Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Salad Challenge - Bring Your Own Lettuce (#BYOL)

I eat salad pretty much every day for lunch at work. It's healthy, easy to eat at my desk and can be tweaked to provide enough variety that I don't get too bored with them. So, when Nestle asked if I wanted to try out their new Lean Cuisine Salad Additions to see how they would stack up against a homemade salad, I was instantly game.

Before I headed out to the store, I checked out the Lean Cuisine website to see what exactly the new Salad Additions were and what varieties were available. Turns out, each box contains a little frozen salad kit with chicken, toppings and dressing that you just add to your own lettuce (it's a #BYOL party! woot!). There are 4 varieties: Asian-Style, Bistro, Southwest-Style and Cranberry & Chicken salad. I knew right away that I was going for the Asian-Style Chicken Salad - one of my all-time favorite salads, and one that I hadn't made in a long time. So, I headed out to Walmart to get my supplies.

You can check out my full shop here.

In addition to buying the Lean Cuisine Salad Additions in the frozen aisle, I also picked up ingredients to make my own Asian-style salad for a head-to-head healthy lunch salad challenge. The Lean Cuisine was $2.50, while the individual ingredients came to $7.57. Of course, those individual ingredients make more 1 serving. Based on the average number of servings per containers of the veggies, chicken and rice noodles, I worked it out to about $2.16 per salad--surprisingly not that much less than the Lean Cuisine.

When I got home, I prepped the ingredients I'd need to bring to work for my homemade salad. As you can see, it too up a *little* more space than the convenient all-in-one Lean Cuisine box.

First up, on Wednesday, was the homemade salad:

I heated up the chicken and veggies in the microwave for about 2 minutes and put it over spring mix with the rice noodles and dressing. When I dug in, I got a lot of flavor from the salad dressing and loved the crunch from the rice noodles, but the chicken or the edamame vegetable blend I used didn't do a lot for me. I think it would've been better if I had used fresh chicken and veggies, but I wanted a fair comparison to the Lean Cuisine - and I didn't have a lot of time the night before to prep (nor do I ever!). So while this salad was a little cheaper per serving than the Lean Cuisine, it wasn't a good value for my taste buds.

Ever the intrepid scientist, I persevered with the experiment on Thursday by trying out the Lean Cuisine Asian-Style Chicken Salad:

Similar to the homemade salad, I heated up the chicken and veggies in the microwave, put them on top of the spring mix, then added the included dressing and crunchy noodles. This time when I dug in, I could taste not only the dressing, but also the carrots, edamame and pineapple. The vegetables were crunchier and more flavorful than the ones I had used in my homemade salad, much to my surprise. Like the homemade salad, though, the chicken didn't do a lot for me. I guess I'm just not big into frozen chicken.

To be honest, going into this, I didn't expect a big difference between the homemade salad and the Lean Cuisine version, considering both used similar ingredients. But the Lean Cuisine was definitely more flavorful and tasted fresher, owing to those crunchy veggies. It was also much quicker and more convenient to pull one box of the freezer in the morning:

Rather than having to prep 3 separate bowls, plus the lettuce -- and try to cram that into my little lunch bag:

For just an extra $0.33 per serving (and less than the homemade verions if you use this coupon), the Salad Additions are definitely worth it.

So while I might start rotating some Salad Additions into my lunch options - I'm still always looking for new salad ideas. Tell me - what are your favorite salad combinations?

I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for CollectiveBias® and NESTLE #CBias #SocialFabric. All opinions expressed are my own.


Amy said...

I eat salad all the time. Wow, I would thought packaged ones are way more expensive...that is before I read your post. :) Thanks for pointing that out. And I love the fact that I don't have several different containers to wash if I go with the Lean Cuisine. I love to cook but never a fan of washing dishes. LOL

Kathy Murphy said...

That looks really good - I wondered about the crunch factor when I saw these at the store.

Rachel {} said...

So much easier! I am loving the Lean Cuisines... I wonder if I should take them along with me to jury duty next week! lol Your post has me convinced!