Salad #2: Tuna Apple Chickpea Salad (a Budget Friendly Makeover)

Salad #2: Tuna Apple Chickpea Salad (a Budget Friendly Makeover)

This Tuna Apple Chickpea Salad is the second in my series of 52 Salad Recipes. For this post, I took a recipe for Pasta Tuna Apple Artichoke Salad that I found online at Ricardo and gave it a frugal makeover. The makeover is in support of those who live in poverty, and for the people who are participating in the ’Live Below The Line Challenge’ this week. You can read more about the challenge in this earlier post.

I don’t want you to get the wrong impression about the original recipe, it is lovely, as are all the recipes I’ve seen on the Ricardo site. I’m actually on the lookout for one of their print magazines as I hear the company recently extended distribution. English editions are now available outside of Quebec and across the country. I actually preferred their salad to my new creation below. Mr Fox however, preferred my new makeover salad. Our contrariety over which salad was better could be based on these facts …

Fact 1: Mr Fox thinks pasta is a food that’s best eaten hot, not cold, as it is in pasta salad (thankfully, beans can be eaten hot or cold or we’d be snookered).
Fact 2: He dislikes artichokes (who is this guy?)
Fact 3: Pickled Capers? “Why would you eat them?”

Sadly, me and the Mister are incompatible in the food department.


Anyways, my goal here wasn’t so much about making Mr Fox happy (although that’s a welcome side-effect). The goal was to get the cost of my salad down to about $1.75 per serving while keeping the same number of ingredients at the same volume, and of course, for this Fox Kitchen, salads must always be gluten free. The amount of my goal was based on the fact that in Canada, people in extreme poverty live on about $1.75 per day for food and drink.

Romaine Lettuce

Normally, when I switch up ingredients in a recipe, it’s a matter of taste. I find a recipe I like, and usually buy the ingredients listed in the recipe with little regard to the cost. Fortunately, here in this Fox Kitchen our tastes don’t run to haute cuisine and by the grace of God, we don’t live in poverty either.

Pasta Tuna Apple Artichoke Salad
Pasta Tuna Apple Artichoke Salad (recipe from the Ricardo recipes site)

Not including salt and pepper, there are nine ingredients in the original recipe. This is how I broke it down;

Ingredient 1:

Original recipe = Fusilli Pasta

  • Traditional pasta is usually pretty cheap but gluten free pasta costs about twice as much. It cost $2.00 (I used half of a 340g box).

New recipe = Dried Chickpeas

  • Cost about 80 cents, for a savings of $1.20. One thing of note here, while dried beans are inexpensive, there is the loss of convenience and the need to plan a day ahead. Canned chickpeas purchased on sale would still be an economical option, as would dried lentils, or rice.

Ingredient 2:

Original recipe = Lettuce

  • I chose romaine. It cost about $1.49 for the 3/4 of a head needed. Iceburg lettuce was a little less expensive, while arugula, or a ‘spring mix’, were more expensive.

New recipe = I used the same type and amount of lettuce in both salads.

  • The price of this ingredient was the same for both salads.

Ingredient 3:

Original recipe = Artichoke Hearts

  • Most cans of artichokes were around $4 each but I found some on sale for $2.49 a can.

New recipe = Carrots

  • I planned to use zucchini instead of artichokes, but changed my mind after finding imported zucchini that was too expensive and not as fresh as I would’ve liked. I went with carrots instead. They cost about 35 cents, saving more than $2 on that one ingredient.

Ingredient 4:

Original recipe = Almonds … has anyone else noticed how crazy expensive almonds are these days? They have at least doubled in price around here.

  • I got a decent price in the bulk foods section and figure it costs about $1.10 for the amount called for in the original recipe.

New recipe = Sunflower Seeds

  • Cost about 25 cents, for a savings of 85 cents.

Ingredient 5:

Original recipe = Green Apple

  • We go through a lot of apples here in this Fox Kitchen, so I usually buy them in bulk. Gala Apples from the Okanagan were what I had on hand, so that’s what I used.

New recipe = Gala Apple

  • Cost about 35 cents each and because I used the same in each recipe, there was no price difference.

Ingredient 6:

Original recipe = Capers

  • I seldom ever buy capers because we never use them. The smallest jar I could find cost $3.99. I’ll have to make a concerted effort to use them this time.

New recipe = Frozen Green Peas

  • We always have these on hand. We usually buy them from Costco. The amount needed for this recipe, cost about 15 cents.

Ingredient 7:

Original recipe = Olive Oil

  • My cost, was about $1.40.

New recipe = Grapeseed Oil

  • The cheapest oil in this Fox Kitchen was Grapeseed Oil. It cost about 80 cents, for a savings of 60 cents. I’m sure there are less expensive salad oils. I just went with what I happened to have on hand.

