Your grocery store’s best money-saving secret is hidden in plain sight: The salad bar. Learn practical ways to save money by “shopping” the salad bar at your local supermarket.Saving money using the grocery store salad bar

Anyone who’s spent any time reading my blog knows how often I use the grocery store salad bar when cooking. Not only is it super convenient – it also is a great way to save money on food.

Knowing a few tips and tricks, as well as which ingredients are cheaper at the salad bar than bought individually can help make cooking cheaper and less stressful.

Keep in mind that most of the items at the grocery store salad bar are marked up. However, there are some definite deals to be had.

The best way to use the salad bar for savings is to buy certain items you need for a recipe – not to eat a whole meal. For example:

  • Buying 1/2 cup of dried cranberries or walnuts for a cookie recipe instead of buying an entire bag
  • Purchasing crumbled bacon bits to add to a salad instead of buying an entire package and frying it yourself
  • Buying a small amount of Feta cheese and roasted garlic (pictured below) to top superfood pizza

Roasted garlic from the salad bar at Whole Foods

Knowing which grocery store salad bar items are a good deal – and those that are marked up significantly – can help you save a lot of money.

What’s Cheaper (and What’s More Expensive) at the Salad Bar?

The percentage of savings listed below is based on a $5.99/pound salad bar. I have seen salad bars up to $7.99/pound, so use extra caution before filling up your container. This information comes from the September, 2011 issue of Food Network Magazine:

Cheaper (buy these items!)

  • Blue cheese – Save 57 percent
  • Bacon – Save 55 percent
  • Grilled chicken – Save 44 percent
  • Walnuts – Save 19 percent
  • Ham – Save 14 percent
  • Cheddar cheese – Save 14 percent
  • Dried cranberries – Save 11 percent

More expensive (avoid these items!)

  • Grape tomatoes – 13 percent markup
  • Avocado – 31 percent markup
  • Broccoli – 50 percent markup
  • Carrots – 50 percent markup
  • Chow mein noodles – 50 percent markup
  • Sunflower seeds – 63 percent markup
  • Black olives – 78 percent markup
  • Croutons – 87  percent markup
  • Pepperoncini – 97 percent markup
  • Celery – 150 percent markup
  • Hard-boiled eggs – 167 percent markup
  • Mandarin oranges – 188 percent markup
  • Mushrooms – 200 percent markup
  • Green beans – 201 percent markup
  • Pickled beets – 212 percent markup
  • Cucumbers – 274 percent markup
  • Baby corn – 277 percent markup
  • Radishes – 302 percent markup
  • Chickpeas – 368 percent markup

Tips For Using The Grocery Store Salad Bar

  • Avoid heavy foods: Beware of heavy items like cucumbers, hard-boiled eggs, fresh fruit, and beans. It’s generally much cheaper to buy these items individually.
  • Choose light foods: Take advantage of light, otherwise expensive items like crumbled bacon, shredded cheese, and nuts.
  • Choose the right lettuce: If you’re using the salad bar to buy lettuce or greens, choose lighter varieties such as spinach or mesclun (a mix of greens with arugula, frisée, mâche, and radicchio)
  • Container size: Use an appropriately-sized container for the amount of food you are purchasing. Extra packaging equals more weight.
  • Be selective: Remember, not everything is cheaper, ounce for ounce, on the salad bar. Use the list of cheaper items, above, to save both money and time.