Dressing For Success: The Easy Way To Millions

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a food post here at Mr. Tako Escapes, but that doesn’t mean food isn’t ultra-important here at Chez Tako!  Behind the scenes I’m making delicious meals on a budget that hovers around $500/month for four people.

(Anyone who follows me on Twitter can attest to the fact I’m posting delicious food photos on a regular basis)

I’m still a big believer in controlling the way we purchase, prepare, and consume food.  It’s an important way to build wealth.

Doing things “right” when it comes to food has a big impact on our monthly budget.  You’ll probably think I’m joking when I say that making the right decisions around food easily led to one million dollars of our multi-million dollar net worth.

I’m not joking.  How we interact with food is that important.

So what does this have to do with dressing?


The Salad Factor

Well, for starters, in the Tako household we eat a lot of salads — Out of a 7 day week we eat some form of salad 3-4 nights per week.

Why so many salads?

Well, if you’ve ever shopped in a grocery store (this might be foreign territory for some readers), you’ll notice that vegetables are cheap.  I mean really cheap.  Frequently less than $1 per pound in the summer when produce is fresh and on-sale.

Furthermore if you have an economic garden, you can grow many salad ingredients for nearly free.

Salads are easily one of the cheapest and healthiest foods you can put on the table… if you do it right.

Under most conditions, they’ll be far cheaper than anything you’ll find in the meat department — A good steak easily costs $5-12/pound.  Double that if you go organic.

While we’re not big meat eaters at casa Tako, simple logic tells us that eating a diet with a greater number of calories from the plant category is going to cost considerably less than one which depends heavily on high-cost meats.

Sounds easy right? — Just focus your inner bugs bunny and feast your way to millions!

bugs bunny billions
Ehhh… not millions doc, it’s billions!  Only because I eat these damn carrots all the time.

Unfortunately, this extremely simple money saving tip often falls by the wayside in just a few days.

There could be several reasons why:

  1. Culture.  North Americans eat a very meat heavy diet.  Eventually they’ll miss all that meat heavy “comfort food”.
  2. Taste.  Plain old vegetables don’t taste terribly fantastic by themselves.
  3. Boredom.  Most people aren’t very creative when it comes to preparing salads.

For those families that do try to eat frequent salads, they’ll often fall into the trap of dumping gobs of over-priced Ranch dressing all over it…

Smothering the salad in the white-sludge and killing the beneficial money-saving effects a wonderful pile of vegetables can provide.

store salad dressings
Store-bought salad dressings kill the frugal salad equation. Prices at my local market start at $3/bottle for salad dressing and only go up from there.

So what’s my solution?

Make the best damn salad dressing on earth for a fraction of the price it costs in a store!

That’s how you win the frugal salad game day after day — When it tastes so damn good that you want to eat salads more!


The Best Salad Dressing On Earth (Probably)

Grandmothers the world over have been making salad dressing since time began, but in my experience these homemade salad dressings often pale in comparison to the store bought varieties.

Sorry Grandma, you need a better recipe.

In our travels around the world, Mrs. Tako and I encountered a number of very good salad dressings (this was before kids).  Most of them were good, but ultimately forgettable — just another variant of Ranch or Italian dressing.

This changed on one of our early trips to Japan — The Japanese love salads (nearly every meal has a salad of some sort over  there) and a single salad dressing really stuck out.

First of all, it was different — It wasn’t exactly an Italian dressing, nor was it a Ranch.  Not a blue cheese either.  It was something distinctly asian … a fusion of East and West.  It also had these chunks of vegetables in it… almost like the salad was inside the dressing.

Strange!  Bizzare… but really delicious too!  So delicious that nearly every Japanese home we’ve ever visited has a bottle of this stuff on-hand.  They put it on salads, tofu, vegetables, spaghetti, seafood, even in rice dishes… it’s everywhere!

What’s this incredible dressing I speak so highly of?

angelo pietro's dressing
Angelo Pietro’s Original Salad Dressing.  It’s da bomb!

It’s a fantastic Japanese salad dressing, and you can occasionally find it in a well stocked local Asian grocery store.

I’ve also been able to find it on Amazon.  One problem though — it’s overly expensive.  Stupid expensive in fact. (For those crazy prices, who would buy it?)

Thankfully, financial independence means I have plenty of free time on my hands to experiment with recipes.

