Special Report

42 Cheapest Fast Food Items To Buy This January

Value menu hamburgers
TheDapperDan / Wikimedia Commons

It probably comes as no surprise that the United States is the world leader in fast-food consumption. The U.S. ranks well ahead of other fast-food-loving nations, such as the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, and Austria. One of the main reasons for Americans’ fast food addiction is that, historically, this fare was both convenient and cheap. While the convenience of fast food has certainly increased even more thanks to delivery services such as DoorDash and Uber Eats, it is no longer the inexpensive option that it once was. A family of four can easily rack up a $50 tab at a fast-food restaurant. The $50 threshold used to be reserved for nicer “sit-down restaurants.” Not anymore.

We all know that food prices have risen sharply. Grocery bills have risen substantially, but those increases are nowhere near what we see in the fast-food industry today. The menu prices at U.S. fast-food restaurants have increased at almost double the rate of inflation. According to Restaurant Business, fast-food prices in December reflected a 6% increase over the previous year. Overall inflation only rose by 3.1% in that same 12-month period. If it seems like it is a lot more expensive to swing by the drive-thru these days, that’s because it is. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still score a deal at your favorite fast-food restaurant.

We found some of the cheapest items you can purchase at national fast-food chains. Yes, in many cases, the prices of these items may be a bit higher than you remember, but they are still quite affordable compared to most items on America’s fast-food menus. (If you want to check out the opposite end of the spectrum, here’s a list of the 16 most expensive fast food items to buy this January.)

Creating the List

Restaurant worker serving two fast food meals with smile. woman holding tray with salads at fast food restaurant
We surveyed dozens of fast food menus to create this list of inexpensive fast food items.

To compile this list of the cheapest fast food items this month, 24/7 Wall St. consulted the online menus of some of the largest fast food chains in the U.S. We only focused on single items from each franchise. Combo meals, kids meals, and other multi-item options were not considered for this list. We also only evaluated standard menu entrées and sides. Customized or “secret menu” items were not included in our survey.

Desserts and beverages were also not included, although there are some great deals available. For example, you can grab a black coffee (any size) from Burger King for just a buck. A chocolate chip cookie from McDonalds is only 89¢. Other chains offer similar deals, as well. However, we focused solely on entrées and sides in this survey.

The prices listed are accurate as of January 2024 but are subject to change. Prices may also vary depending on your location.

Sides

French fries cooking
Do you want fries with that? Of course, you do!

Here’s a look at the cheapest fries, chips, and other side items at many of the biggest fast-food chains in the U.S.

21. Domino’s

Domino's
The cheesy tots at Domino’s are the cheapest side item on the pizza chain’s menu.
  • Item: Melty 3-Cheese Loaded Tots
  • Price: $6.99

20. Papa John’s

Papa John's
You can add garlic knots to your Papa John’s order for seven bucks.
  • Item: Garlic Knots
  • Price: $6.99

19. Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut
Did you know Pizza Hut serves three different flavors of fries?
  • Item: Fries (Straight-Cut, Cajun Style Seasoned, Lemon Pepper Seasoned)
  • Price: $3.49

18. Dairy Queen

Dairy Queen
You can add fries to your DQ order for three bucks.
  • Item: Fries (regular)
  • Price: $2.99

17. Hardee’s

Hardees
The natural-cut fries are a popular side item at Hardee’s.
  • Items: Fries (small)
  • Price: $2.59

16. Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-A fries
If you don’t order waffle fries, do you even Chick-fil-A?
  • Item: Waffle Fries (small)
  • Price: $2.19

15. Panda Express

Panda Express
There are some tasty sides at Panda Express that won’t break the bank.
  • Items: Chicken Egg Roll, Veggie Spring Roll, Cream Cheese Rangoon (3 count)
  • Price: $2

14. Arby’s

Arbys curly fries
Got two bucks? You can score an order of Arby’s famous curly fries.
  • Items: Curly or Crinkle-Cut Fries (small)
  • Price: $1.99

13. Jimmy John’s

Jimmy Chips from Jimmy John's
$2 = a bag of Jimmy Chips. A tasty equation, indeed.
  • Item: Jimmy Chips
  • Price: $1.99

12. McDonald’s

McDonald's fries
If you weren’t thinking about McDonald’s fries before…you are now.
  • Item: Fries (small)
  • Price: $1.99

11. Sonic

Sonic
Sonic’s soft pretzel is the cheapest side item on the menu.
  • Item: Soft Pretzel Twist
  • Price: $1.99

10. Wendy’s

Wendys fries
Wendy’s natural-cut fries are an inexpensive addition to your order. And if you want to dip them in your Frosty, we won’t judge.
  • Item: Fries (small)
  • Price: $1.99

9. Chipotle

Chipotle chips
Getting your fix of Chipotle’s house-made chips won’t cost you much.
  • Item: Chips
  • Price: $1.85

8. Jersey Mike’s

Jersey Mikes Subs
You can add a bag of chips to your sandwich for less than two bucks at Jersey Mike’s.
  • Item: Chips
  • Price: $1.79

7. Subway

Subway
No sandwich from Subway can be complete without a side of chips, right?
  • Item: Lay’s Potato Chips
  • Price: $1.59

6. Taco Bell

Taco Bell sign
A side of black beans is an affordable complement to your Taco Bell meal.
  • Item: Black Beans
  • Price: $1.59

5. Burger King

Burger King cheesy tots
Burger King’s cheesy tots are the cheapest side item on the menu. (The price below is for a four-piece order.)
  • Item: Cheesy Tots (4 piece)
  • Price: $1.49

