Eating Healthy on a Budget: Four Sassy Salad Ideas

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Salads don't have to be boring - here are four different budget-friendly recipes to mix up your lunch a bit!

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 iceberg 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!

asianslaw

(Image from: Once Upon a Chef)

There is good reason that this beautiful Asian Slaw with Ginger-Peanut Dressing has been pinned over 330,000 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.

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I discovered this AMAZING Mango-Strawberry Chickpea Salad a few months ago from the Peas and Thank You cookbook (currently about $14 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.

Apricot Tri-Color Couscous: YUM

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.

Jicama

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. Grocery Outlet usually has some great produce sales, and 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.

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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?

9 thoughts on “Eating Healthy on a Budget: Four Sassy Salad Ideas”

  1. One of my favorite lunch salads I make and it lasts for about 4 or 5 lunches, is super easy to make, and I love the flavor and the fresh taste. I call it “Southwest Quinoa Salad”.

    1 c. dry Quinoa
    2 c. Black Bean salsa (can make your own or buy pre-made from store like Top Foods)
    1/4 c. diced red bell bepper
    1/4 c. diced green bell bepper
    non-fat plain greek yogurt
    crumbled fetta cheese

    Rinse, cook and chill Quinoa (I use about 2 1/2 c. water to 1 c. dry Quinoa). Add black bean salsa and bell peppers to chilled Quinoa and mix. This stores well in the refrigerator. Before serving, mix in desired amount of non-fat plain greek yogurt and crumbled fetta cheese.

    • Thanks for sharing the link!!

      Honestly, I adore quinoa but am not a fan of avocado – perhaps the texture of the quinoa would help me with my personal hang up! LOL!!

  2. This was an excellent post on cheaper healthy eating, Ang. LOVE! I also didn’t know you could put salads in jars and still have it stay fresh. Think of all the saved space in the fridge when you do that. I don’t know about you, but my veggies and herbs take up a lot of space in their puffed out plastic bags. 🙂

    • I think it keeps the lettuces “crisper” – something I think I learned thanks to Pinterest. I would think that wherever possible, your salads would stay even better if you can keep the dressing separate and just add it as needed. I would def. do this for the jicama or chickpea salads above. 😉

      So glad you dropped by and glad you enjoyed today’s post!

  3. When I am eating lots of salads (mostly in the summer, I am a soup girl in the winter!) I get my veggies at Sam’s Club. Our local store has organic Spinach for less than $5/lb, six-packs of Romaine Lettuce for between $3-4 (YES FOR 6 heads!), and lots of other good deals. Costco has similar deals. It’s not local, but for those more concerned about price than anything else, it’s a great option. During the summer, I go with whatever ends up being the best deal by checking out the farmers market first and getting everything else at Sam’s Club.

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