These Are the Cheapest Meals You Can Order at McDonald’s

The Golden Arches are ubiquitous, offering a quick and predictable way to fill your belly on a long road trip or during a short lunch break. But not all menu items are created equal.

Gone are the days when McDonald’s had a limited menu featuring 19-cent cheeseburgers, 10-cent fries, and 20-cent shakes. With few options and relatively low prices, customers in the 1950s didn’t have to do too much math to figure out how to get the best deal.

These days, it’s a little more complicated. Not only has the menu ballooned in size, but the chain is constantly tweaking things, offering limited-time promotions, app-only deals, and new menu items that make it hard to figure out how to get the most bang for your fast-food buck.

McDonald’s doesn’t list prices on its website, so we used the prices listed on Fast Food Menu Prices to try to figure out some of the best values you can get at McDonald’s if you’re looking to save some pennies.

The best values at McDonald’s

McDonald's Meal

A McDonald’s Big Mac, double hamburger and french fries | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

It’s probably no surprise that if you’re looking to get the most food for the cheapest price at McDonald’s, you’re best off skipping the premium burgers and salads. For example, a Bacon Clubhouse Burger will run you $4.49 ($6.49 if you make it a meal with medium fries and a drink.) while a Southwest Salad is $4.79. You’ll also want to skip the soda if you’re keeping an eye on your wallet — and your waistline.

Instead, put together your own cheap meal by ordering off the value menu. Though the old dollar menu is no more, the chain did introduce the $1 $2 $3 Dollar Menu in 2018. Combine that with some other cheap menu items, and you can eat like a king for a pittance. Here are a few combos, based on how much you want to spend and how many calories you can get:

If you want to spend $1: Your best bet is the McChicken sandwich. At 410 calories, it’s the most filling $1 item on the revamped dollar menu.

If you want to spend $2: The 450-calorie Bacon McDouble will set you back $2. In contrast, the price for the 2-piece Buttermilk Crispy Tenders is actually fairly steep ($1 per tender) and you only get 250 calories. If it’s breakfast you’re after, order the Sausage McGriddles. At 430 calories, it’s almost as filling as the Bacon McDouble.

If you want to spend $3: As your budget expands, so do your McDonald’s menu options. You could order either the 520-calorie Triple Cheeseburger or the 510-calorie Classic Chicken Sandwich off the $1 $2 $3 Dollar Menu.

Or, if you like variety (and who doesn’t?), you can build your own value meal. Pair a large fry ($1.89) with the $1 McChicken and you’ll get a 920-calorie meal for less than $3. Another budget-friendly option is a small fry ($1.39) and the Bacon McDouble, a 680-calorie meal for $3.39. For breakfast, pair the $2 Sausage McGriddle with a $1 coffee.

What about Happy Meals?

Happy Meal

Happy Meal | McDonald’s

Sure, Happy Meals are fun for kids. But they’re also good for grown-ups who want a taste of McDonald’s for cheap. A Happy Meal with a hamburger, kids-size fries, low-fat milk, and low-fat yogurt is 520 calories and costs about $3. Or, you can swap the hamburger for McNuggets or a cheeseburger. (Though the latter is no longer listed on the menu, it’s still an option if you ask for it.) Apple slices and apple juice are the alternate choices for sides and a drink.

According to Business Insider, the Happy Meal is the best deal on the new Dollar Menu, and not just because it comes with a toy. If you think the pint-sized food offering in the kids meal won’t be enough to fill you up, you can always add another item, like a second cheeseburger for just $1 more. At $4, that DIY double cheeseburger meal is 89 cents cheaper than the 2 Cheeseburgers Extra Value Meal.

Other ways to save money at McDonald’s

While ordering off the dollar menu is the easiest way to save at McDonald’s, it’s not the only way. If you know secret menu hacks, you may be able to get your favorites for cheap.

Say you want a Sausage Egg McMuffin. It normally costs $2.99. But you can get the same thing if you order a Sausage McMuffin for $1.39 and an egg on the side for 79 cents, for a total of just $2.18, according to the Krazy Koupon Lady. Or, if you want a salad, you can save by ordering the side salad with a grilled chicken breast rather than a premium salad.

If you’re a McDonald’s regular, it also pays to get the McDonald’s app. Download it and you’ll get access to deals like a coupon for free medium fries or free soft drink with a $1 purchase or $3 off a $10 purchase.

Finally, if you’re a Big Mac fanatic, you’ll want to head to McDonald’s soon. For a limited time, you’ll get a MacCoin with every Big Mac purchase that can be redeemed for a free Big Mac through the end of 2018.

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