How To Recreate Pricey Lunch Salads For WAY Cheaper

Buying a lunchtime salad at one of those healthy, made-to-order places is the ultimate in workday convenience — they usually have you out the door in 10 minutes flat, with a meal that won't make you want to take a nap under your desk. So, what's the catch? The price, of course. Usually the classic base salads start around $8 or $10, but build your own, and it can quickly costs upward of $15. And, that's not even factoring in the cost of a tip on the days we're swamped and opt to get it delivered.

If you spend $15 on lunch five days a week, you're looking at close to $4,000 by the end of the year. That's shocking...so shocking that we challenged ourselves to recreate some of the lunch salads we're always ordering for a whole lot cheaper. And, it turns out, you can make many of them for right around $5 a serving. That's less than half of what we're already spending, plus you'll feel like a total superstar for packing your lunch. Sounds like a win, win to us.
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Photographed by Eric Helgas; Food Styling Michelle Gatton; Prop Styling Chloe Daley.
Asian Chicken Salad with Sesame Dressing

Ingredients
1 small head butter lettuce
1/5 red cabbage (about 1 cup shredded)
1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded (about 1 1/2 cup)
2 medium carrots or 15 mini carrots, sliced or shredded
2 scallions, sliced
1/2 apple sliced
1/4 oz peanuts (about 10 to 12 peanuts)
1 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp honey
Salt and pepper

Instructions
1. Chop and slice the ingredients as needed

2. In a large bowl combine the chicken, lettuce, cabbage, scallions, carrots, peanuts, and apple.

3. Make the dressing by whisking together the rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, and honey. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. If you are packing the salad to enjoy later, pack the dressing separately and add just before eating.


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Photographed by Eric Helgas; Food Styling Michelle Gatton; Prop Styling Chloe Daley.
Pricing
Romaine $1 / using 1 = $1.00
Cabbage $1 for 1 / using 1/5 = 20 cents
Chicken (I cooked and shredded my own, but it can vary if buying on the bone/off the bone or already cooked like rotisserie chicken) = $2.00 – $3.50
Apple $1 for 1 / using ½ = 50 cents
Scallions $2 for a bunch / using 2 = 40 cents
Carrots $1.99 for bag /using 1/5 of the bag = 40 cents
Peanuts $5 for 16 oz / using ¼ oz = 13 cents
Rice vinegar $3.49 for 12 oz / using 1 tbsp = 20 cents
Sesame oil $3.99 for 6 oz/ using 2 tsp = 30 cents
Soy sauce $2.79 for 10 oz / using 2 tsp = 12 cents
Honey $3 for 12 oz / using 1 tsp = 10 cents
Salt, pepper, and oil = not priced
Total: $5.35 – $6.69

*Ingredients purchased from typical New York City supermarket
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Photographed by Eric Helgas; Food Styling Michelle Gatton; Prop Styling Chloe Daley.
Southwestern Chopped Salad

Ingredients
1/2 head romaine lettuce (about 2 1/2 cups chopped)
1/2 avocado
1/2 ear corn (or 1/3 cup of kernels if using canned or frozen)
1/2 cup black beans (drained and rinsed if using canned)
4 to 5 grape or cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp salsa
1/2 oz pepper jack cheese, shredded
1 lime
2 tbsp olive oil
1 sprig cilantro (a few leaves)
Salt and pepper
Hot sauce, optional

Instructions
1. In a small bowl combine the beans, salsa, and corn. I like the crunch of fresh raw corn, but you can use canned corn, thawed frozen corn, or cooked fresh corn. Toss together and set aside.

2. Chop the lettuce, tomatoes, and 1/2 the avocado (since we’re using 1/2 an avocado this will be 1/4 of an entire avocado). In a large bowl combine all the components of the salad, the veggies, bean mixture, and cheese.

3. To make the dressing, combine the following ingredients in a food processor or blender. The remaining 1/4 of the avocado, olive oil, the juice of 1 lime, a few leaves of cilantro, 1 tbsp of cold water, salt and pepper. If you like things on the spicier side, add heat with a few dashes of hot sauce. If mixing by hand, smash the avocado first, then add in the ingredients one at a time, finishing with chopped cilantro. Dress the salad just before eating.
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Photographed by Eric Helgas; Food Styling Michelle Gatton; Prop Styling Chloe Daley.
Pricing
Romaine $5 for 3 / using 1/2 of 1 = 84 cents
Avocado $2 each/ using 1/2 = $1
Corn 50 cents each ear / using 1/2 = 25 cents
Black beans $1.39 a can/ using 1/3 of a can = 46 cents
Tomatoes $3.49 for 12 oz /using 1/7 of pack = 50 cents
Salsa $3.49 for 16 oz / using 1 tablespoon = 13 cents
Pepper jack cheese $3.59 for 8 oz / using 1/2 oz = 22 cents
Lime 59 cents each = 59 cents
Cilantro $2 a bunch / using less than 1/15 of the bunch = 10 cents
Salt, pepper, oil, and hot sauce = not priced
Total: $4.09

