10 Money-Saving Fast Food Tips
I’ll be the first to admit that fast food isn’t the healthiest meal option out there. However, sometimes you have to sacrifice a few points on your cholesterol scale for the sake of convenience. I keep telling myself I’ll do penance for those Big Macs on the treadmill, but something always seems to come up…
The downside of eating at fast-food restaurants is the damage to your wallet, especially if you’re not the only one who wants a $10 Chipotle burrito. Larger families probably experience similar costs to eating at a sit-down restaurant, but there aren’t any tasty appetizers included. Read on to find money-saving fast-food tips everyone can get excited about!
Sign Up for Those Reward Programs
Most fast-food chains have caught up with the 21st century by now, especially with the pandemic preventing all of that human contact. If you have a smartphone, download your favorite fast food restaurant apps and start scoring points for food you’re going to buy anyway.
Many places give you exclusive deals you can only get on their app, like Dairy Queen and McDonald’s. Earn free large fries from McDonald’s when you sign up and your choice of several more freebies after your first in-app purchase later. Other popular restaurant apps that help you score free food are:
Dress Up More Basic Meal Options
Another money-saving fast-food hack is to create your own version of higher-priced menu items with more basic options. For example, the most expensive part of the McDonald’s Big Mac is the sesame seed bun. Instead of spending extra cash on the fancy bread, order a McDouble and sub lettuce and Big Mac sauce for the other toppings.
For those McFlurry addicts out there, make your own with a basic chocolate sundae and chocolate chip cookie instead. Yes, you have to put in that extra elbow grease by stirring it up, but it’s worth the extra savings.
Complete Those Receipt Surveys
I’m a sucker for Subway’s cookies, y’all. I’m positive they chant some sort of voodoo spell over each batch to make them extra delicious. Did you know that you can score one of these addictive treats for free by filling out the survey on your receipt? That’s a game-changer.
Your fast-food restaurant receipts can be golden tickets to free and BOGO meal items, so don’t toss those in your empty food bag until you check out the potential rewards. McDonald’s offers buy-one, get-one quarter pounders with cheese for completing their receipt survey as well.
Order Smaller Nugget Portions
McDonald’s is chock-full of money-saving fast-food opportunities, and one popular way of getting your money’s worth is by order smaller portions of chicken nuggets. I know. It feels weird. And wrong.
However, the facts are that a 4-piece nugget meal costs an average of 10 cents less per nugget than a 10-piece meal, so it’s best to order three 4-piece meals instead. You can choose to enjoy the extra nuggets yourself or share with a friend (if you’re feeling generous).
Opt for the Burrito Bowl
Chipotle has a reputation as being the go-to place for huge, savory burritos. However, these can really put a dent in your bank account if you’re a frequent visitor. If you want to get the most out of your Chipotle experience, order a burrito bowl instead.
It’s almost guaranteed that you’ll get more food for your money since the server isn’t restricted by the size of the burrito itself. You can also ask for half portions of meat since only superhuman computer robots can measure exactly half spoonfuls of chicken and beef.
Order á La Carte
While your favorite fast-food value meals might seem like they’re saving you money, this isn’t often the case. Researchers have actually proven that combo meals usually cost the same or more than ordering those menu items individually, especially if you’re dining in.
For example, most value meals come with a medium soda. You can order a single small soda instead and take advantage of the free refills. You can also drink water and avoid those sugary calories altogether.
Sign Up for Those Emails
Okay, I know that few people like their email accounts to be bombarded with promotional messages every day. Still, many fast-food restaurant reward programs have fantastic deals when you sign up for their email lists. For example, Applebees gives you a free appetizer when you buy an appetizer just for signing up.
A nice thing about most promotional email programs is that you can easily unsubscribe with one click. So if your goal is to score a quick freebie and move on, just remember to opt out afterward. However, I recommend sticking with them if you enjoy eating at those places regularly. Most fast-food restaurants also send deals for free food on your birthday. Who doesn’t love that?
Buy Discounted Certificates and Gift Cards
Another great money-saving fast-food tip is to take advantage of sites selling discounted certificates and gifts cards, like Groupon and Gift Card Granny. One of Groupon’s perks is that you can choose the area you may be traveling to, so you can find deals wherever you go.
Gift Card Granny and other similar sites offer highly discounted rates on some restaurants and smaller, cash-back perks on many others. You may have to hunt around for the best deals, but I promise you’ll find some golden nuggets in there.
Take Surveys and Score Gift Cards
If you have some downtime in the doctor’s office or while your children are napping, take surveys to earn cash to put towards your favorite fast-food spots. You can accumulate points for each completed survey and redeem them as gift cards.
The most popular survey site by far is Swagbucks, and it also offers the widest selection of participating fast-food restaurants. There are multiple ways to earn points with Swagbucks, such as playing games, taking surveys, completing cash-back offers, and more.
Treat Yourself on Your Birthday
I work pretty hard y’all, and I’m all about spoiling myself on my birthday. One way I do that is by raking in all the birthday freebies that come my way. Most fast-food apps and email rewards programs send you credit for complimentary menu items. So wake up early, put on that birthday crown, and treat yourself!