Ingredients 8 & 9:

Original recipe = Lemon 50 cents and Canned Tuna $1.99

New recipe = I chose not to swap out these last two items. The cost for these two remained the same for both salads.

Tuna Apple Chickpea Salad

Both salads made 4 good-sized servings. I tried to keep the volume of ingredients the same, but the pasta salad did seem to go a little further but maybe that’s because Mr a Fox was not as enamored with it as he was with this new salad.

Tuna Apple Chickpea Salad

And on an interesting side note, when I went to weigh the ingredients to compare these salads, I discovered the battery in my digital scale was dead. So do I include the cost of a new battery in the total cost of my salad? No, of course not but it did give me pause to think some people would have to decide whether they can afford to buy something as small as a new battery.

Tuna Apple Chickpea Salad

The final tally on the salads …

By my calculations, the original Pasta Tuna Apple Artichoke Salad from Ricardo recipes cost a total of $11.67, or $2.92 per serving.

My newly developed Chickpea Tuna and Apple Salad (recipe below) cost a total of $6.83, or $1.71 per serving.

I was successful in getting my makeover salad down to under $1.75 per serving (the daily amount set by the ’Live Below The Line’ challenge) but when I sat down with that single plate of salad in front of me, it hit me that if I was one of those people living in extreme poverty here in Canada, this would be the only thing for me to eat on this day. And not being able afford anything other than tap water to drink, let’s just say, it was a sobering moment.

Tuna Apple Chickpea Salad
Recipe type: Salad
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Summary: At less than $1.75 ( approximately) per meal size serving, this salad makes for an economical meal.
Gluten Free | Grain Free | Dairy Free | Egg Free | Refined Sugar Free | Real Food
*** Always refer to packaging labels for the most up to date allergy information
  • 3/4 Cup cooked (or canned) chickpeas (I used 1/2 Cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight, cooked for 45 minutes)
  • 4 cups lettuce, torn into bite size pieces
  • 2 carrots or small zucchini (if in season), thinly sliced into medallions
  • 1/3 cup roasted and salted sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 Cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 apple (unpeeled), cored and diced
  • 1 can (7 oz) tuna, drained and flaked
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice (about 1 medium lemon)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. If using dried chickpeas (the most economical), soak in a good amount of water the night before. Rinse well, cook in boiling water for 45 minutes, or until tender. Drain, rinse thoroughly, and cool before adding to the salad.
  2. In a large bowl, add cooked chickpeas, lettuce, carrots, sunflower seeds, peas, apple and tuna. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. When ready to serve, drizzle with oil and lemon juice. Toss well. Divide into four salad bowls, and serve.
While dried beans are inexpensive, there is the loss of convenience and the need to plan a day ahead. Canned chickpeas purchased on sale would still be an economical option, as would dried lentils, or rice.

The exercise of breaking down the cost of each ingredient for this budget friendly recipe makeover opened my eyes to how easy it is cut down on your food budget without sacrificing nutritional value. This is going to come in handy as Mr Fox is retiring soon.

What do you do to save money on food? Please share in the comments below or let me know over social media.

Laureens Signature

To see a text listing of Laureen’s gluten free recipes, click here

For dairy, egg, nut and gluten free flour substitutions, click here

Laureen Fox
Meet the voice behind this Fox Kitchen blog. Laureen is an enthusiastic amateur cook and Canadian Food Blogger from Vancouver BC. She loves spending her days creating good wholesome food in this Fox Kitchen. Evenings will find her blogging about the best that living without gluten has to offer.
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Community Support Dairy Free Egg Free Gluten Free Grain-Free Real Food Recipe Refined Sugar Free


  1. Misty says:

    This salad looks wonderful. I have a couple questions:

    I have canned chicken on hand. Do you think that would be good? Would you make any changes to the other ingredients if using chicken instead of tuna.

    Could you suggest something to substitute for the peas? I am not a fan of peas.

    Thank you so much for your wonderful recipe and comparisons.

    God bless

    • Laureen Fox says:

      Hi Misty,

      I absolutely agree that canned chicken would work in this recipe. I don’t think it’s necessary to change any of the other ingredients but if you don’t like peas, you could try using corn instead and if you’re okay with eggs and dairy, add a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise.

      Thanks for stopping by.
      — Laureen

  2. Miz Helen says:

    What a great salad, I just love this combination. Hope you are having a great week and thanks so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

  3. Lisa says:

    my fave salad recipe in a super long time! making it today, might even add radishes instead of carots….for some reason radishes also came to mind just now (but i’m also really
    thank you for a great cool eat on a hot day! 🙂

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