change range

KaiMarch 10, 2020

Ch-ch-change range: Finding the best bang for your buck in New Zealand

change range

A Madeleine Chapman guide to the best and worst of the change range.

I once fell asleep at LAX while waiting for a flight and somebody stole my wallet. I made a sad face at check-in and was able to check my bag for free then had to survive a day in Boston and an overnight Greyhound bus to New York City with a grand total of $2.73 in coins.

In figuring out how to make the most of my budget, I made many rookie errors. First, I bought a bottle of water on its own ($1) which meant I couldn’t afford the 7-Eleven hotdog and drink combo ($2.50) or even a hotdog on its own ($2). In fact, because I wasn’t near a supermarket, all I could afford was Pringles. Have you ever eaten a sleeve of Pringles with a mandated 10-minute break between each individual chip? I have.

It’s moments like these you need Minties, and it’s moments like these you need a change range. When you’re on a long drive and you fumble around in your coin draw, coming up with a huge $7 for the drive thru, you need a change range. A change range can be the difference between an average snack and a bargain meal. They’re getting more expensive by the day, so before they cease to exist, here’s what coins will get you at your friendly neighbourhood food giants.

McDonald’s (C+)

McDonald’s used to have a $5 cheeseburger combo meal ($6 double, $7 triple) and I patiently waited for it to return but *Rose Dawson voice* it’s been 84 years. Instead, they’ve leaned in and refused to compromise. They know you’ll be back and willing to pay full price so why bother? The closest thing to a cheap deal is if you combine the medium fries and medium frozen Coke snack ($3.50) with a full-priced cheeseburger ($3.90). It’s still more than everywhere else but it’s all you’re getting.

McDonald’s does do $1 medium frozen Cokes though.

Burger King (A-)

The King has a genuinely great change range built around the stunner meal. There are stunner meals for a range of burgers (chicken, cheeseburger, rodeo etc) priced between $5 and $7.50.

The cheeseburger stunner with nuggets instead of a sundae (Image: Madeleine Chapman)

A regular cheeseburger stunner meal will set you back $6 for a cheeseburger, medium fries, medium drink, and sundae (which can be swapped for three nuggets or an upsize on the fries/drink). The same deal but with small fries and drink is $5. That’s good value.

Unfortunately Burger King cheeseburgers might be the worst on the market. You can’t have everything. But they do $1 large (or medium) frozen Cokes and that’s good.

KFC (A-)

The KFC snack lunch used to be the undisputed champion for fast value. Snack burger, piece of original recipe, fries and a drink for $6? Mwah. Then it was $6.20, then $6.50, then $7.20, and now I’m sad to report that the snack lunch is no longer a coin purchase, at $7.30 (I swear I paid $8 for one somewhere but can’t confirm). RIP to my relationship with the KFC snack lunch.

Wendy’s (A)*

*I’m giving Wendy’s an A because they have the best-value meal deal but I’m adding a caveat because it’s the only value meal deal. So it’s change, but it’s not range.

Wow I photographed this terribly (Image: Madeleine Chapman)

Their one deal is spectacular though. The ‘Four for’ will get you a deluxe cheeseburger (a cheeseburger with lettuce and tomato), small (thick-cut) fries, small drink, and a Frosty (a sundae). I didn’t include the Frosty in mine because I’m allergic to dairy, which brought the price down to $5.50. But according to Alex Casey, they’re “better than a sundae”.

Domino’s (B)

If you’ve ever searched for Pizza Hut on Google you’ll know that Domino’s ads appear as the first result every time. It’s a petty, great move by the brand and their staple value pizzas are a petty, great $5 too. While the pizzas are not massive, it’s still a lot of food, but they suffer from a lack of variety. A full cheese pizza is yum, but imagine how much yummier it would be with an ice cold beverage to wash it down.

Pizza Hut (B+)

And there’s the ice cold beverage. Pizza Hut has the same $5 value pizzas except also offers a drink OR fries OR chicken bites to accompany it. Three items for $5 is a banger meal. One large item for $5 is ho hum. Two items? It’ll do.

Your local fish and chip shop (A-)

As long as you’re not at a popular tourist spot or in the middle of the city, a fish and chip menu is basically a giant change range. A battered piece of fish may be getting up there in price but you should be able to get a spring roll, chips, and a potato fritter (pay for one, get two) for $6. And that’s called a patriotic bargain.

Texas Chicken (TBC) 

Texas Chicken didn’t have a change range and therefore wasn’t included on this list. But on Monday morning they sent out a suspiciously timed email announcing a $5 meal deal which includes a classic chicken burger, two wings, a small fries, and a small drink. Texas Chicken is yum and therefore this deal sounds pretty good. But I can’t grade something I haven’t experienced and therefore it remains ungraded.

Subway (N/A)

I have heard rumour of a change range at Subway. I don’t believe this rumour. Offering cheese on toast or even cheese and tomato on toast isn’t a change range, it’s just cheaper items on the menu. Everyone’s got a change range if it’s just “things you can buy for under $5”. But to qualify, something resembling a meal must be offered. Until I see such an offer from Subway, it will remain off this list. No further correspondence will be entered into at this time.

Keep going!