Home Economics: The ROI of a salad spinner

Lettuce is easyI have a love/hate relationship with my salad spinner. I know, I know, it’s like the most mundane kitchen accessory, how can anyone either love or hate it?

This one lives on top of my fridge, always threatening to topple on someone’s head if they open the refrigerator door the wrong way. And when I do break it out and use it, it takes up the entire dishwasher to wash all of it’s components.

Recently, though, I fell back in love  with my salad spinner. I started paying more attention at the grocery store after some of the e coli scares and realized that bagged lettuce is not only more prone to bacteria but it’s also incredibly expensive. So I started buying whole heads of lettuce at the farmers market and the grocery and making my own bagged lettuce.

It takes 5 minutes when you come home from the store:Lettuce bagging in progress

1. Chop up the lettuce into your preferred salad-sized pieces

2. Add the lettuce to the spinner and fill with water. Swish the lettuce around with your hands, then let it sit for 2 minutes to allow the dirt and grit to fall to the bottom.

3. Pull out the insert, leaving the water and dirt in the bowl.

4. Wash the bowl out thoroughly and dry.

5. Add the insert back in with the lettuce and spin away!

Lettuce washed and ready to bag6. Put the dried lettuce in a storage bag with a paper towel. The paper towel wicks any remaining moisture away, allowing your lettuce to keep longer in the fridge.

We got our spinner as a wedding gift, so for better or for worse, it’s part of our kitchen family. But, with the holidays approaching, I thought I’d run the numbers to figure out the break even point of buying a new salad spinner.

According to amazon.com, a new salad spinner is $30.

Last weekend at Safeway, a 6 ounce bag of lettuce was on sale for $3, regularly $3.50. So we’ll use $3 as a conservative estimate.  A head of lettuce was on sale for $1, regularly priced at $2. So let’s call it $1.50 on average.

After chopping and washing, the head of romaine lettuce yielded 12 ounces of lettuce. Or 12.5 cents per ounce. Compared with 50 cents per ounce for the bagged lettuce.

So definitely cheaper to wash and dry your own lettuce than to buy bagged lettuce. But will you be passing your salad spinner down to your grandkids before you break even on this investment?

Nope. I typically use 6 ounces of lettuce for a salad for the whole family. So I’m saving $2.25 per salad I make with my spinner vs. using bagged lettuce. After 14 salads, you’ve paid off your spinner. That’s less than 2 months, if you make just 2 salads a week.

Here are some salad recipes to get you inspired to go out and get a salad spinner, or use the one you have.

Grilled Chicken BLT Salad

Pear, Walnut, and Blue Cheese Salad

Shrimp Greek Salad 

The bottom line? If you have storage space, get yourself a salad spinner. And use it. After you break even, every salad you make for your family using your spinner earns you $2.25 in savings. So the return on your $30 investment yields $200 in the first year if you make salads twice a week. It’s not going to send your kids to college, but every little bit helps.