How to cheat at salad without cheating on the food budget

Sometimes the urge to pick up prepared meals at the higher-end grocery stores or markets is very enticing. These meals looks appetizing, I approve of the ingredient list, but I inevitably roll my eyes at the prices.

Sometimes, I get lazy. The thought of chopping all those vegetables yet again, with no kid in sight to outsource this job to, is a little depressing.

I look at the finished salads in their attractive display case. Should I? Shouldn’t I?

Maybe I will. Someone took the time to make this and now I don’t have to.

That in itself has value on some days.

Except, I can only roll my eyes at the prices so many times before reality slaps me upside the head. A prepared Cesar salad for $12.99 and the romaine leaves are already turning a little brown, well I don’t know. I can get a lot of basic ingredients and do the labour myself for less than that price.

Still. Sometimes there’s little time or desire to turn into a short order chef every single night.

So I found a way to cheat.

I visited a newly opened FarmBoy the other day, and found myself salivating in the prepared and portable salad bar area. I hesitated briefly but justified that the prices were manageable. The tabouleh (with dressing) and the kale salad (without dressing) both looked appetizing and yummy but I knew immediately that it wouldn’t serve the entire family. (Never mind kid-pickiness, this is not part of the post’s topic today. )

The price on both was reasonable if you appreciate the work someone put into them.

I picked up both salads and put them in my cart.

Then I saw two bunches of curly parsley on sale. Picked  those up too.

Near the parsley , I noticed a sale rack with some fennel on it. There were a few bruises on the outer part of the fennel, but most of that part doesn’t get eaten anyway.

Fennel is a delicious, crunchy vegetable with a hint of licorice, and probably one of the most undervalued vegetables out there. Most people refuse to try it because of the licorice taste, imagining that it will taste like the candy. But it doesn’t mimic the candy taste at all; in fact, it is one of the most refreshing, cool, crunchy vegetables available at a decent price. Versatile too – I once worked at a hotel/restaurant in Switzerland where the chef made braised fennel sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. So good!

We all enjoy fennel raw, but that outer part is too tough to eat. I saw the price and picked them up on a whim, without even worrying about the bruise.

I had a salad recipe idea brewing in my head.

When I got home I opened the prepared salads, and reached for a medium sized bowl.

I was going to stretch the prepared salads and make them more delicious by adding my own ingredients into them. I’ve watched enough Jamie Oliver shows to know just how to go about that.

  1. Two large servings of the kale salad which included seeds and cranberries went into the bowl.
  2. Two large spoons of the tabouleh salad went on top. (Tabouleh is a lebanese dish that includes parsley, bulgur (or couscous), tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, olive oil and lemon juice.)
  3. I chopped the fennel, removed the outer tough parts, and put it through the grater in the food processor. That too went into the bowl.
  4. Then I chopped some more of my sale-priced parsley and added it to the ingredients and tossed it all together.

Only thing missing was a little bit of protein. Protein will help tie me over and fill me up better than only vegetables. I opened the fridge and saw some leftover chicken from last night’s dinner.


I ate that for lunch. Then, I promptly made another, similar salad, bigger in size, but without the chicken, to serve at dinner. I added some cooked beets I also got at the same store (but made separate salad serving bowls for the kids before adding the beets since they don’t like those), like this:

If I had sunflower or pumpkin seeds in the house I would have sprinkled some of those on top too.

I still have about half the kale salad left, to be added to some other chopped vegetables. I have orange, yellow and green peppers, more beets, and cherry tomatoes.

Should suffice for another salad tomorrow. And, I’ll make the kids chop the peppers. 🙂

I realize I still did some of my own work (chopping mostly), but at least I didn’t have to prepare the kale (wash, chop). Nor the beets…they were precooked and peeled already.  Whole package was $2.99 and contained 8 ready-to-use beets.

The tabouleh was already flavoured with olive oil and lemon juice so I didn’t need to add more dressing although anyone who wanted more could just add it on their own.

I sometimes do the same type of cheating/stretching thing with prepared Greek salads, where I simply add more mixed greens just to give it some extra volume. The feta cheese, onions and olives are already added in.

What do you think? Might this be a way to manage the food budget without skipping over the  appealing and time-saving prepared meals at some of those stores?




6 thoughts on “How to cheat at salad without cheating on the food budget

  1. I looooove Farm Boy and I looooove salad. I’ll have to give this a try, although I actually don’t mind the prep work involved in making my own salads. If I could survive on just lettuce, I would!

    It boggles my mind how much I despised all vegetables as a kid, and now I can’t get enough of them. I wouldn’t even eat kid go-to stuff like carrots and peas as a kid – I would occasionally allow celery, I think. And now, it’s what I have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Guess I’m making up for lost time!


  2. My husband is the salad man around here. He actually loves the prep work involved. However, I will buy already chopped up lettuce mix at the store, rather than do it at home. I’m sure I’m spending more, but I like the variety in the bag.

    Liked by 1 person

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