A few weeks ago, I did a quick video/written guide to building an awesome meal-worthy salad that would actually leave you feeling full. Nothing in the salad was super expensive, by any stretch, but I know a lot of people—myself included—assume that quality ingredients and a full meal worth of salad is going to get hella pricey. That, thankfully, is no longer the case. Sure, I’ll spring for nice, fresh olives, decent feta and quality chicken… But there are a ton of easy, cheap add-ins that you can sub in for added health, taste and texture.
DIY Pickled Radishes
This is my new obsession. After hearing Robyn Youkilis talk about her pickled radish recipe on a couple of different podcasts, I had to try it. It’s super simple, basically just radishes, water and salt, and let it ferment. You’re getting probiotics and better digestion, for one thing, but you’re also adding a really great burst of flavor. And considering a whole bunch of radishes goes for around $1, and all you need is a jar to keep them in, this is a no-brainer.
Bag of beets? Crazy cheap. I know a lot of athletes live and die by beet juice, but why not eat the whole thing instead and save money? I didn’t used to love beets, but after roasting them with a bit of olive oil and some coarse kosher salt (roast at around 375 for 45-60 minutes, depending on how small you’ve chopped them), I found they were a crazy-good addition to the top of a salad. And they do make the salad more meal-like by adding a roasted veg to the mix. You’ll feel fuller, I promise.
Lemon + Olive Oil Vinaigrette
I said it in the video, but I’ll say it again: you don’t need to buy a dressing. I often will even skip the olive oil part of this step and just squirt in lemon juice. The real key in adding flavor to salad comes from mixing it well. (Once all of my ingredients are in, I stick a plate over the bowl and shake it like a polaroid picture.) Add a bit of salt and pepper, and the flavors of the veggies should speak for themselves.
Mixing Up Your Greens
I know a lot of people stick to the staple spinach, kale, romaine, salad mix options… But to save $$ and vary your nutrient profile, I am a huge fan of mixing up your green base with whatever is the cheapest option available. You might have some misses, but for the most part, you’ll discover new flavors that you really do love. (And don’t ignore the tops of root veggies. Beets, for example, are often cheaper to buy as a bunch with their greens still on. While the beet greens are terrible if you eat them raw, they’re delicious when sautéed with a bit of oil. And don’t think that ‘salad’ always has to mean raw greens—there’s nothing wrong with starting with a wilted or steamed or sautéed base for your salad—some people do better with cooked veggies from a digestion standpoint anyway!
Canned chickpeas are super cheap (around $1/can) and add a great nutrition profile—a half cup is around 20 grams of protein, plus a mix of carbs, fiber and fat—so if sourcing good chicken or other meat isn’t an option for price or ethical reasons, this is a fantastic substitute. And so freaking easy (and travel-friendly!).
Need more tips? Watch the video here:
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