What to CookSalad

Salads For the Reluctant Salad Eater

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Cooking on the cheap shouldn't mean minute rice and buttered pasta every night. With a little creativity and a little planning, Gabriella Paiella shows us how to make the most of a tight budget -- without sacrificing flavor or variety. 

Today: Salads, for even the most reluctant of you.

In the interest of full disclosure, salads aren't my favorite food. They don't even rank in the top 20, 15 of which are just varieties of cheese. But I've grown to view them as better than a necessary evil: They come together quickly, don't require a stove or oven, and often serve to clear your fridge of produce that might be turning.

If you're cooking on a budget, or exceptionally lazy, they make for excellent lunches and light dinners. Here's how to embrace them, without feeling like you're eating rabbit food: 

1. Think outside the lettuce leaf. 

The lettuce mafia has had a chokehold on the salad bar for far too long. Ditch the leaves, and make cucumbers, potatoes, tomatoes, corn, or radishes the main attraction. 

2. Learn how to pack one effectively so you're still interested come lunchtime.

How many times have you packed a salad, then opened it come lunchtime to find it so sad and wilted that you ended up buying chips or a sandwich instead? (Be honest.) Put it all in a jar, for better lunching. 

3. Just because you're eating salad doesn't mean you can't carb-load.

Bulk up your salad with grains and other starches to make it a more robust meal: think wheat berries, soba noodles, quinoa, and farro. Hell, you could even go with bread. You're an adult. 

4. But don't forget your favorite proteins.

Bean-based salads are excellent, and extra affordable: Try spicy lentils or creamy white beans to start. Tofu and tempeh are other excellent vegetarian options, and there's no better way to use leftover chicken than shredded in a salad

5. Dressing can make or break a salad, so make a good one. 

Try lush Green Goddess or a tangy, bright lemon caper variety this time of year. Sometimes salad really is just a vehicle for dressing. 

Read about our staff's favorite salads here, then tell us: What are your favorite salads-as-meals? 

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: On the Cheap, My Broke Kitchen