The Not-So Starving Student – $5 Fast Food Challenge

With inflation nearly at its peak, students may find that scouting affordable food has become a chore. I decided to experiment with what a five-dollar bill could afford in the now. As a student, there’s a certain criteria I use to rank my fast-food experience. The fast food selection, quantity and price tag are of high importance. To beef up the challenge, I thought I would only scout food items that are can satisfy at least one of your meals, so we can cross out all the snack items a priori. If you thought this was an impossible task, you’d be surprised what the fast-food world has to offer. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any balanced Canadian Health Guide acceptable options at this price. Hence for the health nuts out there, this list may not be your cup of tea.

Selection: 5/5
Pricetag: 3/5
Sitting at $4.69 (according to this past week’s menu), Subway has a wider selection than many of its fast-food competitors. For this price you’ll find a selection of cold cut combo, meatball marinara (personal favorite), pizza sub with cheese, and vegetarian subs paired with your favorite bread. Although, I admit there have been tweaks to this category in the last few years (including removal of some options in the value menu), overall Subway’s custom subs offer a price that’s hard to beat. Quality and quantity, however, is very much debatable.

[EB]Selection: 2/5
Quantity: 2/5
Price tag: 5/5
Priced at $1.75 (according to past week’s menu), A&W offers the single buddy burger that seems more like a snack than a hearty meal. However, I have purchased at least three of these beef sliders ($5.25) that makes for a more substantial meal than a single beef patty slider. Another possibility is opting for the double buddy burger. Choosing buddy burgers is of course, under the assumption you’re satisfied with being a carnivore.

Selection: 4/5
Quantity: 3/5
Price tage: 5/5
Unsurprisingly this popular king of fast food makes the list. While inflation has hit even McDonalds, there are still a couple options left on the menu that deserve honorable mention. My personal favorite is a custom junior chicken with two patties. The two patties give an almost gourmet appearance to the burger. With the introduction of self-serve machines, you can even customize your condiments to include Thai chili or chipotle sauce.

Selection: 4/5
Quantity: 5/5
Price tag: 4/5
With the $1.89 value menu that rolled in six years ago (prices have changed since), Wendy’s offers a wide selection of fast food items that put A&W to shame. The menu includes nuggets, burgers, fries and wraps so you’ll never have to order the same thing twice. With $5, the starving student can mix and match two items from the list. Or even better yet, ordering off a second value menu with the choice of the Junior Cheeseburger Deluxe for the price of $1.32 (prices have changed since).

Tim Hortons
Selection: 2/5
Quantity: 3/5
Price tag: 3/5
While the selections and quantities might not be up to par, Tim Hortons does offer choices that “appear” to be healthier with the choice of brown or white bread. I found their under $5 hot food varieties to be limited at best. The few items worth mentioning include their various breakfast sandwiches, the hot chilli, BLT and their chicken salad sandwiches.

*Prices listed may have changed
*All rankings are based on my observations alone

Xin Xu is a post-graduate health-science AU student, aspiring clinician, globe-trotter, parrot-breeder and tea-connoisseur.

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