The Best Kid’s Meals for Grown-Ass Adults

Here’s how to beat rising prices at your favorite fast food chains.

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Food prices are soaring, and even value menu offerings aren’t enough to save many of us from spending too much in the drive-thru lane. However, I have a temporary solution that might just bring the pure joy back to your fast food experience, along with some cost savings: Go for the kids menu.

Trust me on this. The biggest complaint you might have about this recommendation is that kids menu items just aren’t enough food for a full-grown adult, but because it’s designed to cater to growing kids, it comes marginally closer to being a balanced meal (with the “proper amount” of fries). Give it a shot; you might find yourself pleasantly surprised by how satisfying a kids meal can be.

And yes, even though every single one of these meals comes with milk, I assure you it is not mandatory to opt for the milk. You can swap it for something else. Calm down.

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McDonald’s Happy Meal

The iconic McDonald’s Happy Meal has been putting a smile on faces since the 1970s, so I would be remiss not to include it here. McDonald’s Happy Meal offerings include a burger combo and either a four- or six-piece Chicken McNugget combo. All three options come with fries, a drink, and apple slices.

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Each meal will run you somewhere between $4 and $6. On the regular menu, a hamburger, small fries, and a drink comes out to a little over $6. The small fries are slightly larger than the kid size, but doesn’t come paired with the apple slices or toy to make you feel cool.

The milk jug can, as promised, be swapped out for a few different options: chocolate milk, bottled water, or orange juice.

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Bonus hack here: You can actually swap out the apple slices in each meal for more fries. See? You can feel like one of the big kids and still get a toy.

Meal option #1:

  • Hamburger Happy Meal (hamburger, kid-sized fries, apple slices, small drink, and toy): $4.39
  • Single hamburger, small fries, and small fountain drink: $6.27

Meal option #2:

  • 6-piece Chicken McNuggets Happy Meal (nuggets, apple slices, kid-size fries, small drink, and toy): $5.79
  • 10-piece McNuggets meal (comes with medium fries and a medium fountain drink): $8.99
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Burger King’s King Jr. Meal

The king’s offerings for his loyal subjects are pretty similar to McDonald’s, but with one main exception: Where McDonald’s removed cheeseburgers from its Happy Meal offerings, Burger King offers both a regular hamburger and cheeseburger combo meal for the kiddos.

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For a dollar more you can add bacon to your burger or cheeseburger King Jr. meal, and at no extra charge you can swap out the default applesauce side for fries or onion rings. If you compare the four-piece chicken nugget kids menu offering to buying the same combination of menu items a la carte (four-piece nugget, small fries and a drink), there’s about a $2 difference in price.

Once again, the kids meal has the added bonus of a toy to lift your spirit.

Meal option #1:

  • 4-piece Chicken Nuggets King Jr. Meal (comes with nuggets, a side, a junior drink, and a toy): $3.99
  • 4-piece Chicken Nuggets with value-sized onion rings and small drink: $5.77

Meal option #2:

  • Cheeseburger King Jr. Meal (comes with a side, a junior drink, and a toy): $3.79
  • Small Cheeseburger Meal (comes with a side and a drink): $4.00

Chipotle Kid’s Meal

Chipotle’s kid’s menu lacks a brand-forward name, but to be honest it doesn’t need it. As with the regular-sized menu options, Chipotle’s two kid’s menu offerings are straightforward and offer room for customization.

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At Chipotle, the kid in you can choose from a build-your-own-tacos meal or a quesadilla meal. With the BYOT meal, you get a choice of meat (all the proteins Chipotle has to offer), guacamole or queso, and two toppings to go with either two hard shell corn or soft flour tortillas. The quesadilla meal offers fewer options, but just as much food. You can choose to add any meat to your quesadilla (which is only served in a flour tortilla) or leave it as cheese only.

The sides are rice and beans, but you choose from either black or pinto beans and white or brown rice. As for a side and beverage choice, you can have either fruit or “kid’s chips’’ (i.e. tortilla chips) and organic juice or milk for both meals. No matter which meal you opt for, you’ve got tons of options to work with.

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Both meals come out to around $5 each, but the real hack is that the kids’ quesadilla meal can be ordered in person, unlike the adult version, which is a “digital-only entree” and must be ordered on the app. Once again, the portion size is part of what keeps these kids’ options cheaper, but just like a Chipotle burrito, sometimes the full-size Chipotle quesadilla is too much of a good thing.

Meal option #1:

  • Kids’ Build Your Own Taco Meal (choice of meat, two toppings, a side, and a drink): $4.95
  • Three chicken taco meal (rice, beans, unlimited toppings, but side and drink are extra): $10.50
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Meal option #2:

  • Kids’ Quesadilla Meal (choice of meat, side of rice and beans, another side, and a drink): $4.50
  • Online-only Build Your Own Quesadilla (chicken as meat choice, three sides, and drink is extra): $11.05
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If you happen to have never grown out of drinking milk with every single meal, these kids’ menu hacks are a dream come true. You’re welcome.