The Great Cost of Salad

This is a salad broken down into its components.

This is a salad broken down into its components. I may need a hobby.

Buying a pre-made salad is a total chump move. Everyone knows that, and everyone buys them anyway. It’s fast, it’s pretty healthy, and making a salad is a pain in the arse. But since paying almost $11 at Loblaws over the weekend for a giant Greek salad that started turning brown the next day, I’ve been obsessing about the price (and quality) of store-made salads. So I decided to figure it out, which is also a chump move.

Holy crap, that’s expensive

I’ll get to the punch line first, and then explain. It costs a lot more to buy a prepared salad. Store bought is $10.73, you can make it yourself for $6.14. That’s a lettuce-to-lettuce comparison, using ingredients bought from the same store on the same day.

Almost fresh

They don’t make salads out of the stuff that just came in today, it’s made out of the stuff they need to get rid of in a hurry. Lettuce that is beginning to wilt (or will), cheese that only has a few days left, cucumbers that have been sitting on the shelves for a few weeks. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but if you’re buying your own stuff you’re getting the freshest ingredients in the store.

The complex equations

Anyway, I wandered the grocery store finding out how much all the raw ingredients cost. Then I figured out how much that worked out to per gram. Then I bought one of the ready-made salads and took it home to pick apart. Each separated ingredient went into its own bowl. Then I weighed each item, and multiplied it by cost per gram to determine the actual price of my salad had I bought the ingredients and made it my own damn self.

Ingredients

The Greek salad is pretty simple – black olives, cherry tomatoes, feta, romaine lettuce, red onion, cucumber and two little packs of dressing. The feta was the most expensive, contributing $2.82 to the overall cost of the salad. The least expensive? The black olives – which cost 3 cents each to buy at the little olive bar near the deli(so I can’t figure out why you only get six).

The one complication

I didn’t have a digital scale, so I had to buy one. That was $30. And after touching the salad so much and putting it all back together, I’m a little disgusted so it’ll probably rot in the fridge. Which means this blog post, for which I’ll be paid absolutely nothing, will actually cost me about $40. But, now I know for sure that you pay $4.59 more for a store-made salad. And that has to be worth something?

Here's what things cost.

Here’s what things cost.

9 thoughts on “The Great Cost of Salad”

  1. And if you buy the ingredients at a store that actually sells fresh, reasonably priced produce, you’ll save a lot more than when you pay those high Loblaw’s prices.

  2. If only I could buy a couple of cucumber slices, a crumble of feta and a part of a head of lettuce…

    When you live in a family of one, it costs money when food goes bad, too. Not that it’s an excuse. Just a problem I have with my fridge and my tummy.

  3. Interesting post! Any estimation for how long it would take to put the salad together and multiply that by minimum wage? 15 min prep time would probably add $2-3 per salad and then there’s the packaging cost too. Wendy’s and other fast foods make salads too so would like to see comparison by weight and cost too as their salads are mostly lettuce.

  4. Congrats you just figured out what the mother always knew. But well done. Another point about pre made; they are handled just as much as you handled your’s but by many more people in many more places. The more processed it is the harder it is to track origin and cleanliness of the final product. Make your own wash your ingredients well. Thanks for the re enforcement

  5. @Jacqueline Nelson
    Agreed Jacqueline. When I am throwing out veggies gone bad, sometimes makes pre-made look appealing. But then I wonder: how the salad was prepared, were all the greens cleaned properly, what about the hands that made it, were the utensils and boards properly cleaned? Then I buy the ingredients and make my own!

  6. A pack of Romaine seeds is 1.99 and contains over 1000 seeds. How many decimal points is that. Compact bush cucumber seeds are about the same and can be grown in a container, same with Cherry tomatoes. Amortized over a few growing seasons, I think I can get that cost down a bit more (tongue in cheek)

    Good post!!

  7. I’ve started making my own pre-made salads (just the lettuce and other dry things- juicy tomatoes and salty olives added later) and have been very pleased by how much longer they last in the fridge. I think the lettuce they use is about to go. A bag of carefully home prepared greens tends to last for more than a week. They easily outlast store prepared mixes. Even if you’re on your own, it’s worth trying.

  8. I cannot emphasize enough how even more cost cutting it is to have your own salad garden. Its seriously the most easiest thing to do. The gardening supplies are a worthy investment, even cheaper for me since I make my own compost throughout the year and my father in law is a carpenter and built me raised ceder beds. Bang in some seeds or cheap seedlings, spend 15 mins a day looking after it from the beginning of Spring to the middle of Fall, watering and checking for bugs etc and Bobs your uncle you’ll be eating so much free sweet and juicy lettuce, cucumber and cherry tomatoes you’ll be giving them away.
    After that, you’ll be happily turning your nose up at any salad items the grocery stores throw at you.

  9. When you think of minimum wage and cost to employer, you can add about 16% or more. The employer must contribute to CPP contribution, Employment insurance, worker’s compensation and possibly other costs on behalf of the person who made the salad. Then factor in the other costs of operating the business. There is no end. I’m surprised the salad is offered so cheaply.

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