" data-reactid="144">(Associated Press)
Fast food is fast, but it's not really cheap.
Fast food isn't cheap
Another frequent conversation I had revolved around people's perception of cheap food.
A lot of the food we're told to believe is cheap isn't at all. Almost all fast food is incredibly expensive — and terrible for you — even the dollar-menu items. The calorie per dollar value just isn't there.
For instance, each box of pasta I bought at Safeway was $1 — they have eight servings and 200 calories per serving. That gives me 1,600 calories for $1. On the McDonald's dollar menu, a double cheeseburger only has 440 calories — about one-fourth the calories as my box of pasta and it cost $0.19 more.
It might seem like $0.19 isn't a big deal, but on a restricted budget every penny makes a difference.
It's not difficult to figure out that fast food doesn't give you the same value as food from the grocery store, but once you get to the grocery store, spotting value becomes a little more difficult.
I even fell into the trap when I bought canned beans for $1 each instead of a 2-pound bag of dried beans that would have lasted the month. I would have saved myself $3, but I chose to go the easy route instead to illustrate that there is a bit of flexibility when eating on a budget.
The point is that it's important to stay mindful of the choices you're making as you shop for food.
What I cooked
Actual cheap food includes things like pasta, canned vegetables, dry oats, and rice.
For breakfast, I ate quick oats with cinnamon and sugar. Funny enough, Whole Foods had the cheapest deal on them. Not including the Reese's Puffs that I splurged on during the last week, my breakfasts for the month cost me $3.72 total — and I still have some left over.
I found chicken to be the cheapest protein, but at $6 per pound for organic chicken, it was still expensive. I also mixed in some smoked sausage links and splurged on chicken meatballs in the last week when I had a lot of money left over.
Eggs are another inexpensive protein, but I don't like them. I bought a carton of six for the last week to make carbonara. I choked down the last two in an omelet for breakfast on my final day.
All of these inexpensive foods can be combined easily to make some delicious and healthy dishes. Here are a couple of meals I made: