Most of us can agree that we are in a state of perpetually “trying to save money,” and “trying to eat more veggies.” Today, I have something for you that will set you in the right direction toward both worthy goals: Mason Jar Salads.
If you can put in the time to prepare these in advance, Mason Jar Salads can be a convenient and healthy lunch on-the-go. Eating lunch out every day can get very expensive. I know we’ve all been busy at work and allowed ourselves to get so hungry that we rush out and grab the first thing we see that will satisfy our cravings. In those moments, when blood sugar is low, we tend to seek carbohydrates when we should be seeking protein and vegetables. You know you’re going to need lunch, you know it will be tempting to eat out, so why not take a few simple steps to prepare?
The main thing to remember with Mason Jar Salads, especially if you plan to make several at a time to eat throughout the week, is that you must layer the ingredients in a very specific pattern. You don’t want to end up with a mushy mass that more closely resembles a green smoothie than a salad. We found this guide from Organize Yourself Skinny to help us get started. In a nutshell, dressing ALWAYS goes on the bottom, then you start with hearty vegetables, and you kind of just move to softer and squishier ingredients from there. I recommend using this guide as you get started. In the varieties I’ve listed for you below, I have put the components in the order that they should be added to the jar.
The beauty of these salads (and really any salad) is that you can use whatever vegetables, fruits, nuts, meats, or cheeses that you want! Some of you may find that such a variety of options is daunting. Here, I will give you a few tried and tested combinations to start you off in the right direction! I have not indicated quantities because truly this is completely up to you. The most important thing to remember is just to stick to the layering technique that I will detail more fully below.
What you’ll need:
- Mason jars with lids:
- For one serving, we suggest wide-mouth pint jars
- For two servings, we suggest wide-mouth quart jars
- Salad ingredients (some suggestions below, but feel free to substitute and come up with your own creations!)
- Cutting board
- Sharp knife
- Paper towels
- Large cookie sheet (optional)
- Cucumber (remove the seeds if using any other variety than English)
- Bell Pepper (any color you like, though I prefer the sweeter options like yellow or orange)
- Baby Romaine
- Leafy Lettuce
- Sunflower Seeds, raw or toasted
- Grapes (halved)
- Baby Romaine
- Yellow Pepper
- 1 can Hearts of Palm, drained
- Hearts of Romaine
- Spring Mix (optional)
- Cherry tomatoes (halved)
- Sweet Onion
- Goat Cheese Blue Cheese Dressing:
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1⁄2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 1⁄2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1⁄2 tsp sugar
- 1⁄2 tsp pepper
- 1 TB lemon juice
- 1 TB white wine vinegar
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- Around 1⁄4 pound Blue Cheese (add more or less depending on how potent you like your dressing)
Sweet Dill Dressing:
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1⁄2 cup red wine vinegar
- 6 TB sugar
- 1⁄4 cup fresh dill or 1⁄4 tsp dried dill
- 1⁄2 tsp salt
- 1⁄2 tsp garlic powder
- 1⁄2 tsp onion powder
- 1⁄2 tsp mustard powder
- 1⁄2 tsp pepper
- Note: to turn this into a creamy dressing, just whisk in your favorite cheese, yogurt, or mayonnaise! Begin with a small amount, and keep adding until you reach your desired consistency.
When I prepared these for a client last Tuesday, I started by washing and drying the ingredients. It is important to get your components as dry as you can. Eliminating extra moisture helps to avoid the mushy mass phenomenon I referred to earlier. This is especially important with lettuces as they are one of the last ingredients in the jar, meaning their moisture is liable to leak down into all of the other ingredients. To save time, I recommend buying the pre-washed spring mix, baby romaine, hearts of romaine, or baby spinach that come packaged in clear plastic tubs along the wall of the produce section in almost every grocery store I’ve ever been to.
Next, I lined a cookie sheet with paper towels to hold my chopped ingredients (again, always trying to avoid the mushy mass), and prepared my work station: you will need a cutting board and a good sharp knife! You can really chop your fruits and vegetables however you want, though I have given some suggestions in the ingredient lists above! Generally, I tried to make relatively uniform bite-sized pieces that would be easy to stab with a fork. I hate foods that are impossible to get onto a utensil gracefully.
Once you have neat little piles of ingredients, go ahead and make your dressing. Above I gave you two different varieties. The blue cheese is creamy and decadent, but if you prefer vinaigrettes, the Dill option is a great one to try. Vinaigrettes tend to pour more easily from the Mason jar than creamy dressings, but you can always do a little bit of scraping to get all the good stuff onto your plate.
Now you’re ready to begin the assembly! Line up your jars near your tray of prepared ingredients. Remember, if you’re using my varieties, I have already put the ingredients in the correct layering order for you. I recommend about one and a half to two tablespoons of dressing per pint jar, and double that for a quart jar, depending on your preference. Then add any hearty ingredients you have. These ingredients are sitting directly in the dressing, so they need to be able to stand up to it. Additionally, super juicy ingredients (like tomatoes) can sit in the dressing as well. You don’t want tomato juice seeping down from the very top onto all of your other components. This is how you end up with a soggy salad! Once you’ve formed a nice little barrier against the dressing, you can move to the squishy items (grapes, blueberries, mango, beans, avocado etc.). None of the varieties I’ve listed above include grains, but this is the time to add them if you are choosing to. Next layer any cheese or other proteins you desire. The 6th layer is the lettuce of your choice. My technique here closely resembles the way I stuff a sleeping bag back into its case. You may think there isn’t enough space, but just keep adding your greens. Ultimately your goal is to fill the jar completely to the brim. That way, you have less air in the jar and therefore less opportunity for the ingredients to go bad. Top your greens with nuts, or seeds, and finally put a small piece of paper towel on the very top before screwing on the lid. Once again, we are always trying to limit the moisture inside the jar.
I know, I know, it seems like SO many ingredients in one jar! You’ll notice that my varieties do not contain grains, meat, or meat substitutes. If you plan to modify one of these varieties to include items from those categories, you will likely need to use less of the vegetables and fruits I have listed.
Now you have pre-packaged, easily transportable, healthy lunches! Simply dump out your salad onto a plate when you’re ready and voila!