Jar salads or batch salads have been saving my life recently as far as having healthy options on hand for my weekday lunches. I often do not put a lot of thought into my weekday lunches because I try to take leftovers from our dinner meals. But, I have found that I like having these leftovers to eat maybe 1-2 nights in a row to cut down on how much we are cooking during the week. This means that I do not have set lunch options available and sometimes I end up having to just grab miscellaneous options out of the fridge like a cheese stick or yogurt cup paired with an apple and a granola and nut bar. These options are fine, but I become bored by them quickly and I often miss certain food groups like vegetables and grains.
Occasionally I will have some frozen options on hand like frozen Amy’s Bean and Cheese burritos that are quick and easy, but higher in carbohydrates and sodium than I would prefer to consume at one sitting.
I finally decided to take the initiative to change things up! I remembered seeing recipes for “jar salads” in my online recipe searches and thought these might work well to try for our weekday lunches. So far, I have tried a Greek inspired salad and a southwest inspired salad and they have both turned out great!
Another benefit of these recipes is that I can prepare the ingredients in stages and spread out the work if needed. I almost never have a whole day or even a few straight hours to dedicate to being in the kitchen batch cooking. If I dedicate a little time to planning ahead, I can perform a couple of tasks over a few days to complete these meals.
- Usually, I cook my grain option first (freekah, quinoa, or farro if adding) and I store it in the fridge. I have been choosing these options because they cook fast and they are whole grains with healthy benefits like: fiber, protein, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and zinc.
- Then I will take a little time to clean and chop fresh vegetables and store them, (I have been adding cucumbers, bell peppers, and grape tomatoes to my salads.
- Finally, I will cook my protein option which has been Shenandoah Valley Organic chicken breasts so far (because they rock)! I have been utilizing my slow cooker for this task because I can just set it up, add my ingredients, and it does most of the work for me.
- My last step is assembling the salads and placing them in the fridge to grab and go for the week. I perform these steps over a few days and as long as I make time to complete these tasks everything tends to work out well. Plus, I feel very accomplished and liberated pulling out my fresh and delicious pre-packaged lunches for the week!
I think putting in a little effort to make something more convenient more convenient for yourself can turn out to be the healthiest convenience option. I am not sure if there is a healthy convenience option out there that is cost effective, time efficient, and healthy all in one. Is there is, let me know. The best things take a little effort at least.
- 5 wide mouth mason jars
- 1 lb skinless boneless chicken breast
- ½ (1.3 ounce) packet Simply Organic Southwest Taco Seasoning Mix
- 10 tablespoons Southwest Ranch Yogurt Dressing
- 1 quart grape tomatoes
- 3 bell peppers (any color)
- ½ red onion, chopped (optional)
- ½ cup canned black beans, drained ( I used Amy’s refried black beans)
- 1 avocado, skinned and chopped
- fresh lime juice
- 3 jalapeño cheese sticked, chopped
- 5 ounces chopped romaine or spinach or mixed greens
- tortilla chips (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Sprinkle taco seasoning over the chicken breasts. Bake for 40 -45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked thoroughly and juices run clear. Set aside to cool. Once the chicken has cooled chop it into chunks.
- Divide ingredients evenly among the mason jars. Start with the dressing and then add the tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, avocado (squirt with lime juice first), black beans, chicken, cheese, and end with the romaine. Put the lid on and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Serve with crushed tortillas.
Photo credit: Organize Yourself Skinny blog
These salads can be stored ahead of time in individual containers or as mason jars salads for 5 days.
Serving size: 1 mason jar Calories: 395 Fat: 17 Saturated fat: 4 Carbohydrates: 27 WW Points +: 10 Fiber: 9 Protein: 34
I used a similar recipe to this one except I did not add the chips and I cooked my chicken with the recommended seasonings and about a cup or more of low sodium chicken broth in my slow cooker on high for four hours. I also did not add the red onion or the avocado. I am not a huge fan of red onion in my salad and since I was packing and storing the salads for a few days I knew the avocado would not hold up in the jars. You could always add fresh avocado to the salad before coming the salad or squeeze lime juice on the avocado before placing in the jars to limit browning.
Here are the checks for our new system for recipes we recommend:
- Posting more recipes that are plant based (check) – these recipes include a variety of vegetables as well and meat.
- We want to be better about utilizing locally-sourced ingredients in our recipes and utilizing farmers markets and Co-ops (check) – I have been switched to using Shenandoah Valley Organic chicken in my poultry recipes because it rocks and there is no comparison for the flavor and freshness compared to other chicken I used to purchase. It is also grown and produced where I live – The Shenandoah Valley! You can purchase they chicken at a variety of supermarkets around the country. Check them out!
We plan on preparing dishes that serve at least four people (check) – Both of these recipes yield at least four servings (4 pint size mason jars)! Perfect for families!
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
- 5 quart size wide mouth mason jars
- 10 tablespoons Newman’s Own Olive Oil and Vinegar Dressing
- 1 quart cherry tomatoes, halved
- 5 mini cucumbers, sliced
- 1 cup pitted greek olives, sliced or chopped
- ¾ cup crumbled feta cheese
- 2 cups chopped or shredded rotisserie chicken
- 5 cups chopped romaine lettuce, spinach, or mixed greens
- Divide and layer all ingredients into mason jars. Start with salad dressing, then tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, cheese, chicken, and end with lettuce. Put mason jar top on and store in refrigerator.
- When ready to eat pour into a bowl and serve.
Photo credit: Organize Yourself Skinny blog
Make Ahead Instructions:
These can be made up to 5-6 days ahead of time.
Serving size: 1 mason jar salad Calories: 449 Fat: 33 Carbohydrates: 14 Fiber: 4 Protein: 24
Again, I used a similar recipe to this one except I used Ken’s Greek salad dressing and I cooked my chicken with a Greek seasoning blend and about a cup or more of low sodium chicken broth in my slow cooker on high for four hours. You can definitely purchase a hot rotisserie style chicken and break it down at home to use in this recipe, but it may contain added sodium and could be more expensive than cooking your own chicken.
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