Are you craving fast food but don’t want to break the bank? Don’t worry; we’ve got your back!
We have compiled an exciting list of some of the cheapest fast-food joints so you can enjoy a delicious meal without denting your wallet.
Whether you’re looking for classic burgers and fries or something international or more exotic, this guide has something for everyone. Get ready to indulge in various delectable dishes that won’t blow your budget!
Why Is Everyone Hooked on Fast Food?
Fast food contains many ingredients that make us feel good, including calories, sugars, saturated fats, and trans fats. These foods release dopamine and oxytocin, neurotransmitters that bring about feelings of enjoyment, pleasure, and relaxation. That’s why we call them “comfort food”.
And since Americans can’t get enough of this indulgent food, the fast food industry continues to grow, with revenue estimated to top $850 billion by 2029.
Here are other reasons why everybody loves to eat fast food, including:
- Convenient: It’s readily available and ideal for people on the go or those without time to cook a homemade meal.
- Accessible: They’re available virtually everywhere in both urban and suburban areas. Some fast food chains also operate 24/7.
- Consistent: Customers are familiar with their taste, so they know what to expect in terms of flavor and quality every time.
- Big Portion Sizes: Servings in these establishments are typically large, and customers always enjoy a satisfying meal.
- Provides Fast Service: Instant meals and fast service define a fast food restaurant, which is convenient for individuals with busy schedules.
- Gives Comfort: Most fast food items like fried chicken, burgers, and fries are what people call comfort food, which can easily uplift moods when consumed and evoke feelings of nostalgia.
- Cheap: Fast food is generally affordable, which makes it accessible to a wide range of consumers, particularly those who are on a tight budget or those looking to save money.
15 Cheapest Fast Food Chains Right Now
If you want to meet your craving for unhealthy food or get the cheapest fast food possible, here are the options to consider first.
#1. In-N-Out Burger
In-N-Out Burger earns the top spot as the cheapest fast food option in the United States. The fast food restaurant was established in 1948 and is now one of the most popular burger restaurants in the country, particularly in the southwest.
In-N-Out offers affordable comfort food like burgers, fries, shakes, and more. Their food items start at $0.99.
# 2. Sonic
Sonic is an American drive-in fast-food chain owned by Inspire Brands, the parent company of equally famous restaurants Buffalo Wild Wings and Arby’s.
The popular drive-in restaurant offers inexpensive menu options, including burgers, sandwiches, hot dog sandwiches, chicken, and wraps. Sonic is also famous for its delicious array of beverages and milkshakes. Menu items begin at only $0.99.
Dunkin’ Donuts, now rebranded to Dunkin’, is a world-famous donut and coffee chain.
Established in 1950, the renowned fast-food chain currently has 13,200 restaurants worldwide. Dunkin’ generated $1.37 billion in revenue in 2019. Regarding food offerings, they have a wide range of breakfast sandwiches and beverage options, apart from their selection of donuts and coffees.
Culver’s is another fast food favorite that offers affordable comfort food. The restaurant has more than 800 locations in the country.
Culver’s menu offerings include delectable options such as their famous butter burgers, fresh frozen custard, chicken tenders, sandwiches, salads, soups, and more. Options begin at only $0.25.
#5. Tim Hortons
Tim Hortons is a famous Canadian cafe and restaurant brand hailed as Canada’s largest quick-service restaurant chain. It is expanding its footprint in the U.S., with over 500 locations.
Tim Hortons’ menu offerings include coffees, teas, milkshakes, sandwiches, donuts, bagels, and other baked goods. Customers can enjoy a Tim Hortons treat for as low as $0.66.
#6. Taco Bell
Regarding Mexican flavors, no other fast food can beat Taco Bell. With about 55,000 locations worldwide and an annual revenue of $2 billion in 2022, Taco Bell has become one of the most beloved fast food chains.
Taco Bell provides easy access to delicious Mexican fusion food items such as tacos, nachos, burritos, quesadillas, and a selection of sides and sweets. The best value on the menu is the $5 Cravings Box.
