Mason Jar Salads | The Busy/Lazy Girl’s Way To Make Better Food Choices

Mason Jar Salads | One Little Bird

A little over a week ago  I spent about 30 minutes putting together 9 mason jar salads for the upcoming week – and they were such a fresh, colorful sight on an otherwise gray, rainy day here that I posted this photo on Instagram and it lit up my social media (and my text messages) for a couple of days. So I wanted to talk a little bit more about them, and why I love them.

The idea landed on my radar early this year thanks to Pinterest – ground zero for most great ideas. From that point on I kept seeing them pop up on food blogs that I follow and I finally decided to give them a try.

They’re total game changers if you’re like me and you want to make healthier food choices – but find that the unhealthy choices are just so much easier.

WHY MASON JARS?

If you prepare them properly, they’ll stay fresh all week. Seriously!

I’ve tried preparing salads in advance using regular storage containers, bowls, etc. and within a day or two they’ve lost their crispness. The only halfway decent method I found was compartmentalized salad containers – but they’re usually a couple bucks a piece and a bit unwieldy to store.

9 mason jars only set me back $10, they won’t deteriorate or discolor, and they store very neatly in my fridge (and in my pantry, once they’re empty). And they’re pretty when filled with a rainbow of salad fixings – they make me smile when I open the fridge.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE LAYERING

Mason Jar Salads | One Little Bird

The key is to pack the jars from wet-to-dry, bottom-to-top. The vertical nature of the mason jar keeps your lettuce and more delicate vegetables away from the ingredients with a high moisture content so everything stays crisp. The photo above shows the anatomy of the salads I made last week, a pretty basic blend of everyday veggies. I just lined the jars up on my counter and chopped everything up at once, divvying it up equally between the jars.

A quick Google search for “mason jar salads” will unearth a goldmine of recipes and tips – but essentially any salad combo works if you put the ingredients into the jar in the proper order.

In a lot of the recipes you’ll see that people put their dressing into the jar first and let some of the hardier vegetables “marinate” in it. I don’t put dressing in ours. Maybe if I were transporting them somewhere, like to-and-from work, I would give that a whirl. We add dressing after we dump it out into a bowl.

The same goes for things that would brown quickly (avocados) or proteins (chopped meat, hard-boiled eggs, bacon, nuts, etc.) Those are the sorts of things I add on a bowl-by-bowl basis – but you’ll find plenty of recommendations elsewhere on how to make those things work. Most people add them between the hardy vegetables and the lettuce – right where I have my alfalfa sprouts.

I like the layer of sprouts in there because it adds “lift” to the lettuce. It’s beneficial to fill the jars as full as possible to reduce the amount of condensation – and sprouts are my favorite filler. (It bears mentioning that raw sprouts aren’t without their health risks, so make your own decisions in this department.)

A FEW NOTES

Mason Jar Salads | One Little Bird

The photo above is the last of our latest batch of salads, taken yesterday – on day 8. Tomatoes still tomatoey, lettuce still crisp, sprouts still sprouty. I’ve seen people claim that their salads have lasted for up to two weeks – I only make nine and they’re eaten way before that. I probably wouldn’t try my luck with them after 7-8 days. I’m just not the type who lives on the edge like that.

Buy the freshest produce that you can, and wash it well in a water & vinegar rinse – 10 parts water, 1 part vinegar. The rinse kills mold/bacteria spores that will cause produce to spoil more quickly. (Strawberries last a LOT longer if you rinse them this way as soon as you get home). I just fill the sink up and do everything in batches, running it through our salad spinner afterward to speed the drying process. You want everything to be as dry as possible so you don’t add more moisture to the mix.

These jars aren’t vacuum sealed, but they do seem to seal themselves pretty tightly after placed in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Cold air condenses, the vegetables release gasses, and all of that seems to suck the lid down and seal it. I always have to pry the lid off using the band.

The jars pictured above are “Pint And A Half” sized wide-mouth jars from Ball. The majority of the Internet uses quart size wide mouth jars, but they looked too large for us. Pint size was too small. Pint and a half jars were just right and fill our bowls perfectly. I bought mine at Target (for $9.99) and I kept the separated cardboard box that they came in. I set it on a shelf in our kitchen closet and as the empty jars go through the dishwasher I drop the jars back into an available slot and the lids & bands into a small basket that sits next to it. I can easily grab both the next time I’m preparing salads.

