Meal prep refers to the artful practice that includes both planning and preparing meals in advance, usually for a specific period, such as a week or more. Meal prepping has become incredibly popular because the ‘meal prep concept’ meets the needs of the modern consumer – by providing convenience and significant savings in terms of time and money.
By dedicating time to meal prep, most people avoid daily cooking chores and impulse eating/buying while proactively choosing healthier food options. But can you meal prep salads the same way you meal prep other types of food items?
Yes, and ironically, preparing salads in advance is among the easiest of meals to prep ahead of time.
Salad Meal Prep: 5 Best Recipes
Storing prepped salads is a smart and effective way to ensure you make healthy dietary choices while saving time and money. If you’re looking for inspiring salad meal prep ideas, give these satisfying and tasty lunches that will keep you nourished all week –
1. Taco Salad
If you are interested in having a Mexican-influenced lunch, you can prep a salad that delivers the same taste as a tasty taco. Create portions of ground beef, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, chopped cilantro, shredded cheese, onions, and beans for a delicious take on a Tex-Mex salad.
2. Quinoa and Black Bean Salad
This healthy salad prep idea is a combination of quinoa, black beans, corn, avocado, red onion, and red bell pepper. Combine the ingredients and pour your favorite dressing just before eating. For a new and light dressing option, whisk together lime juice, olive oil, ground cumin, salt, and pepper. When combined, pour it over the salad ingredients just before serving.
3. Salmon Salad
Salmon is a type of fish that offers tons of omega-3 fatty acids – a nutrient that your body requires to remain at an optimal level of health. Salmon also cooks quickly and offers incredible health benefits, so it is a great option for prepping salads for the week. Simply properly store the salmon, romaine lettuce, red onions, cucumbers, bell peppers, avocado, and parsley properly, and then add your favorite dressing before you serve.
4. Greek Chickpea Salad
This healthy salad is easily prepped and offers a combination of chickpeas, cucumber, red onion, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, olives, and parsley. While there are delicious store-bought Greek salad dressings, you can make your own by whisking olive oil, red wine vinegar, dried oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the dressing at the end to avoid spoiling the other prepped ingredients.
5. Mediterranean-Style Chopped Salad with Garlic & Oregano Vinaigrette
This delicious salad combines the cuisines of two countries on the Mediterranean Sea – Greece and Italy. The prepped ingredients blend together to create a satisfying and extremely well-balanced lunch or snack option. This salad meal prep idea contains chickpeas, farro, celery, cucumber, bell peppers, red onions, and feta cheese. To create a fresher salad, combine iceberg lettuce, your favorite vinaigrette, or this delicious garlic and oregano recipe.
Storing Prepped Salads: Best Practices
Learning how to meal prep a salad offers you an opportunity to save money and time while making your everyday routine less complicated. Preparing salads in advance also gives you a fighting chance to stay true to your dietary choices and fitness goals.
If you plan to begin to include salads in your meal prep routine, consider these tried-and-true suggestions for storing prepped salads that help keep salad ingredients fresh and prevent them from becoming soggy –
- Choose salad greens that are firmer and hold up better. For example, instead of lettuce and spinach, try using kale, romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, cabbage, or iceberg lettuce – the heartier greens like romaine or kale last longer.
- Wipe all the vegetables you intend to prep with a paper towel prior to slicing. While this seems like an extra step that takes time, there might be extra moisture, which has the potential to spoil the salad you are prepping.
- Once you have cleaned and prepared the greens and the vegetables, separate them in airtight containers – which helps prevent air from reaching the ingredients and causing spoilage or wilting.
- When prepping salads, how you place the ingredients in your portioned containers matters. Larger veggies should go on the bottom as this prevents them from crushing the more delicate ingredients.
- Cook the proteins that you want to add to your salad, let them cool, and store them in airtight containers – add them to the veggies the day you intend to eat them. This can be any protein-rich food you prefer. Examples include chicken, beans, beef, eggs, chickpeas, tofu and more.
- Make sure that any cooked ingredients – including vegetables, are cool before you add them to your salad.
- Softer fruit or tender salad greens (i.e., spinach) should only be added to the salad on the day you plan to eat it so that the other ingredients do not get soggy.
- Toppings add great crunch and taste to a salad but will lose their texture if stored with moist ingredients. Store nuts, raisins, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, and olives in separate plastic bags or containers.
- Prepare your choice of salad dressing and store it in a separate container, as this will prevent your salad from going soggy. [See FAQs Below for salad dressing ideas.]
- While some components of a salad meal prep – like proteins, can be frozen, it is not a good idea to freeze the entire salad as this will ruin delicate greens.
Storing Prepped Salads: Practices to Avoid
Mastering the art of salad meal preparation provides a chance to save time, which allows you to simplify your daily routine and even save a few bucks. In addition, by prepping salads ahead of time, you increase the likelihood of adhering to your dietary preferences.
However, if you are going to store your prepped salad, avoid these common rookie mistakes –
- When adding the greens, remove any leaves that look too soft or the leaves that look like they may spoil too fast. The best choice is to use crispy leaves if you want them to hold up for the next few days.
- Avoid soft or juicer vegetables in the salad meal prep ideas you choose – think zucchini or tomatoes, etc., Instead, tomato lovers can choose cherry tomatoes as they are whole and will not impact other fragile ingredients when stored for your weekly lunch.
- Avoid extra moisture. You can ensure you minimize moisture when prepping salads by –
- Drying lettuce greens and vegetables
- Choosing veggies that have lower water content.
- Not adding warm ingredients when proportioning them into your salad containers, as this avoids moisture being created naturally through the process of condensation.
Salads are the perfect lunch, afternoon snack, or light dinner option. Remember that while salads can be part of your meal prep, some ingredients are best added fresh to maintain their optimal taste and texture. There are countless combinations of vegetables, salad dressings, and toppings, so it is easy to test new salad preps every week as sale items change. Tailor your approach based on the recipes provided above, or get creative and try one of your own.
How long do meal-prepped salads last in the fridge?
The shelf life of meal-prepped salads in the fridge – on average, is about five days. However, the number of shelf life days may vary depending on these relevant factors –
- The specific ingredients used.
- The way the meal prep ingredients are assembled.
- The method and appropriateness of storage choices.
What are some protein options that work well in prepped salads?
Cooked proteins – grilled chicken, tofu, hard-boiled eggs, etc.- are not only essential nutrients in a healthy diet but are also great choices when storing prepped salads properly.
Can I include fruits in my salad meal prep?
Adding fruit to salads can be delicious, but if you seek optimal freshness, keep them in a separate baggie or container and add them just before you eat so these and other ingredients retain their original textures.
What are some quick and easy dressing recipes for salad preps?
Creating your own salad dressings is a simple and fast way to enhance the flavor of meal-prepped salads while avoiding unnecessary and extra sugar/preservatives and sugars in pre-made dressings.
- Classic Balsamic Vinaigrette – balsamic vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, garlic, salt/pepper.
- Sesame-Ginger Dressing – rice vinegar, sesame oil, honey, soy sauce, freshly grated ginger, garlic clove.
- Lemon-Honey Mustard Dressing – fresh lemon juice, honey, extra-virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, salt/pepper.
Whisk the listed ingredients together in a bowl (or shaker jar) and taste to adjust the seasonings. Store the premade dressing in the refrigerator, and remember to stir/shake the dressing before pouring it on your salad when you are ready to eat.