Simple meal prep idea to have healthy salad ingredients ready during the busy week.
Raise your hand if you would eat more salads if all the ingredients were prepped ahead of time? Me! Me! Salads are a great way to increase the amount of vegetables in your diet. But let’s be honest…I’m not washing and chopping lettuce or cooking chicken after work. Nope. If it’s not ready to eat then I am grabbing something else. Call me lazy after a long day but that’s just how I function. I guess over the years I’ve spoiled myself with yummy make-ahead meals.
You all know I love mason jar salads and have oodles of recipes. However, there are other ways to prep salad ahead of time. What?! Yes I know. Mason jar salads are pretty and convenient but they’re not always the best make-ahead choice. If you need a grab and go salad then yes a mason jar salad is the way to go. If you want to eat salads at home for lunch and dinner then let me share another option with you.
This idea came from a fellow dance mom so I can’t take credit. We were talking food prep because ummm that’s what excites us busy dance moms. She mentioned that instead of making mason jar salads she preps all the ingredients ahead of time and stores them separately in her refrigerator. Genius I tell ya.
Now non busy people might think “how hard is it to chopped vegetables and cook up some chicken”. Well when you are working all day, having kids running around like little lunatics, and then need to drive everyone everywhere at the same exact time there’s no time to prep ingredients from scratch every single day. That’s cray cray! Taking time on Sunday and prepping salad ingredients assures those ingredients will be ready to throw in a bowl the moment you’re ready for it. And not just you. Have you seen what happens to kids when they get hungry and there’s no food. Not a pretty sight.
Prep your salad ingredients ahead of time and you will feel like the queen of healthy during the week when you’re eating a healthy salad instead of rummaging through the pantry to chomp on crackers. #beenthere
Here are my simple basic make-ahead salad bar instructions. Of course, you can substitute any of your favorite greens, veggies, or protein. I would say almost any salad recipe can be prepped shad of time.
Let’s start with protein. All I did was bake up some chicken breasts that I seasoned with a little ranch seasoning mix.
While that cooked I took out the containers and went to work prepping the rest of the ingredients. I prefer using glass containers when storing salad ingredients. In my opinion, glass keeps everything fresh longer than plastic. My favorite containers are these pyrex containers and of course mason jars.
Then I got to work chopping the lettuce. As you can see I stored it in a 32 ounce mason jar container. Those little hands are my daughter Aubrey’s. We were able to shove a whole 5 ounce package of romaine lettuce into one 32 ounce mason jar container. Again, using a glass container over keeping it in the plastic bag or container it came in will keep the lettuce crisp and fresh longer.
Here’s the romaine all packed in. Aubrey was very proud.
One more close up because I think lettuce looks pretty. In case you’re wondering, I do not vacuum seal these containers. I just close them very tightly.
Next I washed and stored the cherry tomatoes. With mason jar salads I slice the tomatoes in half because they marinate and soak up the dressing better. In this case, I just put them in a glass container. Easy peasy.
Then I chopped the pepper. Of course you can use any pepper you like. Actually, you can use any vegetable these are just the ones I prefer.
And then the cucumbers. Keep in mind, you can also grab these vegetables for snacks during the day. Dip in a little hummus or ranch dressing and snack time is served.
Now we are going to move onto the protein. I need protein in my salads. Without some type of protein there’s no way a salad would satisfy me. I had some bacon leftover from Sunday breakfast so I chopped it up and stored it in a small glass container. When I put my salad together I first took out the amount of bacon I wanted and warmed it up for a few seconds in the microwave. This helped to crisp it up. Two thumbs up for bacon in salad! It was a delicious treat every time I got a piece in a bite.
After the chicken was done cooking and it cooled down I chopped it up and stored it in another glass container. This picture was taken later in the week because my “day of” picture turned out blurry. Boo for bad lighting.
Here’s all the salad bar ingredients stored and ready to eat. I don’t know about you but looking at this healthy food prepped and ready to be enjoyed during the week makes me a happy mama.
And here’s everything stored in my refrigerator so you can see the amount of space it takes up. Not too much since all the containers are stackable. If you are looking for new containers I highly recommend purchasing some pyrex containers. They are inexpensive and great for once a week food prep. If you have more questions about food prep containers check out this post I put together on the topic.
As for salad dressing. I use bottled dressing from the grocery store. My favorites are yogurt dressings like Bolthouse Farms Greek Yogurt Dressing or Marie’s Yogurt Salad Dressing. I also love Newman’s Own Salad Dressings. Of course, you can make your own but I prefer to buy mine from the store.
When you’re ready to eat, take the desired amount of ingredients out of the containers and prepare your salad.
So there ya go. Make-ahead salad bar instructions at it’s finest! Ha! I know this is very basic but it gives you an idea how to prep your own salad ingredients for the week. I plan to share more salad recipes with make-ahead instructions like this in the future.
Do you prep salad ingredients ahead of time? What are your favorite salad ingredients to have available?