“Have you seen the amount you’ve spent on snacks this month?” I caught myself berating my hard-working husband again when looking over our account for the month. Truth is, who could blame him? As a commuter he works long hours and several of those are spent navigating Kent trains and London tubes, leaving before the sun is up and returning in the dark- no wonder he needs to pick up snacks along the way. My full time job as a teacher at my children’s school not only means I’m often too busy or tired to make my husband lunches for the next day (And part of me wonders why I should I suppose, when I work full time too) but also, my children and I get fed very well during the week; hearty cooked lunches at midday, plus the little ones eat ‘afternoon tea’ at 4pm. Yes, afternoon tea! When the girls and I get home during the week we often only need a bowl of porridge or a slice of toast to fulfill any enduring hunger. If we do cook during the week, it’s usually once the girls are in bed and always something light and easy – omelettes, baked potatoes, soup. These weekday suppers are nearly always vegetarian (Suits me, and even my carnivorous husband can’t be bothered to prepare, cook and clean up after a meat dish on a late Wednesday evening!) I began to worry though, that a clammy sandwich (If we’d bothered to make any the night before) and a simple supper in the evening were not enough to sustain my tall, meat-eater of a husband. As a non-vegetarian, he clearly wouldn’t be getting the nutrients he needed to stay healthy and strong – as he wouldn’t be making the right choices for his diet in the way that a conscious vegetarian or dieter would; he’d already lost weight and so I needed a way to fill him up, with maximum nutrients and some meat to sustain him during the working week. And that’s when I stumbled across the salad jar idea!
I can’t take any credit for this original idea – I stumbled across the first tutorial on the amazing website Organize Yourself Skinny, but a quick search on pinterest reveals a plethora of mason jar food ideas. These salad jars enable me to make five lunches ahead of time and pack in a full spectrum of the vital food groups; vegetables, carbohydrate and protein, meaning that at the end of the week I can be sure my hard-working husband has eaten well and we’ve saved money on cafe snacks at lunchtime. Its now been two weeks since I began making these (Hubby even had a go!) and we’re so impressed with the results. My husband tells me he eats “like a king” everyday and is the envy of the office at lunchtime.
The Ultimate Salad Jar Tutorial
I opted for 1L Kilner jars from my local budget store at £3 each, which is a fair price for these preserving jars. They have the typical metal seal and screw lids which keep everything inside really fresh and crisp.
You will need:
5 x preserving jars
500ml vinaigrette (approx)
Hearty vegetables of your choice: tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, peppers
Less hearty vegetables: mushrooms, peas, avocado, fruits
Grains: pasta, noodles, cous cous or rice (Cooked and cooled)
Protein: Meat, fish, eggs, beans (Cooked and cooled)
Greens: lettuce, spinach, watercress, light cabbage such as pak choi
Extras: such as chopped chilli and herbs to increase flavour
First, mix up your dressings – I like to vary the flavours to make it more interesting. This week I did a honey/mustard, an oriental sesame oil/soy and a Mediterranean balsamic/olive oil dressing and paired them with chicken, prawns and tuna respectively.
Add any ‘extras’ to your dressings and let them sit, covered. Next wash dry and chop any vegetables. I like to leave them chunky – especially the baby plum tomatoes which I leave whole. The larger the chunks of veg, the better they will keep and the more nutrients you will retain.
Chop your meats or eggs and have your grains ready.
Layer 1 – around 100ml of vinaigrette
Layer 2 – Hearty vegetables
Layer 3 – Less hearty vegetables
Layer 4 – grains
Layer 5 – protein
The layering process is really significant to the longevity of your preserved salad. The vegetables at the bottom of the jar ‘pickle’ slightly by the end of the week in the dressing and act as a barrier to the grains, which in turn act as a barrier to the meat and greens, which you really don’t want sitting in any moisture. The salads will keep for at least 5 days in the fridge – we’ve not tested them after this but I’d even suggest they could be stretched to 7 days, based on the freshness on day 5. The jars are strong and will withstand a perilous commute across counties in a rucksack, although do try to keep the jar upright! To serve, tip out on to a plate where the dressing will cover the salad or, eat straight from the jar with a fork – just give it a good shake first and voila! Lunch is served!
I hope you enjoy this tutorial – let me know what you think of the salad jars and add any variations or suggestions in the comment box below.