Spring Roll Quinoa Salad – This bright, colorful salad is loaded with plant-powered goodness and can be made on a budget, using a few simple tips!
This post is written in partnership with Sprouts Farmers Market, my favorite weekly grocery spot!
One of the biggest challenges I think any of us trying to eat a healthy diet face (other than The Eternal Question: What’s for dinner?) is how to eat healthfully on a budget. It can be overwhelming. When we switched to a gluten and dairy free lifestyle three and a half years ago, our grocery bill doubled overnight. I had to learn a new host of ways to make my grocery budget work for me, and I’m so excited to share some of those tips with you today.
As part of their Plant Based Tastes Great Sale, Sprouts challenged me to participate in a plant based budget challenge. My mission: cook a healthy, plant-based meal for four on a budget of $25 or less. I was given lunch, and I knew immediately that I wanted to make a meal-prep friendly salad. This Spring Roll Quinoa Salad is perfect for enjoying at home, but can also be packed ahead of time into mason jars for a quick and easy lunch to go.
My tips for shopping for healthy food on a budget:
1. Shop the sales.
I always scan through the weekly ads to see what’s on sale. If I see that sweet potatoes are on sale, I can plan to add the to the menu, or if my favorite almondmilk or coconutmilk is on sale, I’ll pick up a few extras that week.
I also do most of my shopping on Wednesdays, since it’s Double Ad Wednesday at Sprouts. Their weekly ads are 8 days long, so each Wednesday, the last week’s ad AND the current week’s ad are all on sale and Sprouts honors the best of both weeks. I also use their free app to easily scan coupons and browse the weekly sales.
2. Prioritize those dollars.
Pick a few areas of your budget that are most important to you. Is it organic produce? Sustainably sourced protein? The more expensive pasta sauce? On a budget, you’ll likely not be able to buy the “perfect” version of everything, but you can still choose what means most to you.
My first priority because of our intolerances is gluten and dairy free versions of favorites (brown rice pasta or gluten free bread over wheat versions, and nondairy milks over cow’s milk). Next, I personally spend more money on proteins and some (but not all) of the Dirty Dozen produce (produce most likely to be treated with pesticides). I try to buy sustainably-sourced or organic foods whenever possible, but that’s especially important to me when it comes to proteins and greens.
3. Use lots of produce.
Not only is eating the rainbow so good for you from a nutrient standpoint (higher antioxidants, a good mix of vitamins and minerals, and plenty of fiber), it’s also great on your budget. The second part of that is to choose seasonal foods. Buying fresh strawberries in December is going to be much more expensive (and won’t taste as good) as buying them in the middle of summer. If you’re not sure what’s in season, I’ve found that the weekly grocery ads give you easy clues. Look for what produce is on sale!
4. Make the most of flavor boosters.
There’s a myth out there that eating healthfully means eating really boring, repetitive food. That just isn’t true! A few seasonings can boost the flavor of roasted veggies, a handful of fresh herbs can wake up rice, and a little curry paste can transform a soup. Be sure to include these flavor boosters in your cooking for endless variations of healthy favorites and learn to store them properly. I can keep a $.50 bunch of cilantro going strong for 2+ weeks, which is enough for 2-4 recipes!
In addition to their bulk bins for things like nuts, seeds, grains, and baking ingredients, Sprouts also has a bulk spice section. If a new recipes calls for something like cardamom or garam masala and you’re not sure if you’ll like it, buy exactly the amount you need for the recipe. You’ll save money (instead of buying a whole jar) and you get to experiment with new flavors more often.
5. Value protein and fat.
Whether you include meat in your diet or not, it’s so important to include plenty of protein and healthy fats in your diet. We usually eat meatless a few times a week since it’s so cost effective (and delicious). I’ve found that for us, we need to be sure to include proteins and fats with each meal.
