From Extreme Cheapskates to Extreme Couponing, savings junkies have been learning the tricks of the food industry for years now, pushing the limits to see just how far they can stretch their dollar. If you’re looking to save on your next trip to the drive-thru, take notes on these 10 FAST FOOD SECRETS That Will Save You Money!
10. Opt For A Frito Burrito
One of the best reasons to get your fast food fix at Taco Bell is its reasonable pricing. With some menu items clocking in at just $1, you can enjoy Taco Bell no matter your budget, which means there are lots of fun tricks to use that can help you maximize what you get for the money. One of the best ways to do this is by taking advantage of Taco Bell’s dollar menu while also using their customization options to get as much food as you can for as little as possible. Taco Bell’s Frito burrito is a dollar menu option, allowing you to pay only a buck for the “base” of your burrito. From there, you can add whatever toppings your heart desires: extra meat, rice, beans, cheese, or sour cream. Though Taco Bell will charge you for adding extras, the price will be drastically lower than it would be if you ordered one of their larger, meatier burritos, and you’ll only be paying between $2.50 and $3.50 for it, depending on what toppings you plan on adding to your customized Frito burrito. Compared to the initial $1 price tag, it doesn’t seem like a good deal at first glance, but you’ll still be saving a lot more if you opt for this little hack in lieu of buying one of Taco Bell’s featured menu items.
9. Order Your Big Mac Differently
As far as fast food goes, McDonald’s pretty much reigns supreme in most areas, with their extensive breakfast menu, tasty dessert options, and notoriously salty, delicious fries. However, McDonald’s is most known for their burgers, and advertises their Big Mac as being the Godfather of their sandwich menu. Despite its lofty reputation, the Big Mac actually isn’t all that big at all — in fact, it’s pretty much an embellished version of McDonald’s double cheeseburger, which you can get for far less money. They carry the same basic toppings and ingredients, except for lettuce and the fact that the Big Mac has McDonald’s special sauce while the cheeseburger comes with ketchup. To save a pretty penny on your next McDonald’s order, replace the ketchup on your double cheeseburger with Big Mac sauce; you’ll basically be getting the same sandwich for far less money. You can even ask to add a bit of lettuce to make it more authentic. This quick trick is even easier now that McDonald’s has implemented kiosks in many of their stores, allowing you to customize your food as much as you want. You can add certain ingredients to burgers for free, which is exciting considering McDonald’s doesn’t like to load up on the toppings most of the time. These new customization options are great if you’re a picky eater — or if you’re looking to cheat the system and save a few dollars!
8. Make Your Own Latte
Starbucks is a great place to pick up a coffee that will brighten your day, but you might not be smiling that much when you find yourself paying more than five dollars for one drink. To save money the next time you want a plain latte, ask your barista for two shots of espresso on ice, then add milk from the self-serve milk station. Ordering your latte this way will only cost you the price of the espresso shots, making it much cheaper than buying a latte upfront. Since iced lattes are essentially espresso, ice, and milk, you won’t be missing out on the essentials by ordering it this way; however, there are a few drawbacks that come with using this method. Because all you’ll be asking your barista for is two shots of plain espresso, it’s likely that you won’t be able to sweeten this drink with the simple syrup Starbucks uses, as they don’t tend to keep it near the milk bar. You can always use the sugar packets from the milk bar, but it might lead to your drink having an odd or unpleasant texture — meaning that this drink hack may be better for those who don’t have a sweet tooth when it comes to coffee. Though it may not be the best choice for everyone, ordering an espresso over ice at Starbucks is great if you want a solid caffeine kick on a budget.
7. Bonus Protein at Chipotle
One of the most frustrating things about ordering at Chipotle is the extra charge they add on if you want to add more protein to your order. For those who can’t get enough of their chicken and steak burritos, not being able to double up without paying more can be disappointing when you’re hungry. Luckily, there’s a great way to sneak past this whenever you’re ordering something that needs to be assembled by a Chipotle worker; the next time you’re looking to add protein without paying more, ask if you can get two different types of meat without doubling up; half chicken and half beef, for example. Since Chipotle employees will want to serve you quickly, they may not measure exactly half of a serving of each protein, which will likely leave you with more than what you’d normally get if you didn’t split your protein choice in half. Some say that using this sneaky trick landed them with nearly double the amount of meat, simply because the Chipotle employees were trying to get their orders out quickly and didn’t have time to measure out both the chicken and beef. Though the success rate of this hack depends on which Chipotle you visit and which employee is serving you, it’s definitely worth a try, seeing as it won’t cost you anything extra.
6. Own Your Onions
Onions are an essential burger topping, but they can sometimes feel soggy or just plain disappointing when you order them at fast food restaurants. This is because most onions are rehydrated for quick service at fast-food restaurants, making them anything but fresh. Biting into a juicy burger without feeling the fresh and flavorful crunch of onions can be a major letdown, but there is a way to save yourself the disappointment without paying for a burger that features fresh onions: by simply asking. The next time you’re at Wendy’s, McDonald’s, or Burger King, ask them for fresh onions on your burger: it’s likely that the employees at your favorite burger chain have fresh onions behind the counter that they use for other menu items, and would treat your request like a simple substitution to your burger. Though it’ll be saving you from the sadness that comes with seeing a few flecks of pitiful, rehydrated onions on your burger, it won’t cost you a penny: since you’re technically replacing onions with onions, most employees will be more than happy to make the switch without charging you extra. This trick, if successful, is guaranteed to give you better-tasting burgers every time: with the added crunch of fresh onions, it’ll feel like you’re eating something way more high-end than a simple cheeseburger.
