The early-retirement bloggers who have informed and shaped my lifestyle generally look down on eating out. Mr. Money Mustache, for example, recommends $2/meal maximum — which pretty much eliminates the possibility of eating out, ever. He also no longer eats bread. Well, I have tons of respect for MMM and I appreciate his opinions on other matters, but I’m not so hoity-toity and I do enjoy a dinner out occasionally. I’m also a pretty big, athletic guy with a resting metabolic rate >2000 calories. So… wherever I eat needs to be filling or I will end up blowing $20.
Another of my favorite bloggers, Early Retirement Extreme, recommends eating on $100/month. Yeah right. Maybe someday I will try it, but that is too extreme for me right now. With that in mind, here are my favorite fast-food joints. They are cheap, delicious, and filling.
Taco Cabana – “Chicken Fajita Cabana Bowl” – $4.70 – 1040 calories – 221 calories/dollar
I love TC! The patio is nice, they have a fresh salsa bar, and the food is fairly fresh and good. This cabana bowl is my favorite because it comes with a drink. Add a few salsas from the bar and soon half of my daily caloric requirement is satisfied for $5.
It helps that TC is right next to my gym, so I come out after a good workout, order my food, and eat while the sun sets on the patio. Life is good.
Papa Murphy’s – “Family Size Cowboy Pizza” – $8 with coupon – 2960 calories – 370 calories/dollar
It is worth subscribing to Papa’s Club as they will send coupons, occasionally, for up to 50% off. You bake the pizza in your own oven and it’s generally quite good. With the coupon, it’s also ridiculously cheap — cheap enough, even, to make Mr. Money Mustache happy.
CostCo – All Beef Hebrew King Hot Dog – $1.50 – 549 calories – 366 calories/dollar
People don’t think of CostCo as a restaurant but they have a little food court. And those hot dogs are delicious and deliciously cheap. They come with a drink and condiments, so the total calorie count per dollar is more like 400. Again, this is good food that satisfies even a shoestring budget.