My 3 Favorite No-Waste Tricks for Better Salads

Because every produce penny counts.

Fennel, Grapefruit, and Arugula Salad ingredients

The Spruce / Eric Kleinberg

No matter what the prices at the grocery store are, being a frugal shopper and home cook is always good practice. It is a habit I developed at a young age, thanks to my parents, and something I am grateful for now more than ever. I am not necessarily talking about coupon clipping and penny pinching. My approach is to use every last bit of the ingredients I’ve carted home in an effort to minimize waste and maximize meals. 

How to start? Turn to salads. Having a salad on the dinner table regularly is the easiest way I know to take a “nose to tail” approach to produce, using every element of the fruits and vegetables you buy (it’s also a great way to eat more good-for-you foods). In my new book, Salad Seasons, I celebrate the dish across four seasons and show you how to make the tastiest (and sometimes unconventional) salads to enjoy as a side dish, main dish, and occasionally even for dessert. 

Ready to expand your salad universe and save money? Here are my favorite no-waste salad tricks to stretch your produce pennies even further. 

Cut cabbage

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Think Outside the Greens Box

I’ll be the first to admit that I often lean too heavily on those plastic clamshells of arugula, but that is really just the start when it comes to greens that can be used in salads. Dandelion greens might receive less love, but they’re equally as peppery and intriguing in salads—and without the excess plastic waste, too. So is bok choy, cabbage, and Swiss chard. Experimenting with unconventional greens is often cheaper than sticking to mesclun and these greens tend to last longer in the fridge, which means you're less likely to be greeted with slimy greens that you need to toss in the garbage before you’ve even had a chance to toss them in a salad bowl.

Grilled Carrots ingredients

The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

Don’t Forget the Top Fronds and Leaves

While you can purchase carrots without their feathery tops, you are missing out on half of the vegetable. Bring a whole bunch home and you get two ingredients for the price of one. The same goes for fennel, radishes, beets, and beyond. Carrot and fennel fronds can be chopped and used to add freshness to salads as an herb like parsley or cilantro would. Or then can be blended into pesto, chimichurri, or green tahini, which can be used as a dressing. Radish and beet greens can be torn and tossed right into the bowl like any leafy greens.

lemon cut into quarters on cutting board

The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

Use Everything but the Seeds

Lemons are an essential component in many salad vinaigrettes, but it is not just the juice that can deliver tangy flavor. Don’t forget about the rind and even the flesh; both can be utilized. My favorite way to make the most of all three is to quarter a lemon, remove the seeds, then blend the segments—rind, flesh, juice, and all—in a food processor with garlic for savoriness, honey for balance, and almonds for body, until it’s a finely chopped mix. Add olive oil and it’s a vibrant dressing that leaves no citrus stone unturned.