4. Jack in the Box

Jack in the Box
It may not be the most flavorful option on the menu, but a serving of white rice is pretty cheap at Jack in the Box.
  • Item: White Rice
  • Price: $1.30

3. Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen

Biscuit from Popeyes
A biscuit from Popeye’s costs just over a buck.
  • Item: Biscuit
  • Price: $1.29

2. Kentucky Fried Chicken

Biscuit from Kentucky Fried Chicken
A KFC biscuit is a dime cheaper than Popeye’s, so you won’t have to spend much to decide which franchise can claim biscuit superiority.
  • Item: Biscuit
  • Price: $1.19

1. Panera

Panera restaurant
Adding a bag of chips to your Panera order is surprisingly inexpensive, considering the franchise’s rather pricey menu.
  • Item: Chips
  • Price: 89¢

Entrées

Big hamburger on white background
Even with today’s high prices, you can still score some rather inexpensive burgers, chicken nuggets, and other entrées if you know where to look.

We surveyed the same fast-food chains for their  cheapest entrées. Here’s what we found.

21. Papa John’s

Papa Johns logo
Obviously the chain is most famous for its pizza, but you can get six bone-in wings from Papa John’s for under eight bucks.
  • Item: Traditional Wings (6 pieces)
  • Price: $7.99

20. Domino’s

Dominos
The sandwiches at Domino’s are the cheapest entrées on the menu.
  • Items: Sandwiches (wide variety)
  • Price: $6.99

19. Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen

Popeye's
Admittedly, we are stepping outside our own methodology for this one. However, the Big Box meal is the cheapest entrée item on Popeye’s menu this month. It’s a limited time deal, though, so don’t delay.
  • Item: Big Box
  • Price: $6.99

18. Jersey Mike’s

Jersey Shores Favorite at Jersey Mikes provolone ham and cappacuolo
The mini sub version of the Jersey Shore’s Favorite is one of three subs available for $6.65 at Jersey Mike’s.
  • Item: Mini Sub (Jersey Shore’s Favorite, Ham and Provolone, The Veggie)
  • Price: $6.65

17. Panera

Panera
It isn’t easy to keep your bill low at Panera, but we found a couple of half sandwiches that are the most inexpensive entrées on the menu.
  • Items: Classic Grilled Cheese (half), Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich (half)
  • Price: $6.59

16. Subway

Subway
Subway’s cheapest sandwich is the Veggie Delite.
  • Item: Veggie Delite (six inch)
  • Price: $6.29

15. Panda Express

Panda Express orange chicken
You can score a small Orange Chicken and many other à la carte items for just over five bucks at Panda Express.
  • Item: Numerous Small Items
  • Price: $5.20

14. Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut cheese personal pan pizza
Remember Pizza Hut’s personal pan pizza from your childhood? You can still order it today.
  • Item: Personal Pan Pizza (cheese)
  • Price: $4.99

13. Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-A
Chick-fil-A claims to be the home of “the original chicken sandwich,” but you can save some dough (literally and figuratively) if you lose the bun.
  • Item: Chicken Filet (no bun)
  • Price: $4.84

12. Jimmy John’s

Jimmy John's
Does Robin Hood order the Little John when he visits Jimmy John’s? **thinking face emoji**
  • Item: Little John (7 different varieties)
  • Price: $4.49

11. Chipotle

Chipotle at night
The tacos at Chipotle are the cheapest entrées on what can be a rather expensive menu.
  • Item: One Taco (Sofritas, Veggie)
  • Price: $3.30

10. Kentucky Fried Chicken

Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant
KFC is far from the cheapest fast-food chain, but the Chicken Little Sandwich is a pretty good deal.
  • Item: Chicken Little Sandwich
  • Price: $2.99

9. Hardee’s

Hardee's
A meal at Hardee’s doesn’t have to cost a lot thanks to these wraps.
  • Items: Chicken Tender Wraps (Spicy, Ranch, Honey Mustard)
  • Price: $2.89

8. Dairy Queen

Dairy Queen
You can grab a hot dog at DQ for less than three bucks.
  • Item: Classic Hot Dog
  • Price: $2.79

7. Jack in the Box

Wrapped Jack In The Box Jr Jumbo Jack
The Jr. Jumbo Jack is a tasty bargain at Jack in the Box.
  • Item: Jr. Jumbo Jack
  • Price: $2.39

6. McDonald’s

McChicken
The McChicken sandwich has been one of the best deals under the Golden Arches for a long time. It’s nice to know that some things never change.
  • Items: McChicken Sandwich, McNuggets (4 pieces)
  • Price: $2.09

5. Arby’s

An Arby's Restaurant In Dawsonville, Georgia
In case you haven’t heard, Arby’s has the meats. And some of those meats are available on these inexpensive sliders.
  • Item: Slider (Chicken, Buffalo Chicken, Roast Beef, Jalapeño Roast Beef)
  • Price: $1.99

4. Sonic

Sonic
The quarter-pound double cheeseburger at Sonic is on a limited time deal this month. It is one of the best bargains we found in our entire survey.
  • Item: Quarter-Pound Double Cheeseburger
  • Price: $1.99

3. Burger King

Burger King chicken nuggets
Chicken nuggets are the cheapest entrée on Burger King’s menu. (The price below is for four nuggets.)
  • Item: Chicken Nuggets (4 pieces)
  • Price: $1.59

2. Wendy’s

Wendy's
The Jr.Hamburger from Wendy’s is super cheap.
  • Item: Jr. Hamburger
  • Price: $1.49

1. Taco Bell

Taco Bell
Some may debate whether the cheesy roll up qualifies as an entrée, but there’s no denying that it’s a pretty good deal for only a dollar.
  • Item: Cheesy Roll Up
  • Price: $1

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