*Ingredients purchased from typical New York City supermarket
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Photographed by Eric Helgas; Food Styling Michelle Gatton; Prop Styling Chloe Daley.
Cauliflower "Rice" Salad With Spicy Almond Dressing

Ingredients
1/3 head cauliflower (about 2 1/2 cups when "riced")
1 scallion
1/2 red onion
1/4 red bell pepper
1/2 avocado
1/4 oz peanuts (about 10 to 12 peanuts)
1 lime
1 tbsp almond butter (or nut butter of your choice)
2 to 3 tbsps vegetable oil
1 tsp honey
1/8 to 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper

Instructions
1. To make the cauliflower rice start by quartering the head of cauliflower. Break the quartered pieces into florets and place them in a food processor. Pulse about 5 times until they are finely chopped and roughly rice sized. If you don’t have a food processor, just chop finely by hand. This should yield about 2 1/2 cups of cauliflower; chop a few more florets if needed using up to a third of the cauliflower.

2. Slice half a red onion. In a large skillet or pan lightly sauté the onions in a drizzle of oil for about 2 to 3 minutes or until the onions begin to soften.

3. Add the cauliflower to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat stirring frequently until the cauliflower is just cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes. Let the cauliflower cool a little while you prep the rest of the ingredients.

4. Prep the rest of the vegetables, slice the bell pepper, and chop the scallion. Roughly chop the peanuts and chop the avocado.

5. To make the dressing, combine the almond butter (or nut butter of your choice) with the honey to form a paste. If you are using a sweetened nut butter omit the honey. Whisk in 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil, the juice of half a lime, salt, and cayenne pepper. Mix until combined.

6. In a large bowl combine the cauliflower rice, chopped veggies, and half the dressing. Top the salad with peanuts, drizzle on the remaining dressing and serve with one or two lime wedges.
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Photographed by Eric Helgas; Food Styling Michelle Gatton; Prop Styling Chloe Daley.
Pricing
Cauliflower $4.99 for 1 / using 1/3 = $1.67
Scallions $2 for a bunch / using 1 = 20 cents
Onions $3 for a bag of 9 / using 1/2 = 33 cents
Bell pepper $2 for 1 / using 1/4 = 50 cents
Peanuts $5 for 16 oz / using 1/4 oz = 13 cents
Lime 59 cents each / using 1 = 59 cents
Avocado $2 each / using 1/2 = $1
Almond butter $13 for 16 oz / using 1 tbsp = 40 cents
Honey $3 for 12 oz / using 1 tsp = 10 cents
Cayenne pepper = estimate .05 cents
Salt, pepper, and oil = not priced
Total = $4.97

*Ingredients purchased from typical New York City supermarket
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Photographed by Eric Helgas; Food Styling Michelle Gatton; Prop Styling Chloe Daley.
Middle Eastern Chopped Salad
Ingredients
1/3 to 1/2 baby bag lettuce mix of your choosing
1/2 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 mini cucumber or 1/4 of a large greenhouse cucumber
6 small tomatoes or 1 medium
1 large handful fresh flat leaf parsley (or other fresh herbs like mint or oregano)
1/4 large bell pepper
1 scallion
1/2 oz of feta cheese
1/2 lemon
3 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

Instructions
1. Chop the lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, scallion, bell pepper, and the parsley

2. In a large bowl toss together all the chopped veggies along with the chickpeas and the crumbled feta.

3. Make the dressing by whisking together the yogurt and olive oil. Once they are completely combined add the juice of 1/2 a lemon (about a tbsp). salt, and pepper, and mix again. Dress the salad just before eating.
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Photographed by Eric Helgas; Food Styling Michelle Gatton; Prop Styling Chloe Daley.
Pricing
Spring mix lettuce bag $2.79 / using 1/2 = $1.40
Chickpeas $1.39 for 15 oz can / using 1/3 of a can = 46 cents
Mini cucumber $3.99 for 6 / using 1 = 66 cents
Tomatoes $3.49 for a pack / using 1/5 of the pack = 69 cents
Parsley $2 for bunch / using about 1/6 of the bunch = 33 cents
Bell pepper $2 for 1 / using 1/4 = 50 cents
Scallions $2 for a bunch / using 1 = 20 cents
Feta cheese $5 for 6 oz / using 1/2 oz = 41 cents
Lemon $1 each / using 1/2 = 50 cents
Greek yogurt $1.59 for 7 oz / using 3 tbsp = 22 cents
Salt, pepper, and oil = not priced
Total: $5.37

*Ingredients purchased from typical New York City supermarket
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