I wish I had come up with this idea...it is absolutely brilliant! I've seen Salads-in-a-Jar all over Facebook and Pinterest and since I love any excuse to use my mason jars, I knew it was just a matter of time before I hopped on the bandwagon.
The beauty about using mason jars instead of your usual container is that the design of the jar makes it possible to layer the salad so the ingredients stay separate until it's time to eat. No more soggy lettuce!
Plus, mason jars don't leak so you can throw this in your bag and not have to worry about making a mess.
This is one of the easiest, prettiest, and fun ways to make a week's worth of meals. I'm hooked!
My first experience making these was a blast. I didn't follow any recipes. I went to the store, picked out some veggies I love, and brought them home to prepare. Music on, singing along...it was a good time :)
How Do You Make Them?
I arranged 6 jars on the counter and filled them one ingredient at a time. My salads were identical but you can feel free to make several different kinds of salads for variety. A quick search on Google for "salad-in-a-jar" will give you some great ideas if you prefer to follow a recipe.
I added the lettuce last and packed it down pretty tightly at the top to minimize the amount of air that could get trapped in the jar. I think this is one of the reasons why the salad stayed fresh for over a week.
If you want to put dressing in the jar, add it first so it's on the bottom and doesn't get the majority of ingredients soggy. I opted to leave the dressing out and added it afterward, just before eating it.
I made some chicken but stored it in a separate container so I could toss it in separately. I've seen other people add animal protein, beans, or grains directly to the jar, so really it's about personal preference. If you do that, put it on the bottom if you want it to marinate in the dressing.
How Do You Eat It?
I grabbed a mixing bowl, dumped the contents of the jar into it, added some dressing, and gave it a good toss with my tongs. Instant make-ahead meal!
If you plan on eating these salads right out of the jar, I'd recommend adding the dressing to the jar first and not packing the ingredients so tightly. That way, you can give the jar a good shake before it's time to eat and coat all of the ingredients with the dressing.
What Size Jar Do You Use?
I used 1 quart wide-mouth mason jars and my salad was HUGE. I ate the entire thing for lunch and it held me over all afternoon. You could probably get 2 servings from one jar if you were eating something else along with it. Feel free to use pint jars for a smaller salad.
How Long Do They Stay Fresh?
I checked mine after a week and was excited to see that they were still fresh! Even 2-3 days later, the lettuce was still crisp and I didn't detect any strange smells (though I haven't tasted it yet). Personally, I like the idea of keeping them for up to 1 week because any longer than that...well, I don't know, I like eating my veggies as fresh as they can be and I'd prefer to make a new batch for the following week.
Below I put together a breakdown of the ingredients and overall cost. Not including the jars (which are only $1-$2 each), each salad cost under $5.00. I used all organic ingredients too. Eating healthy doesn't have to be pricey! It also didn't take up a lot of my time. Just a little over an hour including all the prep work. Not too shabby for a week's worth of lunch.
INGREDIENTS (FROM TOP TO BOTTOM):
- 2-3 cups romaine (chopped)
- 1 stalk celery (diced)
- 2-3 tbsp walnuts (chopped)
- 1/3 cup grape tomatoes (each sliced in half)
- 1 carrot (shredded)
- 1/2 cucumber (diced)
SHOPPING LIST & COST BREAKDOWN:
- 2 packages Organic Romaine Lettuce (3 heads per package @ $1.99 each): $3.98
- 1 bunch Organic Celery: $1.99
- Raw Walnuts (.28 lbs @ $3.99 per lb): $2.52
- 2 pints Organic Grape Tomatoes ($2.99 each): $5.98
- 6 Organic Carrots (1.47 lbs @ $.99 per lb): $1.46
- 1 package Organic Chicken (contains 2 chicken breasts): $8.87
- 3 Organic Cucumbers (4 for $5.00): $3.75
- Total Number of Jars:6
- Total time it took to wash & prepare veggies and fill each jar:73 minutes
- Total Expense (tax not included): $19.68 (without chicken), $28.55 (with chicken)
TOTALS PER JAR:
- Time:12 minutes each
- Expense (tax not included):$3.28 (without chicken), $4.75 (with chicken)
NOTES & LESSONS LEARNED:
- I had the following ingredients leftover: 3 stalks celery, 1/2 pint tomatoes, and 2-3 cups lettuce. So with one more carrot and one more cucumber, I could've made a 7th salad.
- The 2 chicken breasts didn't yield a whole lot of chicken per salad, so my options for next time are to either buy another package of chicken if I want to have it in every salad or eat 2-3 salads without chicken.
- The celery didn't really mesh well with the other ingredients. It added crunch, water, and nutrients, but as far as flavor, I would recommend leaving it out next time if combining it with these same ingredients.