If salads are your jam, you know a quality salad can cost you twice as much as a burger. Yikes! Not only does that price take a hit to your wallet, but it also takes a hit to your motivation to eat the salad instead of the burger.
When you’re on the hunt for convenient food… that’s healthy… saves you money… AND tastes great… you may wonder if you’re asking too much. But with meal prep, you can check all of these boxes!
It’s easy to make healthier eating choices and save money when you meal prep for the week.
But can you really have that perfect lunchtime salad ready to grab n’ go from the fridge? Yes!
If you want to keep your salads fresh and crisp for days at a time, here are some tips for the best way to meal prep salads.
How to Meal Prep Salads for the Week
It’s true, a typical salad that hangs out in the fridge for days tends to get soggy and gross.
But we have a few salad meal prep tricks and tips that will keep your salads fresh.
Here’s your easy step-by-step guide for salad prepping.
Start with Salad Greens
Not all greens are created equally when it comes to meal prep. If you need your salad to last several days, choose stronger greens for your base salad so you don’t end up with soggy salads. You’ll need to use greens like kale, romaine lettuce, cabbage, or swiss chard. If you want to include softer greens like spinach, wait and add those tender leaves closer to the time you’re eating the salad.
Add Firm Vegetables
To give your salad great flavor and nutrition, add a variety of veggies. The best vegetables for prepped salads are firm and hold up well after they’re washed and cut. Include veggies like bell pepper, broccoli, onion, snow peas, celery, carrots, cauliflower, and corn. Make sure you use a paper towel to pat dry the veggies after washing. Any added moisture will lead to a mushy salad.
Make sure your salad is a complete meal by adding some protein. Including quinoa, lentils, black beans, chickpeas, or chicken is a great way to make your salad more filling. Fully cook and cool your proteins before adding them to the salad.
Prep Salad Toppings and Salad Dressing
The biggest tip for keeping your salad prep fresh for a week is to store your toppings and dressing separately from your salad. Salads that stay fresh all week use separate containers for toppings and dressing to keep crunchy foods crunchy. Prep the toppings and dressing so the entire salad will be ready to grab when needed – just mix the containers together before eating.
Meal prep salad is a lot like building a salad you’d eat right away. The biggest difference when you want salads that will last a week is making sure you choose the right ingredients and manage moisture levels to give your salad a longer shelf life.
How Do You Keep Salads Fresh for the Week?
Here are our hacks to keep salad fresh all week:
- Choose firm salad greens. You’ll need to pass on the baby spinach and use stronger leaves like romaine lettuce or cabbage.
- Hold the dressing. Adding the salad dressing just before eating is the best way to keep your salad fresh and crisp.
- Build it upside down. If you want the dressing in the same container, add the dressing to the bottom of the container before adding the other ingredients. Next add the protein, fruits, and veggies, and then add the greens. When you’re ready to eat, give your container a shake or use a fork to toss it all together.
- Flat containers are better than tall containers. The mason jar salad makes a pretty picture on Pinterest, but salads built in mason jars can squish the greens and make a soggier salad. Using a larger, flat storage container will help spread out the veggies and the weight. If you do go for the mason jar, build your salad upside down.
- Keep it dry. You’ll wash most of the items in your salad before building the salad. This added liquid, as well as any liquid naturally in the food, can leave your lettuce swimming in a yucky mess by the end of the week. Make sure you pat dry any washed items or use a salad spinner. And avoid cutting juicy additions like cherry tomatoes, grapes, or berries. Choose veggies that are naturally drier like carrots and broccoli.
- Avoid the heat. You may enjoy a quinoa salad or a steak salad, but don’t add those ingredients while hot unless you want a wilted salad. Cool down all cooked ingredients before adding them to your greens.
With these simple tricks, you can meal prep salads and keep them fresh.
How to Batch Prep vs Ingredient Prep for Salads
You can choose from two primary methods of meal prepping salads. Both save you time and money and give you quick access to a healthy meal.
One method finishes with the salads in individually portioned containers and the other method leaves the final assembly until later in the week.
Here are the details for both methods so you can choose which works best for you.
Method 1: Batch Prep Salads
You’re probably more familiar with batch prepping than you realize. If you’ve eaten leftovers, that’s batch prepping!
Batch prepping is when you make an extra large batch of food and eat it for several meals. For salads, this would be like making a jumbo caesar salad to eat as a side dish with all your dinners throughout the week. Or like making a large batch of couscous and beans salad and having grab-and-go lunches for an entire week.
The benefit of batch prepping is having your dish completely ready to eat. Whether you portion out the dish into individual containers or store it in one large container to serve later, you’ve mixed all ingredients together and it’s ready to go. Just add toppings and dressing.
Method 2: Ingredient Prep Salads
Ingredient prep is another form of meal prepping. This method includes washing, cutting, and cooking the ingredients in your dish. But instead of assembling the meal, you put each ingredient in its own storage container and assemble the dish later in the week.
The benefits of ingredient prep include flexibility in your menu and increased freshness. Your menu is flexible because with a handful of prepped ingredients you can make many different meals. You’re not committed to eating a single meal multiple times throughout the week. If you have veggies, black beans, chicken, and quinoa in the fridge, you can toss those together with different dressings and toppings to make anything from a salad to a TexMex bowl. Keeping your ingredients separate in meal prep containers can also help your fresh ingredients last longer.
Choosing a Method
Both methods are great ways to meal prep. Picking a method comes down to your personal preference. As with all aspects of meal prep, do what works for you!
If you’re a meal prep beginner, we’d suggest you start with batch prepping. This method is simple and reduces midweek steps. Once you’ve mastered making a few recipes ahead of time with batch prepping, experiment with ingredient prep. Then the choice is yours from there!
Best Veggies to Use for Meal Prepping Salads
Not all veggies stay fresh for a week in your fridge after you’ve washed and cut them. Think about avocados – you wouldn’t want to eat a brown avocado that you cut a week earlier.
So to avoid brown avocados and slimy cucumbers, give these veggies a try for meal prepping salads:
- Cherry tomatoes (don’t cut)
- Grated carrots
- Bell peppers
- Grated brussels sprouts
- Red onion
- Green onions
- Roasted sweet potato
- Snap peas
If you want to include other veggies or toppings to your salad that don’t stay fresh as long, plan on adding them to your salad on the day you eat. You’ll still save lots of time having your salad ready to go. With only a minute or two of prep to add your remaining ingredients, you’ll be ready to eat.
Salad Dressings Perfect for Meal Prep
Bring your bowl of leafy-green goodness to life with a flavorful dressing!
If you haven’t made your own dressings before, you’re missing out. The salad dressings from the grocery store are often full of unhealthy fats. When you make your dressing at home, you know exactly what you’re getting in every bite.
Give homemade salad dressings a try. You’ll be surprised at how easily they come together with ingredients you probably already have on hand.
Making a nice vinaigrette with olive oil means you can avoid a dressing packed with cholesterol, sodium, sugar, or carbohydrates.
Get started with these recipes:
Mix and match your dressings and toppings to create a new flavor every day. The same greens and veggies don’t ever get boring when you dress your salad up with these popping flavors!
Salad Recipes to Get You Started With Meal Prep
Salads are fun, flavorful, and filling when done right! Don’t settle for a plain pile of lettuce with only a grated carrot on top – that’s not going to motivate you to eat your veggies every day.
If you need some salad inspiration, try out one of these mouth-watering recipes that will have you excited for mealtime.
For more salad and meal prep inspo, check us out on Youtube.