Planning ahead and packing a nutritious lunch for work is a great way to eat healthy and save money. However, if you were to make five sandwiches on Sunday to have on hand, they’d probably start to get mushy by midweek. The solution? Mason jar salads. The tall, cylindrical shape of these jars allows you to thoughtfully layer ingredients so the dressing stays on the bottom and doesn’t make the other toppings soggy. You can prepare all your lunches for the workweek, and the sealed jars will keep ingredients fresh for up to seven days (less if you’re adding meat).
Each week you can design a salad combination, buy and prep all the ingredients, then divide them among your jars. Use five quart-sized mason jars (pint-sized for side salads), then strategically stack your salad components. Wide-mouthed jars make it easier to pack and pour your salad. Wait to add more perishable items, such as avocado, chicken and hard-boiled eggs, until a few days before you’re planning to eat them. And don’t limit yourself to green salads; you can create grain, pasta and fruit salads, too.
The order you assemble your creation is key:
- Start with the dressing (1 to 3 tablespoons). Fruit and herb vinaigrettes are flavorful options; there are many recipes online.
- Add hardy ingredients that can resist sogginess – cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, beets, etc.
- Layer grains and/or legumes – beans, quinoa, etc.
- Pile on protein – tuna, tofu, etc.
- Stack on more delicate toppings – cheese, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, berries, etc.
- Add your greens last so they stay crisp (if you’re making a green salad).
Place your salads in your fridge to grab and go. When you’re ready to eat, shake the jar to dress your salad and pour it into a bowl. Preparing meals ahead of time can help you stay on track all week.
Salad Layer Ideas
Grains and Legumes – Beans, Chickpeas, Lentils, Orzo, Pasta, Edamame, Farro, Quinoa, Wheat Berry, Couscous, Lentils, Rice
Produce — Roasted Peppers, Olives, Artichokes, Tomatoes, Onions, Carrots, Broccoli, Celery, Apples, Pears, Peaches, Citrus Slices, Berries, Pomegranate Seeds, Squash, Caramelized Onions, Root Vegetables
Protein – Chicken, Hard-boiled Eggs, Meat, Salmon, Tuna, Tofu
Nuts – Pecans, Peanuts, Cashews, Almonds, Pine Nuts, Walnuts, Pistachios
Seeds – Sunflower, Pumpkin, Chia, Sesame, Hemp, Flaxseed
Dried Fruit – Raisins, Cranberries, Apricots, Cherries, Figs, Dates
Dressing – Flavored Oils and Vinegars, Lemon, Salsa, Vinaigrettes
“How to Pack the Perfect Salad in a Jar,” Emma Christensen, thekitchn.com, May 3, 2015.