Like most kids today, when I was younger, all I wanted to eat was a Happy Meal. They seemed irresistible at the time—the box, the toy and the food were a dream come true. My parents, though, used the excuse of the expense of eating out. Most of my meals were home-cooked, which was better for my health and my parents’ wallet.
My parents’ 15-year-old theory doesn’t seem to hold up today, though. Even though the U.S. is in a reported financial crisis (check the front page of any semi-major newspaper), McDonald's sales in the U.S. were up 5.3 percent. Figures were also in the blue in Europe with 9.8 percent and the Asia/Pacific regions, Middle East and Africa with 11.5 percent.
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A part of me doesn’t blame people for opting to eat fast food over making their own meals at home. It’s that dollar menu that seduces customers. Even I am hypnotized by how much it seems I get for just a dollar at McDonald's. And the variety, too: everything from a chicken sandwich to a hamburger to a soft drink to a hot fudge sundae—all just a dollar each! And let’s not forget the McRib, which makes a timely comeback every year just in time for those winter pounds.
There are many homemade meals that are much unhealthier and more expensive than what you can find on McDonalds’ menu, or any fast food menu. But it is so easy to get used to eating so cheaply and quickly that the unhealthy aspect of the food becomes an afterthought.
So, as the economy continues to tumble (for the time being) and the weather gets colder, I’ll be taking a second look at the wonderful world of leftovers. A homemade and healthier meal that costs $6 is worth the trouble to save for another meal.
When I was young, I can remember when leftover meal day at my house was the worst meal of the week. Now I can appreciate my parents controlling my fast food consumption and teaching me that a dollar goes a lot further than the line at McDonald's.