Home-Cooking vs Fast Food

Back in January I did an analysis on meal planning just for curiosity sake. I used data obtained from the Roche Bros grocery store website and McDonald’s. Even though Roche Bros can be more expensive than a store like Market Basket, I used Roche Bros because I could use their online shopping tool to obtain cost information for comparison purposes. Therefore, results would differ if you got your prices from another store.

Organic vs Standard Home-Cooked Meal

I compared the cost of ingredients for a well-rounded roasted chicken dinner and a subsequent chicken soup using left overs from that meal. I collected and calculated the cost of the grocery bill for both the regular ingredients and the same meal using organic ingredients.   In my search for cost, I did not include condiments, spices, or oils…things that are assumed to be on hand and do not need to be purchased for every meal. I also assume the family can drink water. Mine does and this analysis is based on a typical meal in my house.


Ingredients: whole chicken, carrots, potatoes, onion, celery, stewed tomatoes, frozen spinach, fresh baked bread.

I found that the standard roast chicken meal cost 37% less than the organic meal. $40.41 versus $25.37. So this can be a lot when you are buying a weeks worth of meals. The soup made from leftovers cost $20.20 versus $12.68 (extra ingredients were needed to prepare)

It doesn’t take a rocket science to know that the organic meal will cost more in the United States. Why did I do this? I wanted to see in numbers the financial implications of a family going organic who may already have a strict budget. There are ways to save on organics and prices are coming down on these products but it is still a huge hit to the wallet for many families.

For some families, this extra cost is not excessive. People spend $5.00 on a cup of coffee every morning without batting an eye. That would cover the cost of switching to organic for a couple of meals.

McDonalds vs Home-Cooked Meal chicken-6894

The next thing I wanted to know was how does this home-cooked meal compare to the cheapest of the cheap meals…McDonalds. I calculated the cost of a family of 4 buying what my family would buy if we went to McDonalds. I did include extra value meals because they include fries and drinks and are more economical, but I did not do an entire meal on $1.00 hamburgers.

The McDonald’s meal included the following:  Quarter Pounder w/Cheese Meal, Premium McWrap Meal, Chicken McNugget Meal, and Mighty Kids Meal.

The cost for this family to eat at McDonald’s was $26.06, slightly MORE than a regular home-cooked meal.  Hmmmm?

Nutritional Analysis

Now here is the other scary part…the nutritional analysis. I compared a serving of the chicken dinner to two of the McDonald’s meals. Note that the Chicken meal does not include soda which can be 39-108 grams of sugar depending on the size.


Meal Planning.xlsx

Click here to go to SugarStacks website to learn more about sugar content in sodas. 

As you can see the home-cooked meal is significantly less in fat, calories and sugar. But you knew that already, right?


1. Eating McDonald’s (or fast food in general) doesn’t save you as much as you think or if anything at all.

2. Eating at home is cheaper and healthier…duh!

3. For many people, organic is not an outrageous option

4. As a society, we need to find ways to bring down the cost of organic products or find ways make it available to all members of our community. (see Plant A Row For the Hungry) more to come on this topic too

4. Home-cooked meals provide the opportunity for healthy secondary meals and left-overs.

Links for Additional Data 

Meal Planning Data

Plant A Row Brochure


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