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RESULTS: My Salad in a Jar Experiment

As I sit here eating my 7th salad-in-a-jar I realized I haven’t updated anyone on the results! So here goes:

On 7/1 I made 5 salads in jars, based on reading blog posts here and here. The theory is that you can make your lunch for the week on Sunday and have a self-contained salad (dressing and all) that stays fresh for meals all 5 days of the week. Here’s how things worked out:

Monday – Salad #1: As you would expect, everything was fresh and delicious. Almost as if I’d made it fresh 20 minutes before eating it. Color was great. Texture was great – nothing went mushy.

Tuesday – Salad #2: Pretty much the same story as Monday. The shaved Parmesan cheese was all stuck together and while it tasted good, had a bit of a wet texture that didn’t go over well with me.

My salad from Tuesday, 7/3 – blueberries & tomatoes intact and delicious.

Wednesday – Holiday, no salad

Thursday – Salad #3: I was honestly surprised to notice that things were holding up well. The salad had plenty of crunch, the veggies were fine – I was especially impressed with the raspberries – they held up well for 4 days!

My salad from Thursday 7/5 – it had been in a jar in the fridge for 4 days at this point.

Friday – Salad #4: All good on the salad front. It sustained all 5 days and was just as tasty as the first. Though I did notice the blueberries starting to get a little “less firm” (though they were still tasty).

BONUS: Monday, 7/9 – Salad #5: Because of the holiday, I didn’t eat 5 salads in 5 days. So I decided I would eat salad #5 on Monday. Overall, it was fine. The lettuce was still crisp (yay!) but going 8 days from the day I made it didn’t bode so well on other items:

  1. The dressing had separated a bit (this one had catalina dressing).
  2. The raspberries in this one did NOT hold up and were mush. Blueberries work much better.
  3. The flavors weren’t distinct at all. Everything had permeated through to everything else – onions and peppers tasted pretty much the same and it was a little weird.
In short, I made 4 more salads on Sunday and I’m enjoying #2 from that batch as I type this. It’s delightful – but I made some modifications this week:
  • If you like Catalina dressing (or similar French Dressings) eat those salads early in the week. The dressing holds up for about 2 days and then starts to separate and get really runny. Still tastes good but it’s not so great to look at.
  • I shaved a buck off the total salad cost by switching to grilled chicken breasts – buying them raw and grilling myself. I grill them, chill them then dice them for the salad. Adds about 20 minutes to the total prep but tastes so much better and is far less expensive than the carving board deli meats.
  • Green onions and chives work better than red onions – I introduced those this week and they hold their flavor much better. Though putting red onions in the dressing gives you a LIGHT red onion flavor, which some may prefer.
  • Little add ons are great. I added bacon bits and diced sun-dried tomatoes to the middle of the salad (right before the chicken). Both got more flavorful with age and added a lot to boost flavor.
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese is a disaster. Feta works really well. I’m sticking with feta (will try some cheddar next week as well and see how that goes).
  • Diced carrots take up more room but add good crunch. Tried shaved carrots this week and they’re sort of blah.
  • Putting cole slaw mix (the raw shredded cabbage you get, not ACTUAL cole slaw) in as the first layer with dressing produces a really yummy slaw for the top of the salad when I dump it out. Love it.
  • Using regular tomatoes and chopping them vs. cherry tomato halves cuts cost and they hold up just as well. No issues at all this week with that modification.

I’m planning to keep doing this for the foreseeable future. I have the salads below $4 each now, which saves me about $16-$30 a week on lunches (that’s some serious money when you start to add it up). I have to try some new proteins – like shredded pork or roast beef, but want to be conscious of cost and time commitment. But I’m loving my new lunch routine!