Possibly one of the most challenging things about being an adult is figuring out what to feed yourself and the people you love, every. single. day. Knowing better isn't enough to stop my husband and me from going days in a row foraging for freezer meals, ordering in (oh Postmates, you're a blessing and a curse), and eating out. Not only does that blow our budget, it makes us both feel sludgy.
I'm sure we didn't invent this, but we just decided one weekend that instead of trying (and failing, as per usual) to come up with a meal plan, we'd just get a cart full of salad fixings and mix and match through the week. And I wish we'd thought of this years earlier. Here are the reasons I love it:
The best of intentions when it comes to mealtime too often disintegrate in the face of disagreement. For two people with reasonably similar palates, it's amazing how often one feels like burger night while the other is craving a curry. These disagreements usually lead to just ordering in what we want. With Build Your Own Salad Adventure, there is zero need to agree. When I want shrimp and avocado with Green Goddess and he wants a riff on a Cobb salad, fine! We can live with the biggest issue being the need to wash the two mixing bowls we toss the individual salads in.
I am an adult human being and most days I do not eat my vegetables. At least not the recommended number. Our salads have some indulgences (hi, fresh mozzarella), but they start with a heaping bowl of greens and — especially now in the sweet spot of summer garden goodies co-starring with incoming fall treats — are loaded with fruits and vegetables. We can eat a day's worth in one meal, easy.
As much as I love the idea of a menu plan, I've yet to find one I can stick with. This makes grocery shopping stressful, and something to dread as we wander the aisles wondering what on earth we'll eat this week. The first time I went shopping for Salad Week was actually … fun! I picked up things I'd never gotten before, and old favorites I hadn't thought about lately. Jackfruit! Jicama sticks! Marinated sundried tomatoes, artichokes, and eggplant! Tropical fruit! Edamame! (This was from a Trader Joe's run.) And at the farmer's market, it's just literally whatever looks good (lately tomatoes, oh, the heirloom tomatoes. And the corn!).
Instead of wondering with dread what I'll find to eat, during salad week I find myself looking forward to what kind of combination I can come up with that day. I'll be out walking my dog, rummaging through the fridge and pantry in my mind, and actually feeling gleeful looking forward to, say, shrimp, tomatoes, and cashews with a lemon dressing; or tossing pears with toasted walnuts and red onions and blue cheese dressing. Especially as the week wanes, Salad Week lets me think out of the box: I still have peaches, halloumi, arugula, and mint on hand — that sounds delicious (and it SO was, with a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice).
A nightly tradition we've had since the early days of our relationship is a dish of ice cream. But when we're not eating healthfully I mostly manage to nix that, so as not to heap fuel on the fire. That makes me sad. But when I've had a giant, abundantly healthful salad for dinner (and usually lunch, too) I will absolutely make way for a reasonable serving of ice cream (I stick with serving it in a ramekin, with a diminutive spoon to limit the portion size). My current obsession is Jeni's ice cream (and if you haven't had this glorious goodness, you have not had ice cream). I literally think about it all day, and while I mostly avoid traps of labeling food as good and bad, I absolutely will reward myself with a decadent luxury like this if I've eaten my vegetables. (Yes, sometimes we have to treat ourselves like we're eight. That's OK.)
If you're ready to embark on your own Salad Week (with or without the ice cream carrot at the end of the stick), don't bog yourself down in rules. That defeats the purpose. Seriously, just get the fruits, vegetables, proteins, and greens that catch your eye or that you've been meaning to try. Mix it up on the greens front and try some different lettuces than usual. Herbs are a nice addition, so is something crunchy, like walnuts. We usually boil a dozen eggs for the week because #putaneggonit is nearly always a good idea. Sometimes we make homemade dressings (my favorite being the Green Goddess from New York Times Cooking — I could eat a bowl of sawdust drenched in this) but lately we've taken the Trader Joe's refrigerated, bottled dressing shortcut with no regrets. With a super fresh farmer's market haul you're good to go with a good olive oil, a nice vinegar or squeeze of citrus, and good salt and freshly ground pepper.