Our Favorite Budget-Friendly Salad

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Our go-to salad is a combination of the vegetables we love best and the ones that cost the least amount of money. Get our budget-friendly salad formula below!

If you like this recipe, you might like our other real food, budget-friendly salad recipes!


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Recently, someone mentioned that I don’t have a lot of vegetable recipes on my site.

This is true. While we eat a lot of vegetables, we keep our veggies very simple and family-friendly.

We eat most of our vegetables like this:

  • in Soups
  • in Breakfast Sautes
  • Blended in Green Smoothies
  • Steamed
  • Roasted
  • in a Daily Salad

We have a few favorite salad recipes, and we load extra veggies into our soups and breakfast.

Easy Salad Recipe

The truth is, while I have experimented with all kinds of vegetable recipes, we keep our meals fairly simple. Besides soups and the occasional steamed vegetable side, we eat salads.

Nearly every day, everyone in our family – including the 4-year-old – eats a salad. And it’s almost always this salad recipe.

The recipe below is our go-to most of the year. It’s easy, budget-friendly, simple, delicious, and the dressing is clean and fresh.

salad with leftover beef

Simple Salad Recipe

What make’s this salad unique is that all of the ingredients are made from real food, and we used the most budget-friendly vegetables we could find.

This makes this salad a healthy balance between saving money and eating healthy.

Salad Bar for Families

As my kids grew older, I started serving salads buffet-style. This way the kids can top and dress their salads as desired. For us, this method makes it more fun and crowd-pleasing.

Allergies & Special Diets

Our budget-friendly, easy, real food, salad is easy to make allergy-free. The dressing is dairy-free, vegan, paleo, Whole30-approved, and budget-friendly! This way, we can serve it to nearly any guests.

Meal Salad

To make this salad a meal, we usually add shredded cheese or diced avocado and some kind of protein.

Easy protein salad toppers:

  • Chicken
  • Leftover roast beef
  • Canned tuna
  • Baked or canned salmon
  • Chickpeas
  • Quinoa

Make-Ahead Salad

Because we eat this salad nearly every day, I usually prepare all the veggies, chicken, and dressing on our simple meal-prep day. Throughout the week, we simply lay out the fixings and let everyone make their own meal.

salad with chicken

Serving Salad to Young Children

None of my kids liked salads until they were at least four years old. We have some stubborn selective eaters, but our philosophy is that we serve whatever we serve for meals, and our kids are welcome to eat as much or as little as they like. We encourage everyone to try lots of new food, but we don’t sweat it.

When they are old enough to understand – usually around 4 years old – we have a rule. They don’t get seconds on anything else for dinner – the pasta, chicken, bread, whatever – until their salad is gone. If they are hungry enough for more bread, they are hungry enough to finish lettuce.

Now, they all prefer salad over any other vegetable dish.

In the end, our goal is to empower our kids to take care of their bodies as they grow up – not make them eat whatever we put in front of them.

I share a TON of simple, empowering tips and recipes to help you save money and eat healthy with picky eaters in Picky Eater Playlist!

Easy, Budget-Friendly Salad Recipe

This easy budget-friendly salad is made from both real food ingredients, and budget-friendly vegetables.

While salads can get kind of expensive, this one is a healthy balance between saving money and eating healthy.

  • Lettuce (we like romaine, but we eat what’s on sale)
  • Carrots (I use a julienne peeler on them – easy to store, easy to eat, and everyone loves it!)
  • Blended Greek Salad Dressing
  • Shredded Cheese or Avocado
  • Any other veggies on sale or in season (sometimes this means broccoli, sometimes tomatoes and cucumbers. Sometimes it’s nothing else)
  • Protein (we serve it on the side or on top of the salad. We use chicken, hard-boiled eggs, tuna, or simply leftovers)
  • Some of us love croutons, and I can’t blame them. We usually serve those as an option.

Normally, we round out the meal with Simple Yellow Mediterranean Rice, Deeply-Flavorful Baked Sweet Potatoes, or Crispy Baked Home Fries.

In order to save money, we focus our plates on veggies and healthy carbs. The protein is usually a salad topping.

salad with falafel
Some salads are prettier than others. This one had lentil falafel.

Ingredients for Easy Budget-Friendly Salad

  • 2 hearts romaine lettuce or 1 full head green lettuce
  • 1 carrot
  • 8 grape tomatoes (or 1/2 medium-size tomato) (optional)
  • 1/2-1 cup Blended Greek Dressing


  • 3 ounces cheddar cheese, to taste (or 1/2-1 avocado, diced)
  • 2 cups of some kind of protein
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives
  • 1 cup croutons
  • assorted seasonal or on-sale veggies (cucumbers, broccoli, etc.)

How to Make Easy Budget-Friendly Salad

Chop the lettuce into bite-size pieces. Then shred or julienne the carrot, and halve the grape tomatoes.

Toss all ingredients in a large bowl. Done!

Note: If you think you will have leftovers, omit the dressing and cheese/avocado and serve them separately.

This Simple Salad Recipe is:

  • Gluten-free
  • Dairy-free
  • Allergy-friendly
  • Whole30
  • Paleo
  • Vegan
  • Vegetarian
  • Keto-friendly
  • Make-ahead
  • Kid-friendly

If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and tag a photo #cheapskatecook and @cheapskatecook on Instagram.

Simple, Budget-Friendly Salad

This salad combines some classic favorites, budget-friendly veggies, and an inexpensive but delicious dressing to make our go-to side dish (and sometimes main course!).

Author: Steph Jenkins
  • 2 hearts romaine lettuce (or 1 full head)
  • 1 carrot
  • 8 grape tomatoes, to taste (or 1/2 medium-size tomato)
  • 3 ounces cheddar cheese, to taste (or 1/2-1 avocado, diced)
  • 1/2-1 cup Blended Greek Dressing, to taste (see notes)
  • 2 cups leftover chicken
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives
  • 1 cup croutons
  • assorted seasonal or on-sale veggies (cucumbers, broccoli, etc.)
  1. Chop the lettuce into bite-size pieces, shred or julienne the carrot, and halve the grape tomatoes. Shred the cheese. Dice the avocado, if using.

  2. Toss all ingredients in a large bowl. If you think you will have leftovers, omit the dressing and cheese/avocado and serve them separately.

Recipe Notes

More Budget-Friendly Salad Recipes:

More Budget-Friendly Vegetable Recipes:

What You Can Do Now:

What are some of your favorite salad fixings?

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