Without further ado, I give you my shameless copy “personal recreation” of this classic Japanese salad dressing…


Mr. Tako’s “Asian Style” Shoyu Dressing

First, let’s kick things off with the list of ingredients:

  • 1 cup of canola oil (240 cc)
  • 1/2 cup of rice vinegar (120 cc)
  • 4 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 1/2 medium sized carrot
  • 1.1 oz of black olives (32 grams, or half a small can)
  • 3/4 tablespoon of salt
  • 4 teaspoons of brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon of dried chilli flakes (I like korean chili flakes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper

It looks complicated, but I promise you it’s not.  There’s nothing unusual or expensive here either.

The dressing is composed of basic ingredients you probably already have in your pantry… except for maybe the rice vinegar.  We always have some on-hand, but feel free to substitute with other vinegars that you have in the pantry.

This recipe makes about 2 cups of salad dressing, and costs around $1.00-$1.50.  (Easily half of what you might pay for salad dressing in the store.)


Steps To Prepare

Prep time for this dressing is very quick — maybe 10-15 minutes maximum.

First, you’ll to want to very finely grate the onion and carrot.  It’s important that the vegetable particles be very small – roughly 1-2 millimeters in size or smaller.

grater for salad dressing
You’ll need a grater that can break the veggies down to very small particles. A grater, food processor, or even blender will work.

I just use a hand grater to grate the vegetables.  It’s the most time consuming step, but only takes a couple minutes. (Faster than I can dig the food processor out of the closet and fewer dishes to wash too!)

If you’re not into hand-grating, use a food processor or blender.  Smaller pieces are better.  The secret is very finely ground vegetable chunks.

My grated veggies look something like this:

veggies for salad dressing
This is as fine as I can grate the veggies with my hand grater. Roughly equal portions of both.

Next, you’ll want to finely chop the olives.  If you’re using cheap canned olives like I do, drain the liquid first.  The chunks can be larger in size than the onion and carrot — 3 to 5 millimeters is a perfect size.

olives for salad dressing
I usually hand chop the olives down to size.

You can buy the olives pre-chopped, but ‘meh!’ it only takes two seconds to break down olives.

After that, it’s just a matter of combining the various ingredients together at the flavor party.  I always start with the wet ingredients (oil, rice vinegar, and soy sauce) and then add the dry ingredients (spices, veggies) after.

Mr. Tako's Shoyu Dressing
My Shoyu Dressing mixed-up and ready to deliver incredible flavor to a salad.  The carrot and onion aren’t quite as fine as the commercial product, but I think that adds to the charm.

Mix thoroughly, cover, and chill before serving.  This gives the ingredients a little time to blend and I think it tastes a little better when it’s cold.

refrigerate salad dressing
Just chillin until it’s salad time!  This much lasts us about a week.


The Final Product

OK OK, I’ll be the first to admit that this an unconventional salad dressing.  It’s got soy sauce in it for god’s sake!  And vegetables!  Chunks!

(I might be breaking some fundamental law of the universe here too… be careful!)

But unconventional is where I often find the sweet-spot is in life.  I’m all about finding that inner weirdo.

Watching Mrs. Tako’s eyes light up when she takes a bite of a wonderful salad I’ve made is completely worth the 10-15 minutes it takes to make this dressing.

salad dressing close up
Excuse me if I f-bomb here, but this was fucking delicious.

It’s really that good.  And that little frugal high-five Mrs. Tako and I share after another frugal-awesome dinner?  Yeah, we know we’re killing it.  A salad like this barely costs a dollar and the whole family loves it.

Yes, even the kids eat the green stuff!

Paul over at Assetbasedlife recently asked me how I get the kids to eat green-stuff….  Well Paul, we’ve never had a problem.

kids tofu salad
I can pretty much just slather this on anything and they’ll eat it. (Cucumbers and tofu salad from a different night’s meal.)

It’s possible the dressing might have something to do with it.  😉

Enjoy the recipe folks!  I know I do!


[Image Credit: Flickr1, Flickr2]

40 thoughts on “Dressing For Success: The Easy Way To Millions

  • May 23, 2018 at 4:50 AM

    I totally agree that those dressings can make sure seemingly cheap salad much more expensive.

    We don’t really eat a lot of salad at the FAF household. We usually stirfry, boil, steam or our veggies in soup for more flavour.

    When we make some kind of salad, however, I noticed the dressing consists of salt, vinegar, sugar and sometimes garlic. It’s common in both Vietnamese and Chinesed salads I think.

    • May 23, 2018 at 7:05 PM

      Yes, the ingredients for most commercial dressings consist of a few very common ingredients. Absolutely no reason for them to be so expensive!

