A television commercial from 1969 shows a well-to-do-looking man being served a McDonald’s meal on a silver platter. Fine dining for a cheap price. “When you pay for two hamburgers, French fries and a Coke, you get change back from your dollar,” the narrator says as the butler drops the change on the table.
With rising food costs, you won’t get change back from anything less than a $10 bill for that order these days. But that doesn’t mean you can’t save money on your favorite food at McDonald’s if you know just what — and how — to order. Making McDonald’s more affordable starts with downloading the restaurant’s app and learning the menu hacks.
The McDonald’s App
Only through the app, you’ll have access to cash-saving deals on food. The deals frequently rotate, but they have included bargains such as “buy one McFlurry or shake, get one free”; “buy a Quarter Pounder with Cheese or a Crispy Chicken sandwich, get a medium fries and soft drink for free”; any breakfast sandwich for $1; or pay 29 cents for a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, Big Mac or 10-piece Chicken McNuggets when you buy one at regular menu price. And of course, there’s the popular $1 large order of fries.
How Much Can You Save?
While McDonald’s prices can vary by region, a Quarter Pounder with Cheese costs about $6 and an Egg McMuffin about $5. Use the app for the latter, and you’ll save $4 on breakfast. Score.
You can use each deal only once a day, and only one deal every 15 minutes.
As you use the app, you’ll also gain rewards points — 100 for every dollar you spend — to use toward future food purchases. Redeem 1,500 points for a McChicken, hash browns, vanilla cone or cheeseburger. Exchange 3,000 for medium fries, a sausage burrito, large iced coffee or a six-piece Chicken McNuggets. At 4,500, you’ll get free large fries, a large frappe, a Filet-O-Fish or Sausage McMuffin with Egg. At the highest reward level, 6,000 points, you’re eligible for a free Big Mac, Quarter Pounder with Cheese, Happy Meal or Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit.
Learn the Menu Hacks
Are you craving a Big Mac but don’t have $6 for lunch? Look back to another McDonald’s commercial of the past to learn just what makes up a Big Mac, this one from 1974: Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions and a sesame seed bun.
You can come pretty close to that classic menu item by ordering what has become known as the “Poor Man’s Big Mac.” Start with a McDouble — priced at about $2 — which comes with two patties, cheese, pickles, onions, ketchup and mustard. At the order window, ask to hold the ketchup and mustard and substitute special sauce and lettuce. The end result is a faux Big Mac, minus the third piece of bread and cheese. Even if the restaurant charges a little bit for the lettuce, you’ll still have saved some serious cash — and some calories.
Or what if your carload of kids all ask for McFlurrys? At $3.99 each, the bill will add up fast. Instead, order plain sundaes for $1.79 each and ask for side orders of M&Ms or Oreos as toppings. The restaurant will add a small charge for the extras, but you’re still way ahead if the kids just stir the toppings into the sundaes themselves, and they’ll get the same McFlurry taste.
For a different sweet treat, you can make your own orange creamsicle. Fill two-thirds of a large cup with orange Hi-C and dump in the contents of a vanilla ice cream cone. For the cost of the drink ($1) and cone ($1.79), you’ve got a cool drink for less than the price of a chocolate shake ($3.99).
Here’s a final money-saving tip. Before ordering at a McDonald’s at a highway rest area, ask whether the restaurant accepts the app. Many do; and, with prices often higher along the road, the savings can be even more significant.
More From GOBankingRates