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He tried to eat a $28 Taco Bell lunch - and failed

Part of a $28 Taco Bell meal.  (Aaron Hutcherson/Washington Post)
By Aaron Hutcherson The Washington Post

“You want to know how bad inflation is?” Fox News contributor Scott Martin said in a clip posted to Twitter. “Yesterday, yes, I had a nice lunch at Taco Bell – cost me about $28 at Taco Bell for lunch.”

Insert record scratch here.

“Wait a minute,” host Neil Cavuto said. “You spent $28 at Taco Bell for just yourself?” And to my and Martin’s on-screen companions’ shock, he answered in the affirmative. That clip has 3.6 million views as of the writing of this article and, naturally, has spawned lots of hot takes, the majority of them questioning how it’s possible for one person to spend that much money at a fast-food restaurant known for its fairly affordable meals. For example, you can get a Cravings Value Menu Classic Combo, which includes a large drink, Beefy 5-Layer Burrito, Crunchy Taco, and Chips and Nacho Cheese Sauce – all for about $5.

In a curious daze, I looked at a Taco Bell menu to see how much food I could order for that much money. Martin is chief investment officer for a wealth management company based in Chicago, so I chose a Taco Bell location downtown and went to work. Assuming a 11.75% tax rate, Martin’s subtotal was about $25. For that amount of money, one could easily feed four to five people on Cravings Value Menu meals alone. Other possibilities include:

• 8 Soft Tacos + Chips and Nacho Cheese Sauce = $25.01.

• 5 Mexican Pizzas + Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes = $24.54.

• 3 Double Steak Grilled Cheese Burritos + Cheese Quesadilla = $25.56.

• Variety Taco Party Pack (6 Crunchy Tacos and 6 Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Tacos) + 12-pack of Cinnabon Delights = $25.98.

• Taco and Burrito Cravings Pack (4 Crunchy Tacos plus 4 Beefy 5-Layer Burritos) + Drinks Party Pack (4 medium drinks) + 1 Nachos BellGrande = $24.28.

Even if he opted for an alcoholic beverage to go with his meal, those are $7 at most. So no matter how you slice and dice it, one can easily feed multiple people with an average appetite for the amount Martin spent on himself.

It wasn’t until later that I saw a screenshot of his order on Twitter. Martin’s order came to a subtotal of $25.40 and included:

• 1 Burrito Supreme with added guacamole.

• 1 Nachos BellGrande with added jalapeño.

• 1 large Mountain Dew Baja Blast Freeze.

• 1 Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Tacos Supreme.

• 1 Nacho Cheese Doritos Cheesy Gordita Crunch.

So many questions came to mind. Mainly, why not go with a combo (or three)? They are an easy way to get more bang for your buck at fast-food restaurants. And considering Martin’s profession as a financial professional, one would think he would understand that; it makes his attempt to use his lunch order as an example of inflation a stretch at best.

“The order is true and a collection of my favorite items,” Martin said via email. Yet I still wonder how much this same order would have cost one or two years ago. (I contacted Taco Bell for comment or data on the change in menu prices, but have not heard back in time for publishing.)

Trying to justify the quantity of food, I thought, perhaps he is an athlete of some sort, as the meal clocks in at an estimated 2,040 calories. My favorite order is a combo consisting of two Chalupa Supremes, a taco and a large drink, which can range from 850 to 1,270 calories depending on your specifications. Even then, I’m only able to finish the entire meal when I’m particularly hungry. (Otherwise, I save the taco for a snack.)

Martin’s order seems a step too far for me and most people of average appetite. Like the Coco Chanel saying, if he’d taken one item off – or perhaps two or three – I could see it as being (slightly more) reasonable. Then my editor came up with the brilliant idea that I should eat this order for lunch. (Lucky me …)

To make the most of my time, I placed an order via Uber Eats. The frozen version of the drink wasn’t an option, so I went with the regular soda in its place, and my subtotal was $30.07 before taxes, fees and a tip. (Prices on Uber Eats are often higher than in-store or via restaurants’ apps.) I wasn’t particularly hungry at the time of ordering, so I was nervous about how this would turn out. “Oh gosh, I’m scared,” I said to myself as soon as my order arrived. “Mommy!” Alas, there was no one I could turn to for help.

I decided to start with the nachos, as I figured they had the shortest life span. A fellow spice lover, I enjoyed the addition of jalapeños. One point for Martin.

“Do I get worker’s comp for this?” I wondered.

I didn’t realize how big the nachos were – this could be my meal by itself. But about halfway through, the chips started to get soggy and unappetizing. I switched to the Dorito Locos Taco and finished it with ease. “I’m definitely full – I should probably stop here,” I thought to myself. Nevertheless, I persisted.

The Cheesy Gordita Crunch sat in front of me for 5 minutes before I took a bite. The bread on the outside seems unnecessary, like a cheap ploy to fill diners up. Maybe it was the excess bread – or more likely the nachos or taco I had already eaten – but halfway through the Gordita Crunch I was full to the point of discomfort. I threw in the towel and put the burrito in the fridge for another day.

This is far too much food for me for a casual lunch, but if Martin can eat this entire order in the middle of the day and live to tell the tale, more power to him.