It's often a pretty bad deal, says the NYT's Nate Silver, especially when you're piling up cheaper and heavier items like romaine lettuce and salad dressing. Heavy is not good when you're shelling out $7.99 per pound. From this Sunday's magazine:
Of course salad bars provide for a certain measure of convenience, but the ingredients I crosschecked were, on average, 70 percent more expensive at the salad bar than on the shelves. Cucumber, for instance, was just $1.49 per pound in the produce aisle. Other ingredients were more reasonably priced -- and a few were actually cheaper at the salad-bar rate than anywhere else in the store, providing for "Moneyball"-like opportunities for arbitrage. So the fight against Big Salad Bar is winnable yet. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind:
The biggest bargains are the toppings - stuff like walnuts, almonds, gorgonzola crumbles and croutons.