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The Dreadful Inconvenience of Salad

Hardly any of us get the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables in our daily diet, but I can tell you from experience that making salad is expensive, time-consuming, and more complicated than a typical lunch. It’s not exactly fast food. Yes, you can get a salad at many fast food outlets, but have you seen the prices? A startup founded by Luke Saunders called the Farmer’s Fridge (previously at Neatorama) aims to change all that, by offering salad from vending machines, for as low as a dollar in selected low-income areas.

Most of Saunders’s machines are installed at private office buildings, food courts, and convenience stores, where the salads cost upwards of $7. Eventually, he wants to drive down the price to the point where anyone can afford them.

The Farmer’s Fridge machine at the East Garfield Community Center is his initial attempt to bring healthy food to a low-income area. The buck is a nominal fee—the salads are actually day-old donations that didn’t sell at the corporate locations. (All of the salads are perfectly good for up to three days.)

It sounds like a good idea, although you can see where the economics could be the project’s undoing. I would imagine there would be a great many salads not sold for $7, leading to plenty of $1 salads, but how could you sustain the project with such massive markdowns? The question in the article at The Atlantic is: would people eat healthier food if it were more convenient? There are some who will never eat fresh vegetables no matter how cheap and convenient they are. And although my family will eat salad, it has to be custom made or offered salad bar-style, as everyone hates some ingredient that the others love.

(Image credit: Farmer’s Fridge)

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I do that, and it tends to spoil you. Summer salads from the backyard garden are so delicious, but buying tomatoes in winter is an exercise in disappointment.
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Grow your own fruits and vegetables; the cost of water is really cheap and the sun is free.

(Yes, I know gardening isn't possible for everyone in the world, but there are many people who COULD grow food but choose not to.)
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Not all salad bars are priced the same. Look for the cheapest bar with the greatest variety of ingredients (if you have that option); needless to say, it isn't Whole Foods. Every time you choose a vegetable to top the base of lettuces, consider the weight. I like salad bars that provide a scale to the consumers so they can see how much they're getting before the tab is rung up by the cashier. At the top of the list of things the customers fail to consider by weight is the dressing. Opt for vinegar and oil-based dressings over mayo, or really, just take your own with you. It will be fresher, better tasting, and healthier than than those provided, and much cheaper per serving. If you know in advance you'll be loading up on salad from a grocery store, take your own plastic bowl with a lid and ask a cashier to give you the TARE weight in advance, so that it can be subtracted at checkout, AND provide your own dressing. This is the most economic way I know to utilize a salad bar, but I'm always looking for new tips, since I don't like going to the bother sometimes of cutting up all the ingredients for a salad.

Lately, I've been exploring the many wonderful ways to roast and eat brussell sprouts. Thanksgiving approacheth.
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I've found the price to be a far bigger issue than the convenience, as there are plenty of corner stores, cafes, and in-house cafeterias with ready to go salads (at least in areas with larger numbers of white collar workers, I know other areas differ). It is already expensive enough to buy food in those shops, and quite often I've seen salads as one of the most expensive options. And this isn't just in comparison to junk food designed for long shelf-lives, but in comparison to fresh sandwiches that are also healthy in the sense they have varied, fresh, nutritious ingredients, just they are more calorie dense.
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