I did not invent this idea, but it is one I stumbled upon via Pinterest and am so glad that I did. It is an easy concept – one that kind of makes you say, “Well, duh. I could do that.” I scoured Pinterest before I wrote this post looking for the original link so I could give credit where credit is due. Alas, I had no luck. I did stumble across other blogs where there are discussions of Mason Jar Meals, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. Shout out to whoever came up with this idea originally – you are appreciated!
So, what is a mason jar salad?
Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s a salad layered very specifically in a mason jar and stored in your refrigerator so you have easy/healthy lunches prepared ahead of time. All it takes is about 30 minutes on a Sunday night and you have however many lunches you need for the week. I tend to make 3-4 at a time so I am not stuck eating salad at work every day. You grab a jar in the morning, take it to work, then at lunchtime you shake it up, pour it in a bowl and voila! You have lunch!
Assembly is extremely simple. Here is how I do it:
1. I set up a row of 3 or 4, 32-oz. mason jars on the counter with the lids removed.
2. Starting with the dressing, I measure out 2 tablespoons of a light vinaigrette and pour in each jar. This is how I ensure that I do not use more dressing than needed. Vinegar-based dressings go a long way, are lower in calories and fat, and there are so many flavors available! My personal favorite right now is a light sun-dried tomato vinaigrette I get at Aldi for $1.29, although sometimes just a simple olive oil and red vinegar blend with basil is perfect.
3. I typically add my protein/carb first so it can marinate in the dressing; however, you’ll see from the photo that I kind of forgot to do that this time. This is what happens when you attempt cooking dinner whilst assembling jars. I typically do 2-3 oz. grilled chicken and roughly ½ c. of beans (for my carb), either garbanzo or great northern. One can of beans will fill 3 jars perfectly. Sometimes I like to add hard boiled egg whites instead of chicken, or a mix of both. The beans pack some extra protein for me!
4. I cover my protein/carb with veggies, saving the greens for last (I’ll explain in a moment). I dump in things like sugar snap peas, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, artichokes and cucumbers. Any of your favorite veggies will do. Load up! I dice each veggie, one kind at a time, split between the three jars, then move on to the next veggie. (Side note: I’m not here to go into whether or not you should do organic, so please keep those comments to a minimum. I do organic sometimes, but I don’t kill myself over it.)
5. I add my greens last and I always do baby spinach or a spring mix. The darker, the better. Romaine is good, but it’s too water-heavy for my personal taste. I never do iceberg lettuce. You want to keep your greens away from the dressing during this stage to prevent soggy greens!
6. When it is time for lunch, I shake up the jar to coat everything with the dressing, pour into a bowl and chow down.
That’s it, people! It’s that easy! I absolutely love doing mason jar salads and I like to mix up the contents from week-to-week so I feel like I’m at least getting to enjoy something new from time to time. I go as dairy-free as possible, but I used to enjoy adding crumbled feta to the salads as well. I typically would add it on top of the veggies, before the greens. ;o)
Below is a list of ideas for you – different things you can add to your jars if you’d like to try this out but aren’t really sure what to add. Obviously, this list isn’t exclusive, but contains items that I have added from time to time and really enjoy.
Beans (see below)
Bacon (go with a low-sodium turkey bacon for lower fat)
Beans (see below)
Crab Chunks (don’t like that word)
Hard Boiled Eggs
Mini Salad Shrimp
Solid White Albacore Tuna
Garbanzo (chick peas)
*Note: Yes, some of these are technically considered fruit. Calm down. ;o)
Baby Carrots (can be high in carbs)
Corn (can be high in carbs)
Olives (watch out for sodium content)
Squash (yellow, zucchini)
Sugar Snap Peas
Crumbed Blue Cheese
Let me know if you try it out and how it works for you!