  • May 23, 2018 at 5:07 AM

    Oh, Mr. Tako, a salad dressing worthy of an f-bomb. I’m definitely going to try it out. Plus I have a feeling the kids will love it. I was a little dissappointed the post wasn’t talking about clothes, though! 🙂

    • May 23, 2018 at 7:06 PM

      Haha, that was a little play on words there. I couldn’t resist the joke!

      Enjoy the dressing Laurie!

    • May 23, 2018 at 7:07 PM

      Absolutely, give it a go! Even if it’s not to your liking, you won’t be out a bunch of money! 🙂

  • May 23, 2018 at 6:26 AM

    Looks awesome, and we’ll give it a shot with our boys to try for some Tako-style veggie consumption.

    But I think you need to get an old plastic salad dressing bottle, make your own label, and get some branding going on. Mr. Tako’s Shoyu Salad Sensation (subtitle: I Will Shoyu How Kids Can Love Veggies). Newman’s Own will feel the pressure.

    Nicely done!

    • May 23, 2018 at 7:08 PM

      Oh yeah, we have a bunch of salad dressing bottles. They were just full of other homemade sauces on my “photo shoot” day. 🙂

  • May 23, 2018 at 7:51 AM

    FI to the rescue again! And the good news is that you’re sharing what your time was spent on with us!

    I’ve noticed that we’ve been eating more salads at home lately (a good thing!). We’re usually cutting up salmon or grilled chicken to put in it. Man, your post got me thinking about dinner now – I’m getting hungry!

    — Jim

    • May 23, 2018 at 7:11 PM

      Yeah, I like to throw a little chicken or grilled salmon on top too. There’s also great protein toppings like garbanzo beans, tofu, pine nuts, eggs, and bacon bits. Shouldn’t forget those!

      Have a good meal!

    • May 23, 2018 at 7:12 PM

      Indeed, I found that as I’ve gotten older and more FI I started eating more salads. Maybe it’s a thing? 😉

  • May 23, 2018 at 10:51 AM

    Very cool. I will try it out soon. Salad isn’t big at our household. We eat it grudgingly everyday.
    Mrs. RB40 makes an olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and herbs dressing. It’s fine. I hope your salad dressing will help us rethink the humble salad.

    • May 23, 2018 at 7:16 PM

      Salads are great. Just need to keep enough variety going. *They don’t have to have lettuce.* Never use the same ingredients two days in a row is my rule of thumb.

      In fact… This summer when the temps get really hot, you should challenge yourself to make a salad every day for a week! 🙂

  • May 23, 2018 at 12:10 PM

    How cool you were able to remake the Pietro dressing. My family also likes it but we only get it
    occasionally b/c of the cost. It’s also good on steamed veggies (broccoli, asparagus, green beans, etc.)
    My son found a recipe for miso dressing online which is just miso paste, vinegar, oil, garlic and a bit of sugar. A little wasabi in dressings can also give them a refreshing ‘kick’.

    • May 23, 2018 at 7:18 PM

      Hi SAHM! Good idea about the wasabi! I’m going to try that sometime too!

      I think if you try this dressing recipe, you’ll find yourself not buying Pietro’s anymore! 🙂

  • May 23, 2018 at 12:13 PM

    Dressing looks awesome. Do you mind sharing the full recipe of the dish?

    • May 23, 2018 at 7:22 PM

      Which dish? The salad? That night it was romaine lettuce, tomato, cucumber, tofu, green onion, and avocado. With just a little grated parmesan cheese on top.

      I never measure with salads — it’s always just “about” the right amounts.

  • May 23, 2018 at 12:16 PM

    Weeeeeee!!! Love it, I can’t wait to try this one. You have da best recipes. Do you have a good recipe for Japanese sesame dressing? You know the kind that they put on teriyaki in the many Seattle teriyaki joints?

    I’ve started my own little balcony garden but I haven’t tried growing salad because it’s so cheap, is it worth it?

    • May 23, 2018 at 7:24 PM

      Sesame dressing… yes, we do have a family recipe (somewhere) for that but I’ve forgotten the amounts. I’ll have to check with Mrs. Tako… she probably remembers. 😉

      • May 23, 2018 at 7:57 PM

        Alright, how many kidneys do you want for it?

      • September 1, 2020 at 1:40 PM

        Can I get in the sesame salad dressing action. I love Teriyaki. Especially since I learned how to fry tofu well, it needs to be crisp when you put teriyaki sauce on it. The only thing missing is my teriyaki game is the sesame salad dressing=).

