Greetings! I’m going to take a break from tirelessly advertising my Humanatee fund for a moment to discuss a topic that everyone enjoys: FOOD! Specifically, how cost-effective and health-effective it is to learn how to cook (which is pretty simple for most things) and buy groceries as opposed to eating fast food or processed foods all the time.
Last week, I ranted on my Facebook about how tired I am of hearing people complain that they’re overweight or malnourished or whatever their ailment may be, because it’s too expensive to buy nutritional food. Aside from the fact that vegetables are probably the cheapest thing ever to buy (come on, 5lbs of potatoes costs roughly $2…what CAN’T you make with potatoes?!), the worst is watching these same people go to a fast food chain and buy their meals off the dollar menu, reasoning that it’s “all that they can afford.”
Then, today, I went to McDonald’s for dinner at work because I was pressed for time, STARVING, and unwilling to wait another 3 hours until I got home to eat. And it was horrible. I felt gross, and I could tell that I was ingesting pure shit.
After someone reminded me that I’d mentioned alternatives to eating out, I thought, “You know what? I’m going to analyze what we ate for dinner on Tuesday night and compare it to McTurdy’s–I mean, McDonald’s.”
So, that is what I’m going to do!
SO, let’s first meet our comparison: the quarter pounder cheeseburger meal, medium, from McDonald’s. This image from sldesigns.ca shows McDonald’s in its more true form, without the incredible photography and Photoshop skills of McDonald’s advertising team.
Let’s take a look at the nutritional content of the meal as a whole:
520 (burger), 380 (fries). For the sake of this comparison, we’re going to pretend that you’re drinking a diet soda, because everyone knows that when consuming mass amounts of carbs and fat, we all feel better ordering a diet soda. BUT, know that if you did order a medium Coke classic, you’d be adding 210 carby-carbed up calories to your meal.
TOTAL: 900 CALORIES
That seems like kind of a lot for one meal, but it does depend on what’s in it. For example, more protein usually equals more calories because some types of calorie sources contain more calories per gram than others, and are metabolized differently.
Total Fat: 19g (fries), 26g (burger) = 45g fat
Total Protein: 4g (fries), 29g (burger) = 33g protein
Total Carbohydrates: 48g (fries), 40g (burger) = 88g carbs
It should be noted that a small percentage of the carbohydrates are in the form of dietary fiber (8g total), which if you follow the Atkins diet, somehow means that they don’t exist. =D But really, dietary fiber mostly passes through the digestive system unprocessed and helps…basically smooth along the process. So I guess one could take that into consideration and deduct 32 calories from this meal because we assume that it won’t be processed.
The percentage breakdown of this meal is as follows: 27% fat, 20% protein, 53% carbohydrates.
Most people only take into consideration how much fat is in a meal, believing simply by the word itself that fat is a terrible thing. What you really need to watch out for though is your carb intake, because the body is only capable of storing excess carbs, for use as energy, for a little while (and can only store a certain amount) before it gets converted into fat. Protein, on the other hand, requires more energy for the body to metabolize into energy, and often requires as much energy to process as one would gain from its caloric intake, according to this website. But, we won’t get into that–the point is, carbohydrates, if unused, convert to THE SAME as fat. Our body burns both for energy, but if you take in more calories than you burn–well, fat is created. People are FINALLY understanding this, but for so long, an enormous base of grains was considered the foundation of a healthy diet.
How much does a McDonald’s medium quarter pounder with cheese meal cost? It varies by country, state, and even city, but where I live, this costs about $6.00-$7.00 with taxes for one meal.
Now, let’s examine the alternative dinner: an 8oz boneless pork chop steak with green beans and a biscuit! The pork chops were purchased from Sprouts, the green beans are frozen, and the biscuits are Pillsbury Grands Original. The example picture from Pinterest below shows a fried pork chop, but ours were pan-seared with soy sauce and sesame oil, then topped with salt, pepper, and steak seasoning.
(just so you know, I didn’t take this picture, it’s from Pinterest. BUT THIS IS WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE.)
8 oz Pork Chop: 420 calories
1 Biscuit: 170 calories
2/3 cup green beans: 23 (really killin’ it here)
TOTAL CALORIES: 613
So far, we have fewer calories already. What’s in them?
Total Fat: 24.5g (pork), 7g (biscuit), 0g (green beans) = 31.5g fat
Total Protein: 47g (pork), 3g (biscuit), 1g (green beans) = 51g protein
Total Carbohydrates: 0g (pork…wow!), 25g (biscuit), 5g (green beans) = 30g carbs
The meal breakdown is 27% fat, 46% protein, and 26% carbohydrates.
As you can see here, the meal is comprised of the same percentage of fat as the McDonald’s meal (though there is actually less fat because the pork chop meal has fewer calories overall), but look at the swapping of the protein and carbs. The protein will break down slower, allowing you to use all of your carbs for energy instead of storing them–even if you’re a lazy slug like me who only makes a real effort to exercise for an hour a week!
OH BUT WAIT, does this meal contain dietary fiber too? Why yes! This meal contains a total of 3.5g of dietary fiber as well, potentially nixing a small 14 calories from the meal.
This is the part that will stun you…what if I told you it was actually cheaper for you to eat this tasty, amazing pork chop meal? Because it is!
Local-farmed pork chops from Sprouts: $4.30 for the package ($3.99/lb plus tax)
Pillsbury Grand Biscuits: $1.50 for the roll, or 25 cents per biscuit
1 lb bag Steamers frozen green beans: $2, or about 55 cents per 2/3 cup serving (the serving used in this meal at least)
TOTAL COST: $7.80 for all the ingredients, $6 for what we used for two people (plus leftover biscuits for breakfast and extra veggies!), boiling down to about $3 per meal, and only about 20 minutes of your time. BAM.
Overall, I’m pretty sure that the quarter pounder lost. When comparing these two meals, we found that the homemade meal actually cost roughly half the price of the quarter pounder meal, contained 287 fewer calories, contained 18g more protein and a whopping 58g FEWER CARBOHYDRATES. Unless you’re running a marathon across the county Forrest Gump style, I seriously doubt you’ll need those extra 58g of carbs.
And once again, half the price here, people!
So, that ends my first analysis of home-cooked grocery food vs. fast food.This article, however, only addresses a small number of people stricken with money problems who buy fast food in place of groceries. The majority are buying highly processed grocery foods that are high in fructose corn syrups, sugars, preservatives, and chemicals that are TERRIBLE for your health. Those will be addressed (soon, hopefully!) as their own separate and very pressing issue. In the mean time, I hope you enjoyed this analysis!