January 9, 2016

Day 9: How to Make a $15 Restaurant Salad for $2-3

Deluxe Salad

Today we’re going to learn how you can make those $15 restaurant salads for just $2-3 at home. Salad is the green goddess of healthy eating and she reigns supreme. Salad is often the only healthy choice at a restaurant where everything is deep fried or else swimming in butter, vegetable oil, and salt. But you’re not going to get a price break for your healthiness.

The only exceptions are the $1 salads at some fast food restaurants. But why don’t we buy them as often as we should? If you’re like me, it’s because you can’t unwrap and eat it while you are driving down the road at 70 mph. Maybe someday they’ll invent some straps that suspend the salad just below and in front of our mouth, like a feed bag so we can eat them while we drive. Then we'll all start buying more salads. :)

The fact that fast food restaurants can sell you a salad for $1 and still make a profit tells you that they are making those tiny salads for 25-50 cents. And once you start making your own salads you’ll see how affordable they are.

Now picture in your mind the best salad bar at the best buffet you’ve ever been to. The one with about 100 topping choices. Imagine if you could replicate that in your pantry and fridge. Would eating salad be a lot more appealing? You know it!

    8 divider serving tray
    8 compartment serving tray
    8 divider serving tray

Here are some tips to help you succeed in your salad-eating:

  • A good goal is to eat some salad before you eat anything else for lunch or dinner. It's like your own 3-course meal. Treat yourself to high class!
  • Get yourself (and your spouse) a large bowl just to eat your salads from (can be wooden & expensive or plastic & cheap, but it needs to be fairly big)
  • Prepare the salads right into your bowl so there is no serving bowl to clean up
  • Prepared/combined salads honestly don’t keep well, so we just take 5 minutes to prepare them fresh
  • When your kids are ready to join you, just set out the ingredients and let them make their own salad (maybe have them choose at least 4 ingredients)
  • Some of the items can be chopped in advance and keep well. It matters how fast you eat each one.
  • Build up to (3) 8-compartment containers, like the pictures/links on the left. 2 for cold ingredients and one for dry ingredients. Then, when it’s time for lunch or dinner you pull them out and go to town!
  • Don't eat the same salad everyday or you'll sick of it.

Ok, now you’re ready to go shopping. The more ingredients you have on hand, the more variations of salads you can make. Each week buy a few extra ingredients and steadily built up your supply.

Here is a price breakdown for you on ingredients. Price is of course going to vary by where you live, what stores you shop, and the season, but here is a rough guide. The list is divided into food groups and sorted by the cheapest to most expensive salad ingredient.

Ingredient Price Serves  Cost/Serving 
Red/Green Leaf/ Cabbage 0.99 3  0.30
Red/Green/Iceberg/ Romaine Lettuce 0.99 3  0.30
Spinach 0.99 3  0.30
Green/Red/Purple Kale 1.99 3  0.60
Garlic 0.59 8  0.07
Yellow onion 0.40 4  0.10
Green onion 0.70  0.10
Sweet onion 0.60 4  0.15
Radish (dozen) 0.99 6  0.15
Celery stalks 1.99 12  0.15
Carrots 2.99 20  0.15
White onion 0.80 4  0.20
Pickles dill chips  1.50 8  0.20
Corn/hominy (can) 0.75 3  0.25
Pepperoncinis 3.00 12  0.25
Mushrooms 0.75 3  0.25
Carrot shreds (10oz) 1.50 5  0.30
Cucumber 0.99 3  0.30
Black/green olives 3.00 10  0.30
Green/red pepper 0.99 3  0.30
Broccoli 0.99 3  0.33
Avocado 0.75 2  0.40
Tomatoes (4) 2.00 4  0.50
Grape/cherry Tomato 5.00 10  0.50
Artichoke hearts  3.50 6  0.60
Palm hearts 3.50 6  0.60
Cauliflower 3.99 6  0.65
Raisins 2.99 20  0.20
Peaches/pear/mix fruit 0.99 5  0.20
Craisins 2.99 20  0.20
Mandarin oranges  0.50 2  0.25
Pineapple/mangoes 1.30 5  0.25
Apple 0.30 1  0.30
Grapes  3.50 3.5  1.00
Strawberry 5.00 3  1.65

Canned Beans: Black/kidney/green/ 3bean/peas/chili/ canneli/pinto/great northern/white/ garbanzo beans  0.75 3  0.25

Salsa (1 lb) 1.50 10  0.15
Eggs (dozen to boil) 1.20 6  0.20
Cottage cheese 1.50 5  0.30
Cheese Shreds (1 lb) 3.00 8  0.40
Croutons 2.00 5  0.40
Nuts and seeds (1 lb) walnuts, pecans, cashews, sunflower, peanuts, almonds, etc 7.00 14  0.50
Tuna (5 oz can) 0.75 1  0.75
Chicken (10 oz can) 1.75 2  0.85
Shrimp (5 oz can) 1.75 2  0.85

If for each meal you choose 2 kinds of leaves, 2 vegetables, a fruit, a bean, an add-on then you have a $2 salad. Adding your choice of meat adds an extra $1. There you have it. I guarantee you can build the salad in the first picture for $3. 

With over 70 ingredients you have hundreds of possible salad combinations at your fingertips. Everyday you can find a new recipe on the Internet or out of a cookbook. Become a salad artist, a salad explorer, a salad inventor, a salad connoisseur!

In a future post, we will talk about our healthiest salad dressings. For now, as you're getting started use whatever salad dressing you want. In fact, we believe that after you start adding lots of fun and flavorful toppings to your salads you will find that you need less and less dressing at all, since you are not trying to cover up the taste of your salad. Bon Appétit!


#MoreFoodLessCrap #NewYear #30DayHealthChallenge #Salad #Recipe #Food #Health @MorFoodLessCrap


  1. I was wondering if you had any advice about "Some of the items can be chopped in advance and keep well. It matters how fast you eat each one." Do you have any tips on longevity of specific ingredients? For example, if I boiled and chopped up a few eggs at the beginning of the week, how quickly should I eat them? I love the idea of having lots of toppings to choose from, but I would hate to throw food out on a regular basis if I just wasn't going through it fast enough.

  2. Christine...Thanks for the great question. We feel like the convenience of having all of the ingredients in one or two trays is so that you can just pull it out all at once and assemble your salad fresh, as opposed to pulling out all kinds of bags and bottles from the fridge or cupboard. Some of the ingredients you will not need to chop up right away, but just have in the tray. For example, I would boil a few eggs at the beginning of the week, but not peel or cut them until I am ready to use them. Or at least keep them whole. For avocados, we use about half at a time and leave the other half in the peel with the center nut still in place (keeps fresh longer). And if I notice an ingredient starting to wilt, I will use it heavily on my salad that day. Or use in a soup or casserole. The longevity will depend on what you choose to have on hand and of course how fast you eat them up. It will take some working on for your own family. I agree, throwing out food is not ideal. Best of luck! We'll love to hear how it goes.