  • May 23, 2018 at 1:24 PM

    I am so going to make this salad dressing. I have to say the content wasn’t what I was expecting to read based on the title, but I’m all for food talk! Do you think this would work with a light oil like EVOO or grapeseed oil?
    Jane Has Debt recently posted…April Debt Recap [-81,120]

    • May 23, 2018 at 7:27 PM

      I think any oil without a strong taste would work quite well. Canola oil or other vegetable oils work well because the flavor of the oil doesn’t overpower the other ingredients.

      The balance of the flavor is important. Something like olive oil would overpower it.

  • May 23, 2018 at 1:40 PM

    What I enjoy the most about preparing food, whether it’s cooking or just chopping as you do in your dressing, is the art of perfecting it. There’s always some way you can improve it, tweak it, massage it… so it’s better.

    And all that store bought stuff is crap. It’s too sweet or too salty or too whatever – home made is best because it’s tailored to your palate. Great stuff… just have to make sure you remember the tweaks. 🙂
    Jim Wang recently posted…How to Finance an Engagement Ring

    • May 23, 2018 at 7:29 PM

      Totally agree Jim! I can make a much healthier dressing myself without all the “extra” ingredients like preservatives.

  • May 23, 2018 at 4:57 PM

    Mr. Tako is f-bombing! Looks delicious man, I esp love the Japanese salad dressing with the Italian-sounding name. Nice!

    • May 23, 2018 at 7:29 PM

      Hehe! Thanks Accidental FIRE. You should give the homemade dressing a try sometime. Much cheaper than the store bought version!

  • May 24, 2018 at 5:45 AM

    Hi Mr. Tako, I will definitely try this. Could I suggest a few tweaks for your long term health? There has been much talk about canola being an inflammatory oil (see Juliedaniluk.com and others) and sugar being hard on the body, but not coconut sugar, which does not spike insulin. For the gluten sensitive types (yes that includes Tigermom) I would have to have tamari instead of soy sauce. It sounds so yummy though, and it will definitely improve my balsamic and olive oil offering : )

  • May 24, 2018 at 9:13 AM

    This looks pretty good. Maybe I will try a recreation without the soy and sugar or replace the sugar with something more dietary friendly for my wife. We also eat a lot of salad and so variety is nice:)

    Maybe I’ll write up my simple honey mustard dressing recipe and share to all. Thanks again!

  • May 24, 2018 at 10:00 AM

    Looks delicious! I’ll have to share this with my fiance.

    I’ll be honest, I was a pretty bad eater until I met her. She’s got me on a good track now, as she eats much healthier than I do.

    Who knew vegetables were so cheap, healthy, and could taste so good? 😉

    Like you said, it’s a great way to save a big chunk of change. Thanks Mr. Tako!

  • May 24, 2018 at 7:24 PM

    I’m with you, Mr. Tako! I love a “some assembly required” salad for dinner. We’ve been doing seasonal eating, so salads change in the fall and winter months to not include lettuce. I will use cabbage or kale (winter greens), potato style salads, beets, or cold noodle salads. We love a spring vegetable and cold rice noodle salad at this time of year with seared ahi to make it a more satisfying meal salad. Whenever I hear people complain that cooking is too much effort, I always suggest salads as an alternative to getting takeout.

  • May 25, 2018 at 9:40 AM

    We eat quite a lot of salads but I cant stand any form of dressing. Mainly because I dont like mayo. Also any form of dressing to me makes the the veggies oily and greasy which is a a texture I cant deal with. I might put a small amount of salsa on it, but typically I will eat plain.

  • May 25, 2018 at 11:06 AM

    I love all your food posts. My aspiration is to be the plant-based vegan Mr. Tako… LOL 🙂

  • May 25, 2018 at 2:28 PM

    I’ve always wanted to know how to make that delicious (and healthy!) dressing they put on the salads in the Japanese restaurants. And now I finally know! Thanks for sharing!

  • May 29, 2018 at 7:06 AM

    Just wanted to drop a note to say that we made the dressing last night and it was wonderful! Thanks for sharing your recipe!

  • June 4, 2018 at 5:31 PM

    We made this dressing tonight and absolutely loved it! Thanks for sharing.


  • August 2, 2020 at 9:04 AM

    How do you find the dressing keeps? Do the vegetables kind of get pickled in the vinegar or do you recommend you consume the dressing within a few days? It looks great. We are in winter at the moment where I live but it’s the best time to grow leafy greens and all the greens I planted before the lock down are going great now. Your garlic crop this year looks amazing. Such a cost effective crop for us as local organic garlic is $15-20 a kg.


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