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These restaurant items cost only $1

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Buys for a buck

A dollar doesn't buy what it used to do.

Earlier this week, Yum Brands' Taco Bell launched its new Dollar Cravings menu. Unlike many of its competitors, the items actually cost just a buck—rather than a buck and change.

Squeezed by inflation, fast-food players have hiked prices in recent years for many of their value items.

Still, value remains an essential part of fast-food chains' strategy for attracting customers.

"If you look at the economy today and how much pressure is on the consumer, I think value is at least as important as ever," said Taco Bell marketing chief Chris Brandt in a phone interview.

So what exactly can a dollar buy these days? CNBC called up numerous locations of fast-food outlets in the three largest metro areas (New York, Los Angeles and Chicago) to find out.

Click ahead to see just what a buck is worth.

By CNBC's Katie Little
Posted 23 Aug. 2014

Stepan Popov | E+ | Getty Images