions and items that are 'less deluxe.' The first thing you may have noticed lately is that dollar menus prices have been creeping up well beyond a dollar for many selections. Depending on where you live, you may see options all the way up to $2.00 but most are still between $1 and $1.50.

But who wants a stripped down item from the dollar menu?

There are some little known ways of taking a dollar menu item and making it much more deluxe (without spending much more). For example, at Burger King you can ask for a tomato to be added to a sandwich from the Value Menu. This will only add about 30 cents and can turn a plain hamburger into more of a 'mini Whopper.' There are similar strategies at McDonald's. My son (while trying to survive as a starving college student) discovered that he could order a double cheeseburger and have them hold the ketchup, add Big Mac sauce and lettuce (depending on the location this may cost 40 to 50 cents more.) Voila, he now has a Big Mac for about one third the price (the only difference - no extra middle bun).

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I can't order from the dollar menu, I'm starving

I have been there and sometimes a smaller sandwich is not going to do the trick. If that is the case I simply order two value menu items and still keep my bill at less than half of a full priced 'meal.'

Keep your bill low with a courtesy cup of water and skip the fries

Dollar menus are mostly made up of items that are loss leaders for fast food chains. They hope you will be drawn in by the low cost menu, only to succumb to the #1 super size belly buster meal. They also bet that even if all you buy is the $1 sandwich you will probably order a soda and maybe some fries (and this is where they will make their money).

Soft drinks have become super expensive (and I gave up soda more than two years ago) so I just ask for a 'courtesy cup' of water. What you will get is a small cup of tap water with ice, a lid, and a straw. I have never once had to pay for water at any of the major chains. If you are extra thirsty, you can always ask for two courtesy cups of water. To keep the bill low, and avoid another unhealthy add-on, skip the fries. If you just can't pass up the fries, settle for the value menu size option for about a buck. 

There is a Wendy's a few blocks from our church. Ann and I many times will stop there for a quick lunch if we are not going straight home after the service. We usually each get two items from the 'Right Price Right Size Menu' and two courtesy cups of water (about $5 to $6 total). We typically grab a table and eat inside so that we can make out our grocery list for the week.

Do you have your own value menu strategy? Share it in the comments section below.

Helping you make the most of God's money!

James L. Paris 
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