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The Best Fast Food for $1

Super cheap eats


Recession, meet Dollar Menu… Dollar Menu, meet Recession.

Consumers are cash strapped… that goes without saying… and fast food restaurants want to increase their market share, since they answer to ruthless shareholders. So, to lure you in, they offer some great steals in the form of a $1 or value menu. Though the actual price of foods on value menus may vary based on location, fast food restaurants across the country have started to expand their budget-friendly offerings. Check out our favorite calorie-loaded fast food bargains. Good for your wallet—probably not so good for your arteries! We calculate which items provide the most calories per penny. Click Next to see them.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Burger King Whopper Jr.


Whopper Jr. is trying to step out of the shadow of his father, Whopper Sr., by selling himself for a buck. It's an age-old tale. An age-old, delicious tale.

Price: $1

Calories: 340

Calories per penny: 3.4

Photo Credit: BurgerKing.se

Taco Bell Caramel Apple Empanada


Really? You just wolfed down a giant burrito and a complimentary taco, and now you're getting dessert? I can't take you anywhere.

Price: 99 cents

Calories: 310

Calories per dollar: 3.1

Photo Credit: tacobell.com

McDonald's Hot Fudge Sundae


The McDonald's website says that this is "reduced fat," but it's still packing 10 grams of fat (7 of it saturated). Still: nice effort.

Price: $1

Calories: 330

Calories per penny: 3.3

Photo Credit: mcdonalds.com

Taco Bell Cheese Roll-Up


A blend of three cheeses melted and rolled up in a light, fluffy flour tortilla. Who knew cosmic ecstasy only cost 79 cents? That’s right: cosmic ecstasy. (I really like cheese tortillas).

Calories: 200

Calories per penny: 2

Photo Credit: Taco Bell

McDonald’s Mac Snack Wrap


All you need to know: it is basically a Big Mac hamburger chopped up and shoved into a wrap. It retails for $1.49. At that price, I could buy nearly 149 of them, and still have ten or twenty dollars left in my bank account!

Serving size: 4.4 oz (126 g)

Calories: 330

Calories per penny: 2.2

Photo Credit: McDonald's

Burger King CHEESY TOTS (6 pieces)


A more exotic participant in the Burger King Value Menu, these cheesy tots are sure to interest… well, someone out there. Although some reviews have been wholly unfavorable: the snobs at Salon.com explained that these treats “turned out to be greasy little pellets of starch, a cynical outgrowth of the ‘they'll eat anything fried’ school of thought.”

Calories: 220

Calories per penny: 2.2

Photo Credit: Burger King

Burger King Burger Shots (2-pack)


“Mini beef patties, crunchy pickles, topped off with ketchup and mustard,” the King explains. Some may be disappointed by the truly tiny beef patty, but that’s why they offer them in a “2-pack” for one dollar. Hopefully a second one will satiate you and if not, start checking the couch for loose change.

Calories: 220

Calories per penny: 2.2

Photo Credit: Burger King

Burger King Ham Omelet Sandwich


Moving on to the BK Breakfast Value Menu, the Ham Omelet Sandwich has a sesame seed bun, a stack of “tender ham” with honey butter sauce, American cheese and an egg. Well, if the ham were tough, I for one would be pretty upset. Nothing worse than a tough piece of ham.

Calories: 290

Calories per penny: 2.9

Photo Credit: Burger King

McDonald’s Hash Browns


Golden brown goodness, with just the right amount of flaky takeaway after your first bite.

Serving size: 2 oz (56 g) per hash brown

Calories: 150

Calories per penny: 3

Photo Credit: hakandahlstrom

Dutch Apple Pie


Another $1 treat at Burger King. Here’s what their web site has to say about this bargain bin dessert item: “Hot and gooey apple filling in a flaky baked crust. And on top of that, it's Dutch. So you know it's delicious.”

Yes, but is something really Dutch just because you put the word “Dutch” in front of it? I mean, it’s sold at an American fast food joint. Maybe if they spiked it with hash, then it would be Dutch… and probably far more popular.

