If you haven't already heard me rave about meal planning, I certainly encourage you to check out this post on how-to meal plan for the week. Making lunches ahead of time, (aka meal prepping) is one of the best things you can do in my opinion. It saves you time, and if you are used to eating out for lunch, it will certainly save you money (and calories) in the long run! One of my favorite things to prep ahead of time for lunches is salads. They are quick, easy, and delicious! The only problem with preparing them ahead of time is that they can get soggy if you don't pack them up correctly....So I decided to share some of my favorite tips on how to prep fresh, crisp, and tasty salads ahead of time for the week!
I start preparing my salads by planning what type of salads I will be making that week. I am someone who could eat the same thing for a few days without getting tired of it, so I generally plan to have the same ingredients on my salads for that week. (I generally make about 4 salads per week, and the rest of the week I plan to eat leftovers from some of my dinners). After I plan out what type of salads I will be having, (as well as what other meals I will be making for the week), I make a list and go grocery shopping for my ingredients.
When I get home, I start preparing the meat/proteins for my salad. This is usually chicken- either grilled, baked, or cooked in the crockpot, and some times hard boiled eggs. Other sources of protein/fats that I like to add to salads are chickpeas, nuts, feta cheese, shaved parmesan, and avocado, just to name a few!
While my meat is cooking, I wash my fruits and vegetables, and lay them out on a big kitchen towel, which makes it easy to wash them all at once.
I then dry them individually, and slice them up. (You can put them in separate containers at this point, or if you don't want to dirty dishes, you can just keep them on separate piles on the clean kitchen towel.)
Then, once my meat is cooked (and cooled), and my veggies are washed, dried, and chopped, I am ready to assemble my salads! The key here is to put the ingredients in layers (I like medium size mason jars, which I bought in a 12 pack at Walmart for a really good deal, or Tupperware/sealed containers of some sort. Layering will ensure that none of your ingredients get mushed which would make them bruised, soggy, and wet.
I recommend starting with your meat, and beans if you are using them. Next, start layering your vegetables, starting with the most firm vegetables, such as bell peppers, onions, carrots, celery, etc. Then layer the cheese on if you are using any, and end your softest vegetables and fruit at the top. Also, if you are using nuts, hard boiled eggs, or avocado, I find that these are best on the very top because they tend to get soggy.
Now that you have your salad 'toppings' prepped, it's time to prep the heart of the salad- the lettuce! I like to divide anywhere from 3-4 cups of romaine lettuce, spinach, (or shredded cabbage if I'm doing Asian inspired salads) among a few different Tupperware containers (depending on how many salads I am making that week). I like to package the lettuce in individual medium-big size containers (4-6 cup size) that will allow for some extra room at the top to pour and mix in my toppings when I am ready to eat my salad. I also pack up a few small containers (1/4-1/2 cup size) with dressing. (Please note that you don't have to prep your lettuce ahead of time, as you may not