Why is Salad So Expensive AND The Solution to the Problem

wendys saladPerhaps you’ve noticed that salad is expensive — like, expensive enough that you could spend the same amount on a decent bottle of wine or some quality hair product. It often costs more to buy a salad than to buy a sandwich or hamburger at restaurants, including fast food chains like Subway. A paltry half-frozen McDonald’s salad, made of iceberg lettuce and vaguely colored cellulose, costs more than a Big Mac. This feels unfair. Salads often don’t taste very good. (That’s why they need such extensive PR campaigns.) They don’t boast uniformly high-quality ingredients that justify the price tag. A lot of them are not even filling, unless they’re loaded with so many fats, carbs, and proteins that they become “salad” in name only. Why must we pay more to receive less?

Sure, it’s about the Farm Bill and subsidies and lobbyists and all that jazz. I have a sneaking suspicion too though that those of us who feel guilty enough to buy salads out, rather than assemble them at home, are being taxed for wanting to appear healthy and/or eat our way to righteousness. Basically, we’re saps.

Either way, I was thrilled to discover the other night that there is a restaurant near me that serves an incredible salad filled with delicious things, including goat cheese, avocado, and corn, for $5. Yeah, you heard me. This salad could make blind see and the lame tap-dance, and it costs five bucks! I will eat there every day forever.

What are your salad hacks? Or are you wise to this boondoggle and do you stick to assembling your own vegetables at home?

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34 Comments / Post A Comment

wrappedupinbooks (#1,426)

there is a place near me that does 1 meat + 5 vegetables for $7.00 (after tax!!) and it is wonderful and beautiful and probably cheaper than buying all the stuff for me, considering that half of it would rot in my fridge

Allison (#4,509)

I hate making salads at home. It requires having so much different stuff that goes bad so quickly. So I pay too much while I’m out.

@Allison Yep, the going bad so quickly part is what really bugs me.

Actually doing the numbers though, it seems like it might still be cheaper to get 2-3 meals out of one salad bag (found an $8 Kale salad bag I love) and throwing the rest out. Throwing it out just feels so wrong though!

bgprincipessa (#699)

@Allison Yeah, anything I can make at home is never half as good. What makes it good is the 1000 things that go into it, and I can’t use all of those things and still make it cost-effective.

eatmoredumplings (#3,808)

@bgprincipessa Yes! This.

@Allison I was just telling my friend that salad bars were totally my bougie Achilles heel (we were at amazing Sultan’s cold bar ugh dolmades forever) but I’ve recently tried to stop doing weaker grocery store salad bars because I’m really just eating bean and pasta salad and that shit doesn’t go bad. Hell, even pasta salad with spinach lasts like hella days and so I love doing a bunch of that. I could eat pasta salad and bean salad with orzo every damn day.

But also easy as sin yogurt dressing has been keeping me eating all the lettuce. I can’t keep up!

@Allison True life. One of the “salad hacks” I do is to use a grocery salad bar as a toppings only receptacle, so basically you go once or twice a week and get some cheese and veggie options, but bring in my own bagged lettuce, store bought dressing and proteins made at home. To be successful, you need to (a) have a grocery store near your office and (b) have a fridge where you can keep things at your office, but it allows you to have diverse toppings that don’t go bad at a not exorbitant cost.

shannowhamo (#845)

@Allison I wouldn’t call it a hack but I luckily have alot of fridge space at work so I have a tub of greens, a tub of feta, a little baggie of bacon bits, baggie of carrot shreds, and the dressing I make and just assemble my salad each day. For some reason I find it kind of relaxing and pleasant to assemble it, which my husband thinks in weird. I also get a slab of smoked salmon at Whole Foods and split that up into little chunks and put that on the salad too but that’s not particularly cheap BUT it’s tasty and avoids the dreaded heating-up-fish at work problem.

I tell myself I could make my salad at home, but the thing that really makes these salad places worth it for me is the chopping. I don’t know what the chopping does, exactly, but it makes a salad 300% tastier. And you can’t exactly chop it in the morning when you pack it, or chop it at your desk. So that’s how they get me.
I’ve been getting a build-your-own salad from the shabby full-service deli beside my office for a couple of years now. A fancy new Just Salad opened recently right beside the deli, and out of curiosity I went in to get the same salad I get at my deli. At $11, the Just Salad version was almost twice what I pay for the exact same thing at my deli ($6), and half as delicious. It’s possible to get cheap salads in the city, but you have to avoid the corporate chains to do so, in my experience. The only thing I wish I had at my shabby deli was the reusable bowl places like Just Salad offer.

bgprincipessa (#699)

@Maggie Morningstar I completely agree. I remember there being some sort of backlash to the chopped salad faze, but I love chopped salad and I don’t care if some marketing ploy has made me this way.

cryptolect (#1,135)

I recently made this salad(minus the salami), and it is sooo good, y’all. A little salty from the olives, a little bitter from the radicchio, a little tart from the lemon juice, and the bread soaks it all up and makes all the flavors get along.

In other news, what is the name of this magical restaurant?

@cryptolect The magical restaurant is Calexico, which began life as a food truck (how very Austin!) and now sells a Union Street salad. $5 for a “small” that isn’t even small.

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

Make it at home! Buy whatever greens are on sale that week. Add cuke and/or other vegetables of your choice for crunch. Add grilled chicken, hard boiled eggs, or deli meat for protein, and a little cheese for fat (which makes you feel satisfied). Done and a heck of a lot cheaper.

Stina (#686)

@LookUponMyWorks I am with you, salads from home forever.

