Can you prepare organic food at home cheaper than fast food? A flier for a family meal to feed 6 for $25.99 inspired me take the challenge! Below you can read how I made a meal with organic ingredients vs fast food from Churches Chicken and compared the cost.
This post contains affiliate links, which means as an amazon associate I make a small commission on qualified purchases at no extra cost to you. See full disclosure here
Organic food vs Fast Food
Whats the difference? Fried chicken is fried chicken, right? Wrong.
When considering organic vs fast food , the health benefits must be considered. Organic does not translate to healthy BUT its still healthier and we all know homemade food is generally healthier than comparable fast food. Some things to consider – Was the chicken antibiotic and hormone free? What did the chickens eat? Were they humanly raised? Were the potatoes GMO? What oil was used to fry your food?
COST- I hear all the time, I cant afford to eat organic food, its too expensive. These same people frequently eat at fast food restaurants. When comparing the cost of organic groceries to fast food you can often spend less on organic food BUT you have to compare apples to apples – no dollar menu shopping here!
TIME- When we picked up this fast food meal for the challenge we waited in the line for 25 minutes! That wait plus the drive time and gas to drive to the restaurant cost us about an hour. When I created the organic meal I was only cooking in the kitchen for 1 hour and 20 minutes and it took me 15 minutes to do the dishes. So yes, it did take longer to prepare this meal than to drive thru and grab it, but while I was cooking my kids were playing outside in the fresh air not trapped in the car.
What are the most expensive organic foods?
The most expensive items when cooking using organic ingredients are meat, dairy and processed or prepackaged foods. In this copycat meal we had premium meat (chicken tenders) and lots of dairy – butter, cheese, milk etc. Looking at the pricing of conventional groceries vs organic groceries can be sometimes be discouraging, but have you taken a look at the cost of fast food or drive thru items vs organic ingredients? The costs are not that far off!
What did the fast food meal include?
Since the flier from Churches had intrigued me to do this challenge it was the meal I chose to copy cat for this challenge (plus my family loves fried chicken so I knew it wouldn’t go to waste)
The meal included the below for $25.99
- Chicken – 10 piece mix OR 12 legs OR 15 tenders
- 2 large 16 oz sides and 6 biscuits
- OR 3 large 16 oz sides
Which chicken is the cheapest?
Lets talk about the chicken first. I chose the most expensive cut to copy here. Legs or mixed pieces would have been cheaper (see my prior blog post where I made a cheap meal using Trader Joes chicken legs). My goal was really to see if I could create something very similar for the same price (or cheaper). When I got my take out meal I weighed each of the tenders – they ranged from 1.5-2.3 oz. It was about 1.8 lbs of meat. We raise our own chickens for meat on our farm so I used that as our meat. For comparison sake I looked up the current price at Costco for organic boneless skinless chicken breast and it was $5.46/lb. So I would be spending $9.72 on meat. That made me a little nervous about the challenge, but I was still confident I could make the organic meal cheaper!
Making the Fried Chicken
Another meal I never cooked at home before Covid was fried chicken. For Christmas I was gifted a Fry Daddy and I decided it was time to try cooking our favorite fast food splurge at home!
I used boneless skinless chicken breasts from Cornish cross birds we had raised over the last year. I cut the breasts into strips. Then I dipped them in my liquid (milk, vinegar, a duck egg and some buffalo sauce to dip). Next I covered them in my flour mixture (flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, pepper and garlic powder)
The oil in the Fry Daddy heated up for 15 minutes and then I cooked small batches of the chicken tenders for 3-5 minutes each. I did not include the cost of my oil in the cost analysis because I reuse it several times.
My family raves about the fried chicken I make at home and it has become a favorite above running to the drive thru. Making just fried chicken at home takes me less time than running to our closest Chick Fil A or other fried chicken place. Granted if you were in town this might not case, but for us it take less time to make at home!
Here is the link to my fry daddy
Total cost for the chicken was $12
How to turn boxed Mac and Cheese into Amazing Baked Mac and Cheese
A simple box of mac and cheese is a great go to for a side, but for this challenge I wanted to make something very similar to the Churches side. After pouring over Pinterest for inspiration I decided to make my own baked recipe. Here is what I did-
- boil the macaroni per the instruction on the box and set aside
- in your pot add 2 TBS flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and your cheese packet with 1-2 TBS butter and melt
- once that is melted add 2 TBS organic milk
- then add 3 oz of shredded cheese and melt
- mix the sauce with the already cooked pasta
- place in a small baking dish and top with organic shredded cheese
- bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes
The organic baked mac and cheese cost about $6 and made more than double the amount from Churches.
I will be honest here. No one here would eat the fast food mac and cheese, it went to the pigs. The homemade mac and cheese was devoured and we had plenty for leftovers.
The biscuits cost about $2 to make and we ended up with more than double what we got at Churches.
The mashed potatoes were simple. I washed, peeled and cut 5 russet potatoes into cubes and boiled them. I added salt, pepper, butter and milk and whipped them with my hand mixer.
The mashed potatoes cost about $1.00 and made a little less than double what we had in the Churches meal
How do you make gravy from Scratch?
There are lots of ways to make gravy. I was intimated for years to make my own gravy. Its so simple! I just used my cast iron skillet to melt the butter then I added flour, salt and pepper and milk and kept stirring until I got the consistency I was after. We prefer thick rich gravy and I figured it wouldn’t matter much if our gravy was a different consistency than the Churches runny gravy.
The gravy cost about $1.50 to make and made way more than the couple table spoons that were in the mashed potatoes from the drive thru.
End Results and Kid Reviews
- In this case Fast Food was more expensive than a meal made with ‘expensive’ organic ingredients
- Total cost was $22.50 – BUT we made almost double the food! The chicken was the same amount of food and the was cost $12. If you add the $12 for the chicken and the cost of half the sides the total would be about $17.25. The cost isn’t half but its far less than the fast food at $25.99 plus tax.
- The cost analysis was done at full price, NOT the prices I actually pay. For example, I quoted out the mac and cheese at $1.49 a box which is what you will find on the shelf, but I only paid $.90 per box at Costco when they were on sale with a coupon. I order our cheese online for $7.30/lb but in stores Raw Organic Cheese is closer to $10/pound.
- When I weighted the sides in the container they were 12 oz not 16 oz and that included the weight of the container!
- My husband was a big fan of the Organic vs Fast Food challenge at Churches because he loves fried chicken!
- The sides from the fast food meal were fed to the pigs – no one would eat them here …
- We liked Churches biscuits better than the homemade ones! It might be because I substituted butter for the vegetable shorting but ours were soft and fluffy not crispy like the fast food
- The kids loved the baked mac and cheese
- My kids love all fried chicken, but prefer our at home organic the best
Tips on eating organic food on a budget
- Buy in bulk
- stock up when things are on sale
- raise our own
- Avoid prepared items
- cook from scratch
- start small, just replace your items as you use them
I hope this challenge will give you some inspiration on how you CAN afford to eat organically. Prior to Covid I did not do a lot of cooking, but over the last year I have developed my skills and have made some really great meals for my family. I want to encourage you to do the same! Its really not hard, it just takes practice – just start. The purpose of this challenge was to see if I could create an organic meal cheaper than the drive through. Comment below if you would like more detailed instructions or tutorials on any of the items I made for this meal.
Save for Later