When it comes to cooking, most people think that the healthier your meal, the longer it takes to cook.
And while cooking a healthy meal does take longer them microwaving some TV dinner or preparing ramen, it’s not actually as time-consuming or as difficult as you may think.
If you find yourself often going out during your lunch break and eating poorly balanced meals, give mason jar salads a try: you’ll save money and you can prepare them ahead on the weekend to save time in the morning.
Just follow these 7 simple tips and you’ll be hooked in no time!
1. Dressing first
Before placing any ingredients in the jar, layer the bottom with your favorite dressing. This will prevent the dressing from moving around in your jar and making everything soggy.
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When you’re ready to eat, stir the contents of your jar and shake it around to coat the vegetables evenly. You can also pour out your salad in a large bowl if you prefer.
For a pint size jar, stick to about 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette or use 3 to 4 tablespoons for a quart-sized jar. Wet ingredients like beets, artichoke or cooked pumpkin can be placed directly in the dressing.
If your going to be using mostly soft vegetable, pack your salad as demonstrated below and store your dressing in a separate container.
2. Use Hardy Greens
After putting in your dressing, create a cushion between dressing and softer veggies by placing hardy ingredients that won’t fall apart when exposed to the dressing. Great options include carrots, uncut cherry tomatoes, celery, snap peas or kale.
3. Pack It Tightly
As you build the next layer of softer veggies, make sure to push down your vegetables to keep the dressing in place. This also increases the amount of vegetables your can put in your jar.
For the third layer of your salad, try veggies like chopped bell peppers, sundried tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower and mushroom, or add beans & lentils.
4. Add Some Grains
As you work your way to the top of the jar, get creative and add some cooked pasta, teff, quinoa, rice, or another grain. This will add texture to your salad and makes it more filling. You can also add chopped nuts to this layer.
5. Pack The Lettuce Last
Any soft veggies or herbs that wilt easily should be packed last. This includes lettuce and spinach. If you’re using cheese, keep a bit of room above this layer for this garnish. If the cheese is packed closer to the other ingredients, it can shorten the life of your salad.
6. Seal It Tight
If packed tightly and well closed, your salad should last 5-7 days, so you can plan you meals ahead on Sunday and make salads for the entire week. No need to vacuum-pack your jar, just twist the cap tightly.
If you have a hard time opening jars, you may want to pack a grippy towel or jar-opening tool to make sure you still have access to your lunch once you’ve reached your office.
7. Add Your Protein Later On
Prepare your meat or fish in the morning and pack it in a small container kept aside. This is because the protein can spoil quickly and reduce the lifespan of your lunch.
This also applies to avocado and apples, which will brown quickly when cut. If you don’t want to pack it last minute, leave room at the top of your jar for these ingredients. Cut up what you need in the morning and simply squirt a little lemon or lime juice on these toppings before packing up to keep them looking fresh for lunch.
How To Get Started
If you don’t have any mason jars at home, you can order a case of 12 for 10-12$ on amazon. Here are some delicious recipes you should try.
1. Taco Salad
Makes: 5 quart sized salads
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1 can black beans, drained
- 1 packet organic taco seasoning
- 1¼ cups salsa
- 5 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
- 1 quart cherry tomatoes
- 5 mini cucumbers, sliced
- 1 small to medium red onion, chopped finely
- 2 avocados, chopped
- juice from half of a lime
- 11 ounce jar pickled jalapeños, drained and chopped
- 5 cups chopped romaine lettuce
- Tortilla chips (for serving)
- Pack your salad as instructed above, staring with the salad, yogurt and pickled jalapeños at the bottom.
- Follow up with the tomatoes, beans and cucumbers.
- Top off with lettuce. You can also add a little shredded cheese to add flavor.
- Cook turkey in a large frying pan with the onion, seasoning and a dash olive oil.
- Separate the meat into 5 small containers to go along with the salad.
- If you wish, divide tortilla chip into small bags to enjoy with your salad.
- In the morning before going to work, cut up half an avocado, coat with lime juice and add to the top of your jar. Repeat this step every morning to keep it from spoiling in your jar.
2. Sweet Chili Carrot Noodle Salad
Fills a 24 ounce mason jar.
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon organicThai sweet red chili sauce
- 1⁄2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Soy Sauce
- 1 teaspoon Dark Amber Maple Syrup
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- 1 julienned carrot
- 1 roasted bell pepper
- ½ small boiled sweet potato
- 2 tablespoons hulled hemp seeds
- 1⁄4 cup cashews
- 2 cups spinach or kale
- Whisk together the dressing and place at the bottom of your jar.
- Next, place the carrot, pepper, potato, seeds and nuts in tight layers.
- Top it off with your greens, pack tightly and store in your fridge until used.
3. Zucchini Noodle Salad
Fills a 24 ounce mason jar.
- 1/2 avocado
- 2 tbsp coconut milk
- juice of 1/2 lime
- 1/3 cup cooked quinoa
- 2 tsp minced cilantro
- 1.5 tsp coconut flakes
- 3 asparagus stalks, chopped into 1″ pieces
- 1/4 cup green peas
- 1 medium zucchini, Blade C julienned
- 2-3 scallion stalks, diced
- 1/4 cup cubed feta
- Prepare the dressing in a food processor and pulse until creamy.
- Toss quinoa, cilantro and coconut flakes together in a bowl and set aside.
- Boil asparagus and peas for 3-4 minutes, drain and let them cool.
- Assemble salad with the dressing, zucchini, quinoa, scallions, cooked veggies and feta, in that order.
- Pack tightly, seal and refrigerate until use.