Break The $12 Sad Salad Cycle, Part 2: The Perfect Homemade Salad Template

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Part 1 available here.

We are now entering that most wonderful post-holiday time of year where we are bombarded with reminders of what fat indulgent whales we have been for the last month, and the collective dictum by fancy lady/health magazines to DETOX! SLIM! TONE! (Read: put down the holiday chocolates and park yourself on the treadmill).

I’m generally not a proponent of starvation masquerading as “cleanses”.  And by generally, I mean I think it’s total baloney.  Malarkey even.  That said, the holiday season does tend to lead to a stretch on your waistline AND your wallet. So if ever there is time for some recalibration/balance after the wheels off EAT-DRINK-MERRIMENT season, it’s probably now.

How? Good question! Thought you’d never ask! Why, by making delicious, NOT-sad grain salads with our special hands! Did you know that whole grains/legumes, on top of being incredibly healthy and muy delicioso, are pretty much dirt cheap to purchase from the grocery store?  With this basic template, you can get a batch of grain salads together for a week full of lunches that will leave you with some extra $$ to offset some of that holiday gift damage to your credit cards, AND a smug sense of wholesome wellbeing.

Not-Sad Grain Salad Template

  • Whole grain of your choice – farro, quinoa, brown rice, pick your poison…er, superfood
  • Something crunchy – cashews, almonds, pepitas, sunflower seeds, you get the idea.
  • Something vegetal, cut into bite sized piece, raw – celery, bell peppers, carrots, etc.
  • Something vegetal, ROASTED  – this is a game changer for wintry months, makes the whole shebang less punitive and more enjoyable. Winter squashes like butternut or sweet potatoes are good.  Roasted fennel is so freaking good and a highly underrated seasonal veg. Get after it.
  • Something with protein – this will amp up the nutrition and keep you fuller for longer so you’re not hitting the afternoon candy bar like a wildebeast.  That 3pm twix bar should be a conscious choice to treat yo self, and a very wise one, as twix is indisputably the king of processed candy bars (controversy!!).  Chicken (zzz) is an easy, albeit kinda boring, go-to.  Beans/lentils are great/cheap/protein. Baked tofu is really tasty, I promise!
  • Something fruity/sweet – dried fruit (craisins, raisins, apricots chopped up), fresh fruit (apple, pear, grapes).
  • Something salty/cheesy – unfortch we are not making a cheese salad (though that sounds bangin’), so keep the amount garnish-appropriate.  For maximum flava flav, stick to strong cheeses like feta, parm, etc.
  • Dressing – honestly, after you add all your delicious crunchy/veggie/fruity/cheesy components to your base grain, it’s already a pretty tasty concoction.  Add some salt, acid (citrus, vinegar, combo, go nuts), maybe some mustard, and a teeeeeeeny drizzle of olive oil, boom done.  (Quick note on oil amount, I really don’t think you need to follow the 1/3 acid to 2/3 oil traditional ratio for vinaigrettes. I mean, 1 tablespoon of oil has 120 calories! The great benefit of making your own salad is that you get to control the ingredients you eat, so you do you babes, and follow your heart.)
  • Extra Credit – fresh herbs. Let’s be real here, fresh mint/parsley/basil/chives/etc. are all super dupes delicious but gets expensive and very wilty quickly.  If you have some lying around, I highly recommend adding fresh herbs to your salad party.  If not, I promise your salad will still be really really good.  So don’t let this hold you back!

Gameplan

  • Prep night – Sunday
    • Cook up enough grains for a week’s worth of lunches – I would say 2 cups uncooked (4 cups cooked) is probably enough for the week since you’re adding a bunch of stuff into your salads. This will keep very well for the rest of the week, so just cook a big pot once and you’re set.
    • Roast up whatever veg you’re adding
    • Chop up your raw fruits/veg, but try to keep it to just a day or two of lunches since things can get wilty/brown pretty quickly.
    • Cook your protein, if needed
  • Assembly
    • Either mix up a big batch, enough for a whole week, all at once (not recommended)
      • Trust that by the 3rd day, you’re sick of eating the same exact thing and tempted to just get some Hale & Hearty.  Thus leaving left overs in your fridge that will invariably get tossed by Saturday.
    • Or assemble your components daily/bi-weekly (recommended)
      • Once your components are ready, assembly takes like 15 minutes the night before.  By assembling your salad multiple times during the week, you keep things fresh and you can mix up your salads to avoid Salad Ennui, the silent killer of fiscal responsibility.

My taste buds and multiple Iron Chef viewings have taught me that balancing salty/sweet/sour makes for a flavor explosion. So choose your own adventure and play around different combos of tasty things! I purposely avoided a recipe because the point isn’t to have precise measurements, but rather to mix things up to your weird/unique little heart’s content. You are Pollock and grain salad is your medium! Go nuts!

Image: Live The Smart Way

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