My big changeover that both encouraged me to eat salads and reduce the spoiling of leafy things is not use dressing on leafy salads. Instead it gets topped with tuna salad/hummus/white bean dip/egg salad/artichoke dip/cottage cheese etc.. This makes the salad a main dish and gets me a better calorie bang for the buck because most salad dressings have a crazy, bananas amount of calories for very little full feeling in your stomach.

garli (#4,150)

@LookUponMyWorks I make salads at home for dinner, but usually eat trader joe’s salads at work for lunch. Those are in the 3-5 dollar range and I’ve been known to add some chicken or avocado to make things a touch more interesting.

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

@garli Trader Joe’s does have some pretty good prepared salads! It is both a blessing and a curse that they are not more conveniently located to my home and/or place of work.

garli (#4,150)

@LookUponMyWorks I cheat since my husband works there and brings them home for me to bring to work. If/when he forgets there’s a different trader joe’s 5 minutes from my office. I feel bad about all the packaging that I go through, but hopefully recycling helps.

theballgirl (#1,546)

Shit tons of basil, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and a bit of olive oil and/or balsamic. It’s a bit $$, but I just planted a ton of basil + tomatoes so hopefully it cuts down the cost.

garli (#4,150)

My go to at home salad is grilled chicken, arugula (or other leafy green, but this is by far my favorite), goat cheese (can be changed), tomatoes, carrots, onions. Some times brown rice. Sometimes anything that looked good in the market. I use olive oil that I infuse with garlic and rosemary and balsamic reduction, which I also make at home. Grab all that stuff at the start of the week and make your salad 2-3 times until you’re out of ingredients.

eatmoredumplings (#3,808)

Very occasionally an $8-10 salad with meat or an interesting cheese or something is a nice treat. I can’t make an awesome, cost-effective green salad with interesting toppings at home. Maybe I just suck at it.

Cabbage slaws and kale salads though? Those keep really well in a fridge with dressing and they are cheap as hell. Right now the only meal salad I’m eating often is a red & green cabbage slaw with green onions, Ramen, and crunchy sesame sticks. Middle American potluck style.

@eatmoredumplings cabbage slaw FOR EVER. I forgot about bun, too, and cannot wait to eat that all summa too.

crenb (#6,486)

I love me some salad. Salad forever.

oh boy. (#6,790)

I’ll make a fancy salad at home with romaine (I love romaine–I know it is SO boring, but I love it so much), hard-boiled eggs, avocado, black beans, maybe corn, green peppers, BBQ sauce, ranch dressing, & HOMEMADE ONION STRINGS, because there is nothing greater in the world. It’s a vegetarian salad & it takes forever, but it is so so good. It’s based on a Red Robin salad that is my favorite thing. I think I would eat that salad every day for my whole life.

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

@oh boy. BBQ sauce AND ranch dressing?! What the what! Why have I not thought of that.

Renleigh (#2,110)

@oh boy. I make a similar but less thrilling salad based on a Panera one they stopped making (romaine, chicken, black beans, corn, tri-color tortilla strips) and that ranch and BBQ sauce combination is the BEST.

@oh boy. Let’s talk about these homemade onion strings. Because I make a very similar vegetarian salad (yay for romaine!!) and it’s definitely missing onion strings.

oh boy. (#6,790)

@totallyunoriginal My version is usually made using thinly sliced onions (duh) soaked in buttermilk (which I just make using milk & a little lemon juice), then dredged in flour that’s been mixed with salt, pepper, & a little bit of cayenne. Or sometimes I’ll throw in some ranch dressing packet powder stuff if I feel like it. Dredge them, shake of the extra, & fry them in hot oil until they’re…done? Then eat them all immediately!

axelfoley (#6,786)

@axelfoley That article is seriously awesome, thanks!

moreadventurous (#4,956)

I make salad at home a lot. I mean, I really really like salad. My go to is mixed baby greens with diced red onion, feta cheese and toasted almonds, all of which (aside from the lettuce) keep nicely. Then I’ll just throw on some red wine or apple cider vinegar, a drizzle of EVOO, salt, and pepper. Toss! Eat! Delicious!

Other good salad toppings that keep well: cherry tomatoes, dried cranberries, other nuts or seeds, carrots that you shred onto the lettuce, olives, goat cheese, hard-boiled eggs, radishes, red bell peppers.

ETA: I really want a salad now…

muggles (#1,525)

My grocery store recently started carrying a bagged lettuce that was pre-chopped super fine (like, deli-style) which made my homemade salads a lot more appealing! I’ve also allowed myself to grab things like pre-shredded carrots—it’s obviously more expensive than chopping up a carrot myself, but far easier to convince myself to actually use it (it’s so simple, self, you’re literally just pouring food out of a bag), plus my at-home creation seems like a much more acceptable equivalent to the one I’d buy.

My salad hack, and really make-yourself-pack-your-lunch hack, is to bulk make protein over the weekend in a slow cooker. Stick some chicken breasts in chicken broth in a slow cooker on high for 6 hours or so, shred, and you’ve got chicken for your salads for the week. Then you can take said shredded chicken and stir in BBQ sauce or pesto or dressing to add in some variety and voila!

I really wish I could get myself to like hard boiled eggs more because they are so cheap and easy to make in bulk, but I just can’t.

If I do a salad for dinner, I always make double so I have lunch for the next day. And I bought myself a cute salad bowl thing to take to work so I’ll actually want to bring food from home.

A sandwich place opened up next to my work but they actually have amazing salads and they’re customizable which is great, being a vegetarian. When I ask for avocado, they give an ENTIRE AVOCADO. Best salad ever.

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