You can't put a price on convenience, especially on busy days. But some fresh ingredients wind up costing way more at the salad bar (where you're paying by the pound) than they would if you bought them from the grocery store. We did the math comparing the price of popular toppings at the salad bar near our office—$8.99 per pound—with the same items in the produce section.

Lettuce isn't exactly a steal when you're paying by the pound (it's priced about $3 more at the salad bar than it is in the grocery store), but you'll get the most bang for your buck with the higher-end stuff.

Skip: Romaine, $5.32/lb. in-store

Load up on: Organic arugula, $12.77/lb. in-store

Penny pinchers may want to skip the standby grocery-aisle proteins in favor of seafood-counter upgrades, such as salmon.

Skip: Canned tuna, $6.37/lb. in-store; kidney beans, $1.29/lb. in-store; eggs, $2.50/lb. in-store

Load up on: Salmon, varies, but generally $8.99/lb. and up

Vegetables and Fruit
Basic veggies are definitely cheaper in the produce section than they are at the bar.

Skip: Shredded carrots, $4.79/lb. in-store; white mushrooms, $5.98/lb. in-store; roasted red peppers, $4.65/lb. in-store; bell peppers, $5.99/lb. in-store; radishes, $2.65/lb. in-store; broccoli, $3.99/lb. in-store; avocado, $6.67/lb. in-store; cucumber, $1.44/lb. in-store

Load up on: Blackberries, $9.98/lb. in-store

In general, foods you might find on a cheese platter will be a good deal. Those items can be priced between $10 and $20 per pound (or more) in the store, so you'll pay considerably less at the salad bar.

Skip: Strawberries, $4.99/lb. in-store

Load up on: Sundried tomatoes, $10/lb. in-store; dried cranberries, $10.38/lb. in-store; walnuts, $11.99/lb. in-store; grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, $22.99/lb. in-store


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