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I Ordered Olive Garden For a Family of Four – It Cost Less Than McDonald’s

Chicken and Gnocchi Soup

I Ordered Olive Garden For a Family of Four – It Cost Less Than McDonald’s

This weekend I ordered Olive Garden for a family of four and was surprised to find the total came out to less than our average McDonald’s order.

Getting a cheaper meal at Olive Garden surprised me as you’d expect a sit-down restaurant to be significantly more expensive than fast food. In addition, I thought my meal was great and my family will definitely order from Olive Garden’s To-Go options again.

Let’s look at the Olive Garden Order and how its price compares to feeding your family at McDonald’s.

The Meal Came In a Bag That Looked Like I Just Finished Shopping at a Department Store

Olive Garden Bag

©MomsWhoThink /Eric Bleeker

There was a substantial amount of food in the bag. Overall, we ordered:

  • Kid’s Mac and Cheese
  • Kid’s Five Cheese Marinara
  • Soup, Salad, and Breadsticks
  • Famous House Salad

One surprise: even the kid’s meals came with breadsticks. In total, we received 8 breadsticks, which was plenty. Our total (including tax and tip) came out to just under $40.

I Ordered the Soup, Salad, and Breadsticks and it Was Substantial

Olive Garden Soup, Salad, and Breadsticks at Home

©MomsWhoThink /Eric Bleeker

  • Price: $11.49

One difference in ordering the Soup, Salad, and Breadsticks on a to-go order is you only get two breadsticks with your order. Thankfully, as I noted above, the kid’s meals came with breadsticks so I had plenty.

I got the Chicken & Gnocchi soup, which is a personal favorite. Interviews from former Olive Garden employees have emphasized that items like soup are made from scratch everyday. In total, if you look at the calories in this meal you find:

  • Chicken And Gnocchi Soup: 230 Calories
  • House Salad: 290 Calories
  • 2 Breadsticks: 280 Calories

That comes out to 800 calories, which is enough to fill you up, but not enough you feel stuffed after your meal. Without question, I felt much better than if I had ordered something like a Big Mac with Fries from McDonald’s.

My Wife Got Just the House Salad

Olive Garden House Salad

©MomsWhoThink /Eric Bleeker

  • Price: $8.29

I’m a big fan of Olive Garden’s House Salad. While it’s not very complex (consisting of Italian dressing, tomatoes, olives, onions, and pepperoncini), it does hit the spot and pairs very well with breadsticks.

However, the price point of this meal (at $8.29) is only about $3 less than adding soup as well. Since soup costs $8.29 on its own, I think it’s a no-brainer to get the combo. The company has four different soups: Chicken & Gnocchi, Minestrone, Pasta e Fagioli, and Zuppa Toscana.

The Kids Meals are Just $6.99

Olive Garden Kid's Mac and Cheese

©MomsWhoThink /Eric Bleeker

  • Price: $6.99

I found the kid’s meals at Olive Garden to be pretty reasonable. One of my kids got the mac and cheese, which is listed at 360 calories. I’m a fan of that amount of calories as some kids meals at sit-down restaurants have gotten excessively large.

(Last week I took my kid to a restaurant where the kid’s mac and cheese had 1,600 calories!)

Side choices include broccoli, french fries, grapes, and spaghetti with tomato sauce. In addition, kids get a drink choice that includes lemonade, colas, and milk.

All Kid’s Meals are 500 Calories or Less

Olive Garden Marinara with Pasta Kid's Meal

©MomsWhoThink /Eric Bleeker

You’d rather be feeding your kids at home where you can control the ingredients. Yet, we’re all busy, and making home-cooked meals all the time just isn’t practical.

So it was nice to see that no kid’s meals have more than 500 calories on their entree. You can add more calories by adding fries (like the picture above), but other sides like grapes or broccoli are healthier options as well.

How Does McDonald’s Cost More?

©Gargantiopa/Shutterstock.com

Obviously, McDonald’s can be cheaper than this, but if you’re getting meals it can also get surprisingly expensive. A look at my local McDonald’s prices on a typical order for a family of four with two kids:

  • Big Mac Meal: $10.69
  • Deluxe Spicy McCrispy Meal: $9.29
  • 2 Cheeseburger Happy Meals: $8.78
  • 2 Cheeseburgers: $5.18

That adds up to $33.94 before tax, which surprisingly is more than the $33.76 cost of our Olive Garden order.

One challenge that’s been facing McDonald’s and other fast food companies is rising food prices have pushed up the prices on their “value menus.” Adding on cheeseburgers that used to cost $.99 and now cost $3 or more at some locations adds a significant total to bills.

Consumers are Getting More Value-Conscious

©Elena Veselova/Shutterstock.com

Olive Garden is owned by Darden Restaurants, which recently reported that lower-income consumers are “pulling back” amidst rising food prices.

Darden is far from alone in feeling the pressure. For example, Red Lobster is reportedly exploring bankruptcy. One strategy these restaurants will likely pursue is creating value offerings to attract customers in segments that are watching spending. That could be anything from new “To Go” offerings for families to weekday specials.

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