You could eat the salads right out of the jar, especially if you put your dressing into the bottom. I dump them out into a bowl and toss everything together. It may seem less convenient to dirty two dishes, but reducing the amount of dirty dishes isn’t my intended goal – I want the long-term storage and the one-time prep. Plus dumping it into a bowl means you can add leftover meats, cooked pasta, etc. to your salad on a case by case basis.

WHY I’M IN LOVE

There is no way we would eat 9+ salads a week if I didn’t prepare them this way. We eat WAY more vegetables, and a wider variety of vegetables, than we normally would. In the past I’ve purchased a pile of produce with the best of intentions only to make a salad or two and then let it all go to waste. Making salads this way means I only have to drag the cutting board out once – plus I’m now buying way more vegetables than I would normally go to the trouble of chopping up for salads. It’s almost become a game to see how many different things I can cram into these jars. When our local Farmer’s Market opens up for the year I’m going to have to buy more jars.

It’s so nice to be able to dump a couple of dinner salads into a bowl to accompany a weeknight meal – we probably wouldn’t bother otherwise. And I’m much more apt to eat a salad for a light lunch or a quick snack when it’s already prepared so beautifully in my fridge. It’s actually easier than the less healthy choices I would make otherwise. Tom packs them in his lunchbox for work – his lunchbox was largely vegetable-free before. Also it’s easy to vary your salads or tailor some of the jars for picky eaters – like Nicholas wouldn’t touch a sprout with a ten foot pole, he’s not very daring in the lettuce department and he’s pretty sure he doesn’t like radishes (even though I can’t recall a time that he ever ate one).

The bottom line is, you sooooo need to give this a try. I’m a believer! If you’re already on the mason jar salad bandwagon, feel free to leave your tips & recipes in the comments. And if you have any questions, I’ll try my best to answer them.

Happy eating. :)

 

You may also like:

26 comments


  • Lisa (dlhoffer)

    Oh my gosh, this is just brilliant!! I must try this – Thanks so much for posting this Peppermint!

    April 28, 2013
  • Kayla

    You are awesome Thanks for sharing this – I was wondering after I saw your photo on Instagram – I’m so busy these days I think this is the only way I will get my salads in! :)

    April 28, 2013
  • this is RAD.

    April 28, 2013
  • Gela

    Great idea! This blog post should be the pick of the week?

    April 28, 2013
    • That’s the whole reason I had to post it this weekend! I want to pick them for the show this week but needed something to link to. LOL

      April 29, 2013
  • Amy

    So cool! I’ve wondered if this really works – thanks for sharing! For some reason I am totally drawn to food in a mason jar. If there is a desert in a mini mason jar, I’ve pinned it on pinterest.

    April 28, 2013
  • Barbara

    I’ve been wanting to do this! I travel for work and take my salads in collapsible Tupperware right now, but I can see that a few of these jars would fit in my lunch bag and stay fresher. I’m gonna give it a try! Thanks!

    April 28, 2013
  • I remember seeing these on Pinterest and thinking, no way. But now you’ve sold me. The visual could motivate me, and the lack of kitchen work spread out all week.

    Two questions for you—is the pint and a half size about right for a dinner side salad or for a full lunch salad? And…since you’ve already been doing this, would you mind sharing an idea of what you use up (a full bin of spinach, two cucumbers? what’s your guess?).

    I know…you went to all this trouble to make this great post, and I’m still asking for more! I’ll be listening to the Digi Show to see if it’s your pick and you explain more there. I have the jars in my cart at Amazon…(hope you have an affiliate program going there!).

    April 29, 2013
    • First answer, I consider those things to be about the same. LOL I eat pretty small portions during the day then get ravenous around dinner time, so a dinner side salad and a lunch salad would be about the same size for me. It’s definitely “dinner side salad” size, maybe a little large for a dinner side salad.

      Second question, for the nine jars I used one clamshell of grape tomatoes, one english (seedless) cucumber, a small bunch of radishes, maybe 3 dozen sugar snap peas (?), about half a container of sprouts and then a 6 oz package of butter lettuce and a couple ounces of spinach. I could have fit way more baby spinach into the jars, but I needed a bunch of it for a recipe later in the week!

