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How to save money on salad

A former salad hater has found ways to incorporate them inexpensively and deliciously into his meal plans.

By Karen Datko Dec 10, 2009 11:23AM

This post comes from Trent Hamm at partner blog The Simple Dollar.


Lately, my wife and I have been studying ways to reduce our weekly grocery bill. We’ve been using several tactics to do this, which I will discuss one at a time over a series of articles.


Salads before dinner are a common staple at our house. For a long time, we would buy lots of different dressings and other items to complement the salad. While planning for a grocery trip a few weeks ago, we realized that we were about to spend $15 or so on salad accompaniments (because several of our items were depleted). We decided to try some different tactics to drastically reduce our spending on salad.


Avoid prepackaged greens. Many people buy prepackaged bags of salad greens. They’re convenient and provide a variety of greens. We did the same until we started running the numbers and realized we could buy enough greens for a week’s worth of salads from the fresh area, mix them ourselves, and not only eat fresher, but save some money, too.

All you have to do is select two or three fresh greens that seem interesting -- lettuce, arugula, spinach, etc. -- and take them home. Wash them up, put all of them in a lidded bowl, and mix it thoroughly. Then pop that bowl in the fridge. It’ll last for several days and, if you eat salad every day, you’ll blow right through it.


Make your own croutons. This is stupendously easy and quite tasty. Just take about half a loaf of bread and cut each slice into cubes. In another bowl, combine some olive oil (about three tablespoons or so -- you can put in more if you want) and whatever spices you want --garlic powder, dried oregano, perhaps some grated Parmesan cheese. Mix the spices and oil, then dredge the cubes with the oil. Toss them on a baking sheet, turn the oven to about 300 F (140 C), and bake them for about 20 minutes. These croutons will keep practically forever in the cupboard in a sealed container.


Make your own dressing. Most dressing recipes are really simple, too, and you can make quite a lot of it for pennies. AllRecipes has a huge list of dressing recipes, but my favorite is cucumber dressing. Just take a cup of buttermilk and add a tablespoon of brown mustard and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Then grate a cucumber and add about half a cup of the grated cucumber to the mix. Sprinkle on some black pepper, mix it, and keep it in a jar in the refrigerator. It’ll last a long while. That’s how I like it, but other people add things like minced green onions, minced parsley, dried dill, and minced celery.

Make salad a routine. Salad can be a very healthy addition to any meal because it’s primarily just greens. I like to eat a big pile of lettuce with about two tablespoons of dressing and a few croutons to start off a meal.


Of course, the real kicker is that, with these changes, salad is actually really inexpensive compared with the cost of the entree. So make a simple change to your diet -- start each dinner with a salad. This way, you can prepare less of the entree. Not only does this save you money in the short term at the grocery store, it can be the foundation of a much healthier diet.


I hated salad! I used to hate salads, but I found that when I started trying lots of salad variations, I found greens that I like. Today, I love nothing more than a mix of spinach and arugula. I don’t really like lettuce at all, which was a big reason I didn’t like salads as a kid.


Similarly, I kept trying different dressings until I found some that I really like (like the cucumber one above). You might like something different. There’s an almost infinite variety of dressings.


Keep trying and you’ll likely find some combination that you like. When you find that combination (or find several, hopefully), remember them and use them as ways to start your meals. It’s one of those things that’s a win from almost any perspective.


Related reading at The Simple Dollar:

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