5. Light Ice Can Make a Huge Difference
Another hack you can use at Starbucks (or other higher-end coffee shops) is to ask for light ice in cold beverages. Though this not-so-secret hack has been plastered all over the internet by now, it also never seems to fail; asking for light ice at Starbucks will always end in you getting the most amount of coffee for your money. Though it may seem weird to micromanage your coffee’s ice levels at first, it’s no different than asking for an extra shot of espresso or a pump of hazelnut flavoring; light ice is simply the best way to take advantage of the seemingly endless customization options that Starbucks gives its customers, allowing you full control over your morning coffee order. The best part of this little hack (aside from the money you’ll be saving) is the fact that your drink will still be cold; because Starbucks keeps their cold drinks refrigerated, they rely less on the ice to cool everything down in the cup, allowing your drink to maintain its refreshing coolness without needing too many ice cubes. Save even more by ordering your large-sized drink in a medium cup with light ice, which will give you just about the same amount of coffee for far less money. Starbucks coffee is already pretty expensive, so ordering with light ice can give you more of your handcrafted drink at no extra charge.
4. Save Más on Taco Bell Nachos
Taco Bell’s nachos with cheese sauce are one of their most popular and well-loved side orders; for $1.69, it can be hard to resist the allure of adding more carbs and cheese to your meal. If you’re looking to save more during your next visit to Taco Bell, try ordering the Triple Layer Nachos instead of the plain nachos and cheese; weirdly enough, the Triple Layer version is only $1.00 and includes beans, red sauce, and nacho cheese. If you want to order them plain, you can ask your Taco Bell server to hold the beans and red sauce, giving you the same nachos with cheese sauce that you would be paying nearly 70 cents more for originally. Seeing as Taco Bell is super willing to customize any order, it shouldn’t be an issue to switch things up for these nachos at the drive-thru window. Not only that, but the Triple Layer Nachos are a whole lot bigger than the nachos with cheese sauce; since the latter of the two is advertised as a side dish, Taco Bell can get away with making them smaller than an item featured on their Dollar Cravings menu. The size difference may be counterintuitive, but using the size and price differences to your advantage is key in saving as much money as possible at Taco Bell. Ordering the Triple Layer Nachos will give you lots more for a whole lot less, saving you some extra money during your next late-night excursion to Taco Bell.
3. Order Your Burrito Bowl Differently
Out with a friend at Chipotle and looking to save money? Order your burrito bowl with a tortilla on the side; after using our previous trick to get more protein for the same amount of money, you’ll have enough meat in your burrito bowl to feed two people instead of just one! Burrito bowls are already huge to begin with, and if you’re not a huge fan of having tons of leftovers in your fridge, splitting one with a friend will save you both lots of money on your next trip to Chipotle. Besides, ordering your burrito bowl with guacamole — which is definitely the best way to do it, no questions asked — will mean the guac won’t keep for very long, so it’s a much better idea to eat the entire burrito bowl while everything is still fresh from the Chipotle kitchen. Adding a side tortilla is much less expensive than paying for a whole new meal, while still allowing your friend or partner to eat their fill of your burrito bowl. This hack, combined with the previous method of ordering two proteins for the price of one, will fill you and your friend up with little to no leftovers but will save you both the price of a second Chipotle meal.
2. Get The Most Out of Subway
Hungry for Subway, but hungrier for savings? The next time you find yourself at this sandwich chain with a friend, decide on a protein you both like and split a foot-long sandwich instead of ordering two six inch sandwiches separately. Ordering a footlong will be cheaper, but you’ll still be able to ask your Subway server to split it in half and customize each side separately, essentially giving you two sandwiches for the price of one. Though you and your friend will have to decide on which protein you want on your sandwiches, there won’t be any overlap otherwise, unless it’s something both of you want. With this in mind, you can also maximize your order by asking for the freshest veggies possible. For a chain whose motto is “eat fresh,” Subway does like to use their veggies as much as they can, with their tomatoes often looking less-than-stellar in the display case. To bypass slightly wilted lettuce and sad-looking jalapenos, simply ask your Sandwich Artist for the fresh batch of vegetables; Subway employees usually keep their freshest veggies just beneath the ones on display, so it shouldn’t be too much of a hassle for the person behind the counter if you ask them nicely. Most Subway workers will be more than happy to make the switch and allow you and your friend to eat fresh — while saving some cash in the process.
1. Finesse Your KFC
Though this hack has proven to be effective, it’s not for the faint of heart. The next time you’re feeling adventurous and want to save a few bucks on your KFC chicken order, try heading over to the restaurant near closing time or after the lunch rush. During these times, the restaurant is likely trying to get rid of the chicken that wasn’t used earlier — and may be able to give you a great price for it, seeing as they have to throw it away if they can’t sell it. Though it sounds completely ridiculous, numerous KFC customers have reported that you can actually bargain with KFC before closing or after lunchtime to get their leftover chicken and side dishes for a lot less than what you’d originally pay. One customer says he managed to get a whopping fifteen pieces of chicken with every side for only ten dollars, since KFC didn’t want to waste any of their chicken (and lose money in the process.) Not only is this a great way to save money, it also prevents a large chain from wasting food, giving customers the chicken they crave instead of throwing away what could’ve been a perfectly good meal. This saving secret may not be ideal for those who are shy about talking to the cashiers at the counter, but if you’re not afraid to try to barter for some good fried chicken and biscuits, it’s worth a try. Be sure to get to KFC near closing or after the lunch rush, though, as those appear to be the only times this hack has actually worked.