      April 29, 2013
  • I keep seeing this and …forgetting about it. Now is a good time to start and I had no idea there were 1.5 pint jars, and I do canning!

    April 29, 2013
  • One more question…Amazon has Ball Plastic Caps to fit these jars (8 in a package). Do you think the salad staying fresh is connected to using the band/metal lid? I don’t like dealing with the bands and lids even when we make jam.

    Thanks—and if anyone else reading knows the answer, please chime in. I’ll check back tomorrow;)

    April 29, 2013
    • I don’t feel as though it hinges on the metal bands/lids at all. I have nothing to base that on, though. LOL I saw those plastic lids, too, and thought to myself that I’ll probably buy those once these bands/lids start showing some wear and tear.

      April 29, 2013
      • Thanks so much for replying! Can’t wait for mine to arrive:)

        April 29, 2013
  • Laura

    I am super excited to try this… and to hear about it as your pick of the week this week! **off to the grocery store now**

    April 30, 2013
  • This is life-changing. I’m doing it.

    May 1, 2013
  • Mary Moseley

    You are genius! Thanks for posting all of the details.

    May 2, 2013
  • Got my jars today:) yay, Amazon Prime! Ran out of salad/greens after 4 jars…maybe I was overpacking. Already love how these look and what a time saver they will be. Thank you!

    May 3, 2013
  • Jen

    Whoa! Just in time for bathing suit season. Awesome! And thank you!

    May 3, 2013
  • I LOVE this idea and I’ve been wanting to know if it actually worked! I’m going to grab some stuff and make them this weekend! I already have some pint jars that I am going to use until my larger jars arrive. I think I am going to add all my non-lettuce veggies to the jar and then just add them to a bowl of spinach when I am ready to eat. So excited to make it easier for my family and I to make better food choices.

    May 3, 2013
  • Bonnie Cuddihy

    What a great idea. My DH just changed is food habits (no red meat, pork or shellfish) and having these ready in the fridge will help his choices. (I call him The Snackmaster!) I’m going to get some 1.5 cup jars and try this right away. Brilliant!

    May 3, 2013
  • Can’t wait to try this!

    May 4, 2013
  • Love this idea. Going to try out this weekend. Thanks for the post and tutorial.

    May 4, 2013
  • So a-mason Peppermint!!! I collect anything mason jar related and have seen these salads (have probably pinned them a time or two … now three!) on multiple occasions. I do believe you’ve given me the necessary nudge to give it a go!

    There are just the two of us now and I, typically, make salad fresh when on the menu. I, like you, have let a lot of good produce go to waste from not feeling up to making a salad if dinner is later than planned!

    Thanks so much for sharing. Off to sort through my jars and put them aside for layering! :-)

    May 4, 2013
  • Kami

    you rock my world.

    May 12, 2013
  • Rachael

    I absolutely love this idea. I found some quart-sized Ziploc brand containers that are tall and skinny, and thought I’d give them a try. I was nervous they wouldn’t work as well as the mason jars, but they do! I think the key is, as you mentioned, in the vertical shape of the container. Anyway, I probably would not have done this had it not been for your post. Thanks for the inspiration and the technical details. :)

    July 16, 2013
  • Bow Tie Pasta Salad

    Servings: 3
    Prep Time: 30
    Cook Time: —
    Calories: 420
    Points: –

    Ingredients
    2 oz Bow Tie Pasta
    1 cup Romaine Lettuce
    1 cup Iceburg Lettuce
    1 green onions
    3 Baby Carrots
    4 ounces Ham

    Dressing
    1/4 cup honey
    2 tbs Orange Juice
    2 tbs Vegetable Oil
    1/2 tsp Dry mustard

    Directions
    Create dressing in a sealable container. Clean lettuce and set aside. Chop up other ingredients – Julienne carrots. Start with wettest ingredients and toss into bottom of three jars equally. Then add pasta and lettuce on top. Fold napkin and seal in with lid to absorb excess moisture.

    Additional Notes
    The dressing is enough for all three salads for me. Adjust up or down to your liking.

    September 2, 2013

Leave a comment


Name*

Email(will not be published)*

Website

Your comment*

Submit Comment

© Copyright 2009-2012 | Peppermint Granberg | One Little Bird | All Rights Reserved | Disclaimer