This month, I’ve been writing a series called Eating Healthy on a Budget. The idea is to share a number of different thoughts and stories on how one might eat clean or follow a specialty diet without breaking the bank. In case you’ve missed any of the posts, you can always visit my Eating Healthy on a Budget page to catch up!
When we think about meal planning, we usually think about dinner. But I’ve found that sometimes lunch can be the trickiest meal of the day to eat well at. Lunch is usually the meal I’m most tempted to eat out or just eat whatever.
Today I wanted to share a tip that’s worked well for me on the weeks I’m deliberate about doing it. The tip? Salads.
But I’m not a Salad Person!
For most of my life, I never considered myself a salad person. I’m the gal that always opted for soup when presented the choice “soup or salad?” I supposed that all salads were the same boring variety of tasteless iceburg lettuce, carrot shreds, and the token cucumber slice. I’m also a bit weird in that I hate most forms of dressing including Ranch, Thousand Island, Blue Cheese, and Catalina. (BLECH!) It’s only been fairly recently that I discovered how awesome, filling, and creative salads can be!
If you think salads are bland or only for health-nuts, I’d like to challenge your thinking and suggest you’ve probably just not met the right salad. Today I’d like to share with you four deliciously different salads.
Adding Salads into your Plan
So here’s what I do: each week, I pick a good lunch recipe, such as one of the salads I’m about to share with you below. Since I’m usually the only one that will eat it, boom. I’ve easily got lunch covered for 3-4 days. It’s nice knowing that I have lunch already prepped and waiting for me!
With that, let me share four of my all-time favorite salads. Each of these salads is easy to make and easy on the wallet!
(Image from: Once Upon a Chef)
There is good reason that this beautiful Asian Slaw with Ginger-Peanut Dressing has been pinned over 184,000 times. (Yes, you read that number correctly.) It is simply one of my very favorite go-to salads and is incredibly flavorful! I brought it as a side to my family’s BBQ last summer and it was a hit. Even my husband gives it a thumb’s up. While it can certainly be eaten as a side, I think it’s great by itself in a bowl for lunch! Just serve with some fresh fruit and water and you’ve got yourself a pretty nutritious lunch.
While this version is meat-free (and I feel, entirely filling that way with the nuts and edamame), you could definitely add shrimp, chicken, or another meat of your choice.
Please visit Once Upon a Chef for the recipe.
I discovered this AMAZING Mango-Strawberry Chickpea Salad a few months ago from Peas and Thank You’s cookbook (currently about $15 on Amazon). This salad kind of feels like I’m eating a dessert…only it’s a salad. I have a hard time eating just one bowl of it!
To start, you roast the chickpeas (I like to pick up these at Fred Meyer when they are just $0.50!) with some spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. While they’re roasting, you prep your salad greens, mangoes, strawberries, and fresh mint and make your own cinnamon vinaigrette. (I’m so drooling right now!)
If you enjoy a sweet salad? You must try this recipe. It may well be the best salad you’ve ever tasted.
I stumbled on this light and tasty Apricot Tri-Color Couscous recipe during the Adventures in Bulk Foods series I ran in October 2011. I have made it several times since initially sharing it with you, it’s that good! The recipe originally comes from Whole Foods Market, and if you’ve ever eaten at their buffet, you know how beautiful and delicious their food can be.
The flavor? Think fresh herbs – mint, cilantro – mixed with fresh lemon juice and zest, garlic, chopped apricots and almonds.
This salad is particularly easy on the budget too if you buy your dried apricots, slivered almonds, and tri-color couscous in bulk. (My WinCo Foods has all of these items.) Even better if you have garden-grown mint and cilantro!
Get the recipe at Whole Foods Market.
I discovered jicama for the first time a couple years ago (it’s pronounced hick-a-ma, in case you’re wondering). Have you ever had it? It reminds you strangely of an apple – very light and refreshing. It is the feature ingredient in this Rachael Ray Heck of a Jicama salad. The ingredients are few – cumin, cilantro, romaine, jicama, and the preparation is very simple.
I do feel this salad is light and best paired with a soup or sandwich. I’d personally recommend serving it with this sweet and spicy chayote squash soup. The flavors complement well and it’s low in fat.
Get the salad recipe over at Food Network.
Saving Money on Salads
First off, I am pretty confident if you made one of the above salads and made it your main course for lunch, you’d already be saving money!
There are a few additional things you can do to save on your salad ingredients:
- Buy in bulk. As mentioned above, you can buy certain ingredients in bulk (such as at WinCo Foods) and save a killing! My WinCo sells spices (think cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg), couscous, whole grains, and all kinds of nuts. I like that I can buy in very small quantities, too – just enough to complete my recipe.
- Vary your greens. Keep an eye out for what’s on sale in your store. Be open to trying new greens as they go on sale. Also consider the cost savings of buying heads of lettuce, bunches of spinach over bagged/clamshell varieties.
- Grow your own greens and herbs. Greens and herbs are among the easiest veggies you can grow in your garden and they take relatively little space and dirt. I prefer cut-and-come again greens as opposed to growing heads of lettuce to keep a steady supply of greens growing.
- Plan your salads based on store sales and coupon. Mangoes are $0.50 right now at Grocery Outlet - so it might be smart to consider making that Strawberry-Mango Chickpea salad! I sometimes get coupons good for Fred Meyer’s store brands of produce and salad, too. No matter what week of the year it is or the store, chances are you’ll find at least one fruit or veggie at a really good price. Consider how you might incorporate it into your salad plan that week.
One final tip: if you want to make sure that none of your salad goes to waste and make healthy eating even more convenient, you could portion your salad out into beautiful glass jars. The glass will help ensure the freshness of your greens as well as make it “pretty” to take with you to work! For more ideas on how to do that, check out my post on Salads in a Jar from last summer.
Stay tuned for the next posts in the Eating Healthy on a Budget series!
Do you have any go-to salad recipes or ideas for saving on salad ingredients you might share?