Are fast food chains banking on the poor college student?

It’s a rare sight to see me eating fast food; I’ve limited my trips to about once per month since last year, but sometimes you are in a bind and you need something in your stomach that’s also light on your wallet. While traditionally fast food has been a cheap option, some chains are making their food even cheaper and bundling them into nifty $4 and under deals.

This trend started with Wendy’s and their ‘4 for $4’ promotion in which you receive a bacon cheeseburger, 4 pc. chicken nuggets, small fries, and a drink for just $4. Burger King then joined in on the commotion with their ‘5 for $4’ meal, which includes items exactly like those in the Wendy’s meal but with a cookie added.

These meals are indubitably the best options for college students, if you don’t care about the quality, that is. Being a college student has many defining features, but one of the most pronounced is that of the struggle meal. We’ve all been there when our bank accounts shrink and our stomachs growl out into the night for something, anything to suffice.

However, while the concept of a struggle meal is fairly new, we college students can make smarter choices both nutritionally and financially without resorting to chicken nuggets. Keeping fruit or just smarter snacks like nuts around in your backpack or lunchbox can make a world of difference. It also removes the need to fool around with the lunchtime drive-thru lines.

Salads at fast food restaurants do not sound exciting in any form, but they are surprisingly (mostly) decent. These cost about the same as the $4 meals but are filled with fewer carbs, salt, and fat. Making smart choices at a fast food joint seems pointless, as it is all subpar food, but it’s possible to find choices that still leave you and your wallet full.