#7. Del Taco
Speaking of Mexican fusion fast foods, Del Taco is another top favorite. Del Taco’s menu has many delectable American-Mexican offerings, including tacos, nachos, quesadillas, burgers, fries, salads, shakes, and more.
Menu items start at just $0.87, and their Fiesta Packs cost around $20 and feed up to six people.
If you aren’t a Costco member, you are wondering why the warehouse club is on a list of the cheapest fast food. The reason is because of the prices for the quick-serve food they sell.
You can get a hot dog and a fountain drink for $1.50 or a large slice of pizza for $1.50. An entire pie costs under $10. While this might not be a good enough reason to splurge on a membership, it may make you think twice when a friend mentions they need to make a Costco run.
Wendy’s is a world-famous fast-food restaurant established in 1969.
With almost 8,000 locations worldwide, Wendy’s has plenty of affordable selections, including burgers, sandwiches, chicken nuggets, salads, fries, and their iconic Frosty. Value items start at only $0.99, making this an excellent option for low-cost food.
McDonald’s is a global fast-food giant considered a cultural and culinary icon.
The fast food chain has over 38,000 locations around the globe with no signs of stopping. When it comes to food offerings, McDonald’s has an extensive menu, including its world-famous Big Mac, crispy chicken, burgers, and fries. As an added benefit, their fast food menu is constantly changing along with consumer’s tastes.
Contrary to popular belief, Starbucks is a fast-food establishment.
When it comes to coffee, Starbucks is number one. As one of the largest global chains of coffee shops, Starbucks has 15,444 locations in the country as of 2021.
Apart from its famous coffee and tea selections, the establishment also serves various baked goods, sandwiches, sweet treats, and other snacks. Starbucks offers a variety of items starting at only $1.17. The cafe is an ideal go-to place for a coffee fix, a quick bite, or hanging out with friends.
#12. White Castle
Some consider White Castle the first fast-food hamburger franchise in the world. Established in Kansas in 1921, the company has over 345 locations in 13 states.
The franchise is famous for its wide range of affordable and delicious sliders, from a French toast slider to a chicken and waffles slider. They also offer sides and desserts.
IKEA is another place to consider for low-cost, fast food. Their filling menu items include Swedish meatballs, pizza, hot dogs, and ice cream, all at a reasonable price.
While the low prices lure you in, do your best to avoid buying furniture you’ll spend all weekend assembling.
If you are looking for healthy fast food or healthier options, look no further than Chipotle. With over 3,000 restaurants in the U.S., you should be able to find one near you.
The chain offers Mexican food options like tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and salads.
#15. Little Caesars
If you are looking for a fast-food restaurant that offers low-cost pizza, look at Little Caesars. You can get a large pie for under $6 and a side of Stuffed Crazy Bread for $3.50.
Some argue the quality of the pizza could be better, but for the low price, it is worth it.
Other Fast Food Restaurants
There are many other cheap places to eat out and save money, including Domino’s, Carl’s Jr, Chick-fil-A, KFC, and more. You may even have some local or regional options that most guides don’t cover because they are so small.
As a result, don’t limit yourself to the large national chains. Consider smaller options that offer daily specials to help you save money.
How To Save the Most Money on Fast Food
Regardless of the restaurant you choose, downloading the restaurant’s mobile app is the best way to ensure you get the cheapest fast food. It is free to do, and by using it, you earn reward points for free food.
Many even offer free sides to help encourage you to order through the app. The only catch is that most rewards expire after some time, so keep an eye on your rewards so you don’t lose them.
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.
Jon is the founder of MoneySmartGuides, which helps people dig out of debt and start building wealth to achieve their dreams. He has over 15 years of experience in the financial services industry and 20 years of investing in the stock market. He has both his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Finance, is FINRA Series 65 licensed, and has a Certificate in Financial Planning. He also is the founder of Unfinished Success, a personal development website whose goal is to help you be the best you.