Calories: 320

Calories per penny: 3.2

Photo Credit: Burger King

McDonald’s Sausage McMuffin


Legendary breakfast flavor at an unspeakable value—the Sausage McMuffin reportedly makes its no-frills debut on the “Breakfast Dollar Menu” this month (not to be confused with the more sophisticated Sausage McMuffin with Egg). My only issue with the Sausage McMuffin is that it makes me sick literally every single time I eat one. Still, at just $1 for a “tender sausage patty” with melted American cheese, perhaps I should toughen up and simply remember the Maalox chaser.

Serving size: 6.2 oz (111 g)

Calories: 370

Calories per penny: 3.7

Photo Credit: yummyporky

Burger King Sausage Biscuit


“Wake up with sizzling sausage in your belly and cash in your wallet,” the King’s web site declares confidently. I like the cash in my wallet part, at least. I can’t support the idea of putting sizzling sausage in your belly. Correct me if I’m wrong, but sounds like injury lawsuit territory. My advice: wait until the sausage is no longer sizzling, but still warm, and then eat it.

Calories: 420

Calories per penny: 4.2

Photo Credit: Burger King

McDonald’s Sausage Biscuit


Another sexy newcomer to the “Breakfast Dollar Menu” red carpet this month, the Sausage Biscuit sports the same meat patty as the Sausage McMuffin, but has even more calories due to its “flaky buttermilk flavored biscuit.” Mmmmm. Buttermilk flavor.

More calories, same price. You can’t lose, folks.

Serving size: 4.1 oz (117 g)

Calories: 430

Calories per penny: 4.3

Photo Credit: McDonald's

McDonald’s McDouble



Reportedly, the double cheeseburger at Mickey D’s is the most popular sandwich in the U.S. Now, the McDouble is basically a double cheeseburger, except it has only one slice of cheese, as opposed to two.

Calories: 390

Calories per penny: 3.9

Photo Credit: bludgeoner86

Taco Bell Chicken Burrito


Chicken burrito fans will love this one, which costs only 99 cents and comes loaded with seasoned rice, avocado ranch sauce and cheddar cheese. It’s only an hour after lunch, but I am already willing to declare it Fourth Meal time and grab one of these.

Calories: 440

Calories per penny: 4.4

Photo Credit: Taco Bell

Burger King CHICK’N CRISP Sandwich


Another offering on Burger King’s Value Menu, this one is a “crispy chicken filet topped with garden-fresh iceberg lettuce and creamy mayo, all sandwiched in a fresh sesame seed bun. It’s got just the right amount of spicy kick.” Who’s to say, really, what the right amount of spicy kick is? For me, personally, this isn’t even close. I pour Tabasco sauce on everything.

Calories: 450

Calories per penny: 4.5

Photo Credit: Burger King

Taco Bell Beefy 5 Layer Burrito


Layers of genuine “seasoned” “beef” with beans and real cheddar cheese. It won’t cost you much chedda for the cheddar, and the calorie count is strong to quite strong.

Calories: 550

Calories per penny: 5.5

Photo Credit:

Burger King Double Cheeseburger


Rival chain Burger King has reportedly issued a “battle cry” with its own double cheeseburger for a buck.

Back in August, the chain lowered the double cheese’s price, “which normally costs at least $2, to $1 in 40 markets” including large cities such as Chicago. Nationwide promotions for the $1 taste bud destroyer launched in October. In terms of calories per penny, this annihilates the competition.

Serving size: ¼ lb, before patty is cooked

Calories: 770

Calories per penny: 7.7

Photo Credit: Burger King

Wendy’s 5-piece Crispy Chicken Nuggets


No discussion of values is complete without mentioning Wendy’s Super Value Menu. It’s, uh, simply super. Especially the 5-piece crispy chicken nuggets.

Finally, truth in advertising: these are both crispy and chicken.

Calories: 230

Calories per penny: 2.3

Photo Credit: Wendy's

Wendy’s Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger


True story: I once saw a woman on the subway feeding this to her infant. I think it’s called “Junior” because of the beef patty’s size, not because it is recommended as infant formula replacement. If you’re an adult, however, I have to recommend this one.

Calories: 310

Calories per penny: 3.1

Photo Credit: Wendy's

What say you?


What is your favorite fast food meal for under a buck? Let us know here in the comments, or on our voracious Facebook page.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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