How to Whip Up Quick Salads on Busy Days

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Busy days call for quick lunches. With an easy formula for pulling together a great salad, you can eat good as well as cheap.

My days are fairly non-stop. If I’m paying attention, that it. Don’t get me wrong. I like to just lie around. But, folks depend on me, so I don’t take that luxury too often. But, I do love to take a tasty lunch break somewhere in the middle of the day.

While my kids might have Sunbutter and Pomegranate jelly sandwiches, I’d rather have a salad. I sometimes get lazy and think that a salad will take too long, but I’m developing a system that helps me pull together very quick salads that are the perfect, fresh pick-me-up to my days.

1. Lettuce or spinach

Typically in our produce box I have a load of spinach as well as a head of lettuce. Different from store bought, these fresh-from-the-farm greens tend to the sandy/gritty side. So, I dunk them in a bowl of cool water, swish, and run them through the salad spinner. A few quick tears and I’m good to go for a bed of greens.

2. Tasty toppings

Lately, I’ve surprised myself by what I’ve found in the cupboard or fridge. It doesn’t seem like there’s much there and then when I get started adding salad toppings, I find myself with a tasty salad. These miraculous toppings would include:

  • cubed or crumbled cheese
  • nuts
  • sunflower seeds
  • dried cranberries
  • chopped apple or oranges
  • chopped scallions
  • chopped deli turkey, grilled chicken or steak

3. An easy dressing

I don’t often buy bottled salad dressings. In fact, I think I buy about one or two bottles a year. But, we enjoy salads often — with homemade dressings. Somedays, I just dress my salads with a dose of balsamic vinegar and another of extra virgin olive oil. I might add a sprinkle of salt and a few grindings of pepper. The Balsamic vinegar that I received from Holland House offers enough flavor that I really don’t need anything more than this.

A note on taking salad on the go:

I regularly pack a picnic for the kids and I to take to the park. While they can handle the aforementioned sunbutter sandwiches, I would rather take a salad. This is super easy to do with the new Glad-to-Go lunch boxes from Glad (pictured above).

I first saw these at BlogHer last summer and have since stocked my cupboards with these great boxes. They are BPA-free and include a dressing cup that fits into the lid. The smart folks at Glad have made all the lids in the same way, so I can add a dressing cup to a bigger sized container if I want.

Keeping things simple helps me enjoy quick salads on busy days.

Disclosure: Holland House has provided me with sample product as well as compensation for my time spent writing this post. All opinions are my own. You can read more about Holland House and other simple ways to dress up everyday foods on their Facebook page.

Related: Salad Dressings to Make Yourself

About Jessica Fisher

I believe great meals don't have to be complicated or expensive. There's a better way, and it won't take all afternoon.

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  1. Jane says

    I found the reason I get tired of salad is that the store bought dressings just taste horrible. I’ve been pulling together recipes for the dressings I do like and making my own. This week I found a really good Italian one that’s pretty close to Olive Garden’s. I also made a couple Asian dressings and a buttermilk ranch. Next up is Cilantro dressing!

    • Cheri A. says

      Jane, would you share your dressing recipes? I feel the same way! I would love some new, great dressing recipes.

      • Jane says

        @Cheri A.,

        The powder base for hidden valley ranch used to have wheat it in (dd is gluten free) so I tweaked a recipe for the powder I found on the web which is:
        2/3 cup dried parsley flakes
        1/3 cup dried minced onion
        3 Tbsp. garlic salt
        2 Tbsp. onion salt
        1 Tbsp. garlic powder
        1 Tbsp. onion powder
        1 Tbsp. dried dill weed
        1/4 tsp. pepper

        I keep it in a plastic container and use it for veggie dips and also used it for dressing using 2 tbsp low fat sour cream, 1 tbsp low fat mayo, and 4 tbsp buttermilk.

        The Olive Garden-type recipe is as follows (I love this stuff!)
        1 packet good seasonings (will make my own after box is gone)
        6 tbsp of water
        1/3 cup olive oil
        1/2 cup white wine vinegar
        1 Tbsp lemon (this makes the dressing)
        1/2 tsp garlic powder
        4 Tbsp parmesan/romano blend cheese
        2 packets of splenda or sugar
        2 tbsp of low fat mayo

        Combine in pint jar. Top with lid and shake. Enjoy!

        I also made an asian dressing using the juice off the mandarin orange can, tbsp of soy, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp of onion powder and 1/2 tsp of garlic powder with a drizzle of olive oil. Normally I would have added some toasted sesame seed but my mom can’t eat seeds or nuts.

        • Cheri A. says

          @Jane, Thanks so much! I am going to try these soon. My dd is also gluten-free, as well as other food allergies as well. 😉

        • Jessica says

          @Jane, these look delicious. Thanks for sharing them!

  2. Cheri A. says


    I am going to search for your salad dressing recipes again. I can’t remember if I have tried any salad dressing recipes from this site. Maybe you could do a link-up again for us.

    I just tried a new recipe last week that was a hit with my whole family, and it is super easy. I found it in my Woman’s Day magazine, March 2012, and it highlights uses for maple syrup.

    Vinaigrette: Whisk together 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp each of maple syrup and red wine vinegar, and 1 tsp. Dijon mustard. Season with salt and pepper.

    I am going to triple this recipe today because we used it all up last night.

    • Jessica says

      @Cheri A., thanks for the suggestion. I updated the post with some salad dressing links. 🙂

      • Cheri A. says

        @Jessica, Thank you!! I have them all copied and will try them all. 🙂 Try my easy recipe above and see what you think!

  3. I made your spinach salad with oranges, cranberries & sunflower seeds today – I subbed romaine (because that’s what we had), added some ruby red grapefruit sections to the orange and cranberries (because we have a very fruitful tree), and toasted some pecans (again, what we had). YUM! Thanks for lunch 😉

    • Jessica says

      @Angela, glad you liked it! Though I think you created a whole new recipe on your own. 🙂

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