OK. Let's get this out of the way. You either saw this post and thought, "That's genius! Why haven't I thought of that?" or, "Yeah, I know. That's so March of 2014…" I only say that because apparently the idea of "salad in a jar" lunches went crazy online at some point last year, but this girl (who is online A WHOLE LOT) had never heard of it until a few weeks ago. I felt a little dumb for being completely oblivious to a giant food craze, but when I started asking around, I realized there were actually a lot of other Pinterest-loving ladies that hadn't heard of it either. So, I thought I would check it out and share my thoughts with you since I wish I had heard of this a lot sooner.
The main pros to the salad in a jar thing are twofold: first, you can make all your lunches for the whole work week in one sitting (like on a Sunday), and your worries of what to eat everyday for lunch are already solved. I know this is a giant thing for me. I hate making my own lunches and I never know what to make, so I buy a lot of soups or make big batches of tuna salad and then eat that same thing for several days in a row. Second, since this isn't called "cheeseburger in a jar, " it's also a way to encourage you to eat better and make good lunch decisions. Of course, you can make a salad that's 99% percent cheese and ranch dressing and that one spinach leaf on top isn't going to help much, so make sure to pick a well-balanced salad that's still going to do you a lot of good.
All that said, you can see why the concept is so appealing to a person that's lazy-yet-health-conscious like I am. I thought I would find 5 different recipes that I really liked and would be excited to eat everyday, and I think I did a pretty good job. Oh, and I also wanted salads that were filling. There's nothing worse than finishing your salad at 12:55 and feeling hungry again by 1:15, so I made sure that all the salads had either a meat or grain protein added to fill me up longer. Of course, if you do a mostly vegetarian diet like I do, you can always add more beans or grains in place of a meat option. To get a "making salad in a jar 101" lesson, this is a great post to start with. Some people suggest that you should keep more perishable items (like meat, cheese, soft vegetables (like avocado) and fruit) out of the jar and add them to the top that day instead, but I also saw that a lot of people said they didn't have a problem when they put them in at the beginning of the week. Coating the soft fruits and veggies in a little lemon or lime juice first and packing the jar as tightly as you can helps them keep fresh all five days. Now that you've got the basics under your belt, here are the five salads that I liked the most!
I am a big fan of Mexican food, and we make a lot of tacos and burrito bowl type dishes at our house. I can already tell this black bean and corn salad will be a pretty popular one for us, and I think next time I'll even add some rice or quinoa to the top to make it extra filling, yum!
I love the mix of the mango, black beans, avocado, and quinoa in this salad. It's nice to have a bit of sweet in a savory salad and the mango gives it a bit of a tropical feel. I did run across a few salads like this one where they suggest making only three days' worth because of the shelf life of certain ingredients (so you would have to make that one twice that week), but hey, making lunch twice is still better than five times if you ask me!
In the summer, I can't get enough of making Caprese salads with the tomatoes and basil we grow on the back porch. Add a little fresh basil into this tomato and mozzarella salad and you'll feel like it's summer again!
The only problem with this quinoa and sweet potato salad is that I can't eat all the roasted sweet potato before I put it into the jars (so good)! I also appreciate that this salad has a lot of filling ingredients that will help keep you full long after lunch is over.
Olives are one of my favorite foods on the planet (I'm the only person I know who stands by the olive tray all night at a party), so adding Kalamata olives to this greek chicken salad makes me a very happy girl. A little salty feta cheese goes a long way on this salad and the baby cucumbers add a delightful crunch to the dish.
Don't they look so delicious! At lunchtime, just pour the salad into a bowl and give it a stir with your fork—easy! I would definitely recommend making one salad to try before you make a whole week's worth of that variety. I had a giant taste fail with one of the first salads I tried, and I was really glad I didn't already have a week's worth of them in the fridge. I'm going to challenge myself to do a month straight of salad in a jar options during the work week and see how I feel and what tweaks I'd like to add to these recipes. Do you think you'll give the salad in a jar idea a try? Or, if you've already tried it, do you have any tips or favorite recipes that you love? xo. Laura
Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.