Why You Should Buy Stir-Fry Ingredients From The Grocery Salad Bar

For many of us, meal planning comes down to two very important considerations: time and money. Okay, how the food tastes also plays into it, and we may spare a passing thought for nutrition, as well, but in the end, it generally comes down to a face-off between economics and convenience. If you find yourself in a time crunch, the latter may well win out, and you can't do much better than a stir-fry for a meal that can be ready in minutes. If you want to shave off even more time, however, here's a tip: Shop the supermarket salad bar for pre-cut vegetables to add to your stir-fry.

Sure, it may cost significantly more on a pound-per-pound basis to purchase prepared items than, say, a whole cabbage or a bag of carrots, but it's so much more convenient not to have to slice, dice, and peel. If you live alone and don't like to eat large amounts of vegetables on a daily basis, you'll also spare yourself the ick factor of having the leftovers turn to rotting mush in your produce bin. Okay, so you may not be able to purchase the exact amount of any given ingredient you need for a stir-fry recipe unless you're really good at eyeballing or have the chutzpah to whip a measuring cup out of your purse, but even guessing at smaller amounts will at least help you to reduce food waste.

Some ingredients are better salad bar buys than others

If you want to strike a balance between saving time and saving money, you may want to limit your salad bar purchases to certain items. Sure, buy cabbage and carrots for convenience's sake and pre-sliced onions to save yourself some tears. Other salad bar purchases you might want to skip, though, since they're not worth the extra expense.

Peas are generally a good bet since they may be cheaper at the salad bar than if you buy them by the bag. Grilled chicken and ham are also surprisingly cheap at salad bar prices and can be a huge help if you forget to thaw any meat for your stir-fry. Broccoli florets, while they may cost about 50% more, are worth it for the time-saving factor. That may also be the case for celery even though its markup could be a hefty 150%.

Mushrooms, however, are something you can skip since they're available pre-sliced in the produce section for far less than the salad bar sells them. Green beans, too, are more of a goodbye than a good buy, particularly since you can buy a bag of the frozen kind and then toss as many as you need into your stir-fry and let them thaw as they cook. Add a bag of pre-cooked rice or noodles (from the center aisles, not the salad bar) and you'll be all set for dinner.