Fast Food Breakfast Combos for Less Than $5 & 600 Calories

By Annette Paraja on August 27, 2018

During undergrad, I was working an underpaid retail job, going to school full-time, and living off-campus. Here’s the real deal: it wasn’t uncommon for me to have just $20 to spare — after bills and gas — for the rest of the week. The issue with that is I would consider myself to be somewhat healthy and calorie-conscious, so how would I make it on $20, but avoid fueling a bagel and cream cheese habit?

Aside from stacks of Trader Joe’s microwavable meals and soups that I hoarded in the fridge, I was at school or work all day and didn’t always make time for a bagged breakfast or lunch on most nights, and much less the next morning.  It should also be noted that my favorite meal of the day is breakfast, and I am an advocate for it being propagated as the most important meal of the day. So, it was fitting that I compile a few fast food combinations I can always count on for solid breakfast options that are also wallet-friendly, so you can still afford your ClassPass membership, and 2-for-1 drinks on College Night (it’s all about balance, am I right?).

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Taco Bell

I could write an entire article on Taco Bell, so keep your eyes peeled for a lunch edition. It is widely known that Taco Bell has many vegetarian options, and a majority of them are on the $1 value menu! A Grilled Breakfast Burrito ($1, 340 cal) is a good start to any day, and with a choice between bacon, sausage, or plain potato, there is something for all taste buds and lifestyles. If you’re watching calories extra closely, swap out nacho cheese for pico de gallo (.25 extra,  5 cals.) Another good option is a $1 Breakfast Soft Taco, scaling in at only 230 cals, so grab a few, some, for now, some for later! If we are in an extra treat yo’self mood, add a sweet boost to your morning with Cinnabon Delights 2-pack  (160 cals) with a hot cup of coffee – trust me, you’ll thank me later!

After some internet sleuthing, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Taco Bell coffee has its own fanbase, and ranked #6 on best fast food coffees. From my experience, their coffee does not taste like it’s collected dust in a carafe for a week, which is a huge win considering I’ve paid two times the price for a cup of stagnant “freshly brewed” joe from big chain coffee giants.

No matter what combination of items you choose your total will still be under $5, so mix and match and don’t forget your choice of sauce (I have a ton in my center console if you forgot to ask for a few more).

Image via Pexels

Dunkin Donuts

This is also another sweet spot of mine (literally) because it hasn’t been that long since DD expanded to our West Coast, and now I don’t have to choose between awesome coffee, breakfast, and donuts- I love a one-stop drive-thru. For this article, there is one breakfast item that is an all-around winner: the $2.39 Wake-Up Wrap (meat-optional but at no extra cost). With no meat, the wrap comes out to 180 cals, and 20% sodium (skip cheese if you’re watching that salt percentage). For a protein, boost add your choice of meat (maple sugar bacon, bacon, ham, sausage, or turkey sausage) and you’ll still be just under 300 cals. Ask for their vinegary packaged hot sauce and extra napkins and you’ll arrive at that early morning class with a happy tummy and stain-free clothes.

Now for my favorite part of this breakfast order: ICED COFFEE, Y’ALL. Watch out for promotions, such as any medium iced coffee for $1.50 *stadium thunder applause* which graciously includes cream and sugar (or syrup); substitute cow milk for almond milk for just .25 extra (a steal!). My usual order is an original blend with french vanilla and almond milk. DD Original Blend hot coffee also made the list of top fast food coffees, so try a small black (or not, do you) coffee to stay on budget.

wrap + medium iced coffee ($2.79) + tax =$ 4.93

McDonald’s

McDonald’s made the cut because I will sit in a drive-thru line just for a hot coffee. Side note: Gaviña Gourmet Coffee supplies West Coast McDonalds’ with their famous roast. Does Don Francisco or Cafe La Llave espresso ring a bell? Yep, those are also Gaviña Coffee, too. So I have to do it for my Cuban culture and include a cup of McDonald’s coffee. But it doesn’t stop there. While you’re at it, pick up a $2 McGriddle (430 cals) and $1 greek yogurt parfait (150 cals). No matter what size you get a cup of hot coffee will cost you less than $2 and you get you’re still on a budget, so ball out!

Now I’m far from a nutritionist, but you do what you can with the time you make and the bills in your pocket. I hope these suggestions help out my early risers and my broke college mates alike. Enjoy! 

lover of true crime podcasts & books. self-proclaimed muderino (SSDGM!!!). beer connoisseur. cat mommy to sweet baby Pimienta.

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