Fabulously Frugal: Less expensive salads

Making your own salad dressing is easy, and a great way to keep grocery costs down. Photo by Sarah Cronk.

Now that it’s spring, and summer is just around the corner, salad greens are a little cheaper as they’re in season near us… or even right here. Maybe your garden is producing some early greens or your farm share box has lovely leaves. Hooray, right?!

That happy feeling might only last until you look at the cost of salad dressing. Maybe you shudder at the price, take a deep breath, and instead, open up the box of KD in your pantry that you got on sale a few weeks ago.

And you’re not wrong! A 350 mL bottle at $3.79 works out to over $10 a litre. We thought gas was expensive until we started shopping for some Lemon Garlic or Creamy Italian to liven things up!

The good news is you can make your own salad dressings for a fraction of the cost and save money, while eating healthier.

Here’s how!

You’ll need a few tools:

A jar:

Any jar with a tight-fitting lid will work. A kombucha jar or even a spaghetti sauce jar will work. I’ve tried this with a plastic container and then I had to wash the ceiling – that’s not a fun job. I suggest using a glass jar.

If you have some of that expensive salad dressing in your fridge now, save the bottle and lid when you’ve used it all up. Wash it well (by hand) in hot soapy water and rinse it well. When it’s dry, you can DIY a similar salad dressing and save quite a bit.

Measuring cups and spoons:

Most households have these, but if you don’t, the dollar store has them on the cheap. Fortunately, you can also use what you have on hand to measure, as salad dressing is very forgiving and not an exact scientific potion to whip up.

Ingredients:

Most salad dressings are either mayonnaise-based or oil and vinegar-based, with add-ins.

How to:

The simplest of dressings is classic Italian oil and vinegar. It’s 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, and it’s pretty easy to eyeball the measurements in your glass jar.

Put your vinegar in first and top with oil so that you have about three times as much oil as vinegar. Easy, right?

If you want to, you can measure it: 1/4 cup of vinegar and 3/4 cup of oil are the correct proportions. If your budget is tight, ordinary cooking oil and white vinegar will work. If you have a bit more to allot to dressing, olive oil and any balsamic vinegar are nicer.

You can add some fresh herbs (basil, oregano, chives), some finely chopped onions, and even a dash of Parmesan. Shake it up and enjoy. This will keep in the fridge for about five days.

Mayo-based dressings:

Image by Innes Linder.

In my opinion, ranch is one of the best things ever to come out of North American kitchens! This is the recipe I use for ranch, and you can be sure I hit the dollar store or buy non-brand name dried herbs for it. Shake in your jar with the tight-fitting lid or stir it up with a spoon for that delicious creaminess your salad deserves. This is also an amazing dip for chips.

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (you can make your own by putting 1 tbsp of vinegar in your measuring cup, then filling the cup the 1/2 cup line with milk, and letting it sit for five minutes.)
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 tbsp. finely chopped onion
  • salt (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp mustard – any kind, even hot dog mustard will work
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped chives – dried or fresh
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped parsley – dried or fresh
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped dill – fresh or dried
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

This will keep for about five days in the fridge.

Use your imagination to make salad dressings! Some leftover pasta sauce and yogurt mixed up makes creamy Italian dressing. Basic oil and vinegar with some honey and mustard gives you honey mustard dressing. Lemon juice in place of the vinegar, with the addition of lots of garlic and a pinch of sugar, makes a nice lemon and garlic dressing. Salsa, mayo, and some taco seasoning make salsa ranch dressing… you get the idea!

Your homemade dressings have few ingredients and no preservatives, colourings, or anything you can’t pronounce. They’re real food, they’re inexpensive, and they’re so simple to make, saving you money.

Weekly flyer deals:

Loblaws:

  • Laundry soap, Purex brand, 50-load jug: $5
  • Crackers, Cheez-its brand: $1.50/ 191 g box
  • Nuts, Planters, cashews: $1.50/ 200 g can
  • Ice Cream, Breyers: $3.69/1.66 L

Giant Tiger:

  • Baby carrots: $0.77/340 g bag
  • Sausages, Gold Label brand Smokies, assorted varieties: $3.47/package of six (375 g)
  • Appetizers, frozen, Wong Wing brand, assorted varieties: $4.97 each
  • Coffee pods, Victor Allen’s brand: $13.85/42 pack
  • Ketchup, Giant Value brand: $2.97/1 L
  • Frozen fish fillets, Highliner brand, assorted varieties: $6.97/ 500-700g package

Metro:

  • Green beans, fresh: $0.88/lb
  • Crackers, Christie brand, selected varieties and sizes: $1.88/box
  • Annie’s brand mac and cheese, assorted varieties: $1.88/box

Food Basics:

  • Bacon, Selection brand: $2.98/375 g package
  • Shrimp, frozen, Irresistibles brand: $6.88/340 g package
  • Butter, Selection Brand: $4.88/1 lb package
  • Corn, fresh on the cob: $2.88/package of four
  • Dish soap, Dawn or Palmolive brand, various sizes: 2/$5
  • Bagels, Selection brand: $1.99/bag of six
  • Chicken breasts, boneless, skinless, in-store butcher: $3.48/lb
  • Cereal, Shreddies or Life brands: $2.98/449 g boxes (a great thing to buy to donate to the food banks)
  • Cheese slices, Kraft Singles brand: $3.98/22 pack
  • Cheese Whiz: $3.98/450 g jar

(and remember, No Frills and Giant Tiger price match)

Happy Frugality!


Kingston resident Sarah Cronk offers tips on money-saving strategies and the best deals to be found in local grocery stores in her bi-weekly Kingstonist column, Fabulously Frugal. Have any questions for Sarah or things you’d like her to investigate in terms of cost savings? Let us know! Email Kingstonist Editor-in-Chief Tori Stafford at [email protected].

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