There are so many delicious options for proteins that go beyond meat or fish–beans and pulses (like lentils), higher protein grains like quinoa or brown rice, or nuts and seeds (like hemp or chia). We also aim to include some healthy fats in our meals–coconut milk or coconut oil, olives or olive oil, avocado, nuts and nut butters, etc. This keeps us from feeling hungry again shortly after eating, and helps feed growing minds (children need lots of healthy fat for brain development).
Now, for the recipe…
With those tips in mind, I put together this delicious, colorful Spring Roll Quinoa Salad with a Coconut Peanut Drizzle. It’s a deconstructed (and protein boosted!) version of one of my favorites–spring rolls! I started with a base of quinoa (with 7-9g protein per serving), then added some fresh herbs and a splash of lime juice and sweet chili sauce to wake things up.
Next, I added some color through bell peppers and my favorite Earthbound Farm spring mix (though their spinach or power greens blends are also fabulous). Lastly, I tied it all together with a creamy coconut peanut drizzle in place of the peanut dipping sauce you’ll see with spring rolls. To keep the coconut sauce from being too thick, I used So Delicious coconut milk (found in cartons in the refrigerated section). It’s got all that lovely coconut flavor while still being easy to pour. I love it for sauces or smoothies (like this one).
The flavor was FANTASIC. Each layer, from the quinoa to the crisp veggies, to the creamy peanut sauce was absolutely delicious. If you’ve got a well stocked pantry, simply pick up a few extra limes and a bit more quinoa and you’ll have plenty to make a double batch!
I was definitely under budget, though if you don’t have pantry staples (like peanut butter or syrup) you’ll want to stock up on those. Plus, you can save more during Sprouts giant plant-based sale. From Nov. 2 to Nov. 9 you can enjoy 35% off regular retail on plant-based essentials from Silk, So Delicious, Earthbound Farm, Vega, Kashi and Amazing Grass. Happy eating and don’t forget to see what other recipes were created for this challenge!
A few notes on the recipe:
Allergic to peanuts? You can sub sunflower seed butter, almond butter, or cashew butter.
Gluten free? Be sure to use gluten free tamari or coconut aminos in place of the soy sauce.
Not a cilantro fan? No worries! Feel free to swap it out for some fresh basil.
To pack in a mason jar: put the peanut sauce at the bottom of each jar. Then, layer quinoa (mixed with herbs, lime, and sweet chili sauce), bell peppers, cucumber, and greens. Seal with the lid and store in your refrigerator up to 1 week. Stir up with a fork before serving!
Like this recipe? You might also like:
- 2 cups cooked quinoa (from about ¾ cup uncooked)
- 2 Tbsp Thai sweet chili sauce
- Juice of 2 limes
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro, minced
- 2-4 fresh mint leaves, minced (optional)
- ½ yellow bell pepper, minced
- ½ red bell pepper, minced
- ½ English cucumber, minced
- 2 cups spring mix, such as Earthbound Organic
- ¼ cup natural peanut butter (such as Sprouts brand)
- ¼ cup unsweetened coconut milk (such as So Delicious Coconutmilk)
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce, gluten free tamari, or coconut aminos
- 1 Tbsp pure maple syrup, honey, or agave (can sub brown sugar)
- Let quinoa cool after cooking. Stir in sweet chili sauce, lime juice, and fresh herbs.
- Stir bell peppers, cucumber, and spring mix into quinoa mixture. Toss to combine well. Drizzle with coconut-peanut sauce
- In a medium bowl, whisk together peanut butter, coconut milk, soy sauce/tamari, and syrup/honey until completely smooth. (If your peanut butter is cold, it may need to warm up a bit to get completely smooth in the sauce. If you're having trouble, simply microwave it for 20-30 seconds and stir again).
- !TO MAKE MASON JAR SALADS:
- Layer peanut drizzle in the bottom of each jar.
- Add prepared quinoa
- Add bell peppers, cucumber, and greens
- Cover jars with lids and store in the refrigerator up to 1 week