Busy parents and people with hectic schedules may find drive-ins a lifesaver. Regardless of a long day at work, the rush to get dinner to a hungry family at home is inevitable. The lure of a family meal deal and dollar menu choices promise a better bang for our buck, but is it really?
Here’s a look at how a few favorite fast food items stack up against cooking at home:
Church’s Chicken has a family meal for $16.99, which includes 11 pieces of fried chicken, two sides and four biscuits. With tax, that comes to $18.39. Cook chicken and vegetables at home, and you’ll spend about $12.
A pizza is a cheap way to feed the whole family. A large pepperoni lover’s pizza from Pizza Hut comes to $14.07. But it’s about $4 less to buy ingredients at a grocery store.
It’s comparable in price to grocery store items — about $2 less — but only because lean ground beef and whole wheat buns were used in the calculations. The use of store brand white buns and a fattier ground beef would lower the cost by a few more dollars.
Fast food favorites can be made at home and adjusted to make it healthier. Creating a budget-friendly shopping list that creates good-tasting food just takes some planning, said Brook Buffington, a nutrition specialist at Brookshire’s Grocery Co.
It can be argued that “value meals” are more about convenience than saving money. Ms. Buffington said one way to have convenience at home is to prepare meals on weekends then store or freeze them for use in other dishes later.
Other ways to stretch the dollar and keep meals healthy include having a meatless day by focusing more on legumes and grains, Ms. Buffington said.
Chicken is versatile. A bulk can be cooked in one day and used for various meals, including casseroles, salads, soups and pizzas.
Ms. Buffington said the most important benefit of cooking at home is being knowledgeable about what the family is eating.
“You don’t necessarily know every ingredient that goes into your food when you get a value meal,” she said. “You can come (to the grocery store) and pick out your cheese and know what kind of oils you’re using. You can get 2 percent cheese or the fat-free milk. This way, you can control how much salt goes into it. You know everything that’s going into that meal when it’s homemade.”