Cheap Eats: the big salad

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For all of your Seinfeld fans, you get the reference of the big salad. A meal in itself, a bowl of lovely salad greens topped with whatever you can imagine can be one of the best things you ever had for dinner.  It can also be one of the cheapest meals of the week.

We do a point of having a salad as the main course at least once every two weeks in the summer. Since the makings for a salad are usually on sale at a great price in the summer, it just makes sense to plan a meal around it.  I think this may be something that a lot of people don’t think about; a salad is usually a “side” in a meal and not the main attraction. A large plate of salad can include a lean protein, fats, random veggies and even fruit.

Our favorite protein to place on our big salads is London broil.  It’s a staple sale item here in the Northeast, and over the years, I’ve learned how to properly marinate and cook it to get it just right for slicing and placing over a salad.

When it comes to added (good) fats, we love to add walnuts or almonds to a salad. I buy them on sale during the winter and place them in the freezer. Once spring and summer roll around, I take them out, toast them a bit on the stove and use for our salad entree.  I make sure to use the veggies that are already in the fridge. A big salad is a great way to use up bits and pieces in the fridge, creating a wonderful ‘leftover plate” that is made new by leafy greens. Some days we may have bell peppers and other days we may have tomato and red onion. This also creates the surprise factor when giving the meal to the family. They never know what they are going to get.

I also love to add fruit into the big salad. Lately, we’ve been seeing fast food places like McDonald’s and Wendy’s adding fruit to their salad to make it “special.” I love to use whatever fruit is in season; blueberries, strawberries, peaches and even watermelon(watermelon and feta salad? Yes please!).  Don’t be afraid to add a fruit. It just may be the one inexpensive thing to add that will get your family on the big salad bandwagon.

We appreciate the big salad for helping us to introduce veggies to Sonny Boy. When we was 2, I started placing big salads on our meal plans for the week. He didn’t dive into the salads right away, but what intrigued by all the cool things Mom put on top. He watched how Mom and Dad ate their salads, practiced with me on how to make the “perfect bite” and is now a salad lover.  He even eats it without any type of dressing, not because we conditioned him that way, but because, he prefers it that way. Who would’ve guess that would have happened? We plan to do that same with Duchess; as of now, she get a little of each component on her plate to explore and watches us as we eat our full plates of salad. He transition to her own salad should be easy by next year.

Here are some of our guidelines for a great dinner salad:
Make the roughage as tasty as possible– Aldi sells romaine and spinach in a bag. Try using those, or mixing those with regular garden salad, for a great foundation.
Use the rainbow– any of your favorite fruit can be added to a salad. And, if juicy enough, it may replace any dressing you may have been thinking of adding!
Try a nut or two– They really do add something great to a dinner salad and it keeps you away from croutons. You get the crunch from something that’s actually good for your heart.
Make it a “garbage salad plate”– look in the fridge for any leftovers that might be great on the salad. This would include lean meats, beans, seafood, leftover over veggies, etc. You can even get a double whammy by planning your salad dinner later in the week, when the leftovers will be bountiful.
Don’t sell your kids (or spouse) short– you never know what they’ll like until you give them a chance to try it. A big salad is a great way to see what they love and what they don’t, because whatever they don’t like, they can put to the side and eat the rest with the foundation of the salad greens. Then you can adjust accordingly next time.

Do any of you serve a big salad as a dinner option? Do you primarily eat salads for dinner in the summer, or is it a winter staple, as well?

Check out my other Cheap Eats posts

About Amiyrah

My name is Amiyrah and I'm an an African American fashion & lifestyle blogger based in Ohio.

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  1. 8.1.11

    I try to do salads with my meals as well. DH won’t eat anything healthy, so it’s just me eating it alone. I’ll come home from the store and section it off into 5 or so different ziploc baggies, but as of right now, I’m not so much into the lettuce, so I’ve been having cucumber and green pepper salads….OMG so yummy and no dressing even required.

  2. 8.2.11
    Jenny said:

    Salads are my favorite year round, but in summer when i get everything right off the vine – it’s just so much better! and I toss anything that i have in the house – eggs, cheese, beans, roasted corn or dried apricots. It just makes it more interesting to eat. 🙂

  3. 8.2.11
    Amber L. said:

    One of our favorite salads is a taco salad. We tend to have garbage taco salads and use up any veggies hanging out in the fridge. But we use about 1/4 ground turkey for four salads, black and kidney beans, cheese, lettuce, cucumbers, onion, shredded carrots, green peppers, broccoli and some purple cabbage. About 8 corn chips per person and a drizzle of either sour cream or ranch and we are happy chompers! My daughter is 2 and has been (happy) eating salads the better part of those 2 years. Letting her build her own means she will eat what she makes. Yum for salads!!


  4. 8.3.11
    Emily said:

    Avacoda is a great way to add healthy fat to a salad and its so yummy! My son who is 2 and a half eats salads when i make them. sometimes he asks for dressing and sometimes he doesn’t. My daughter who is 1 will eat the tomatoes and cucumbers w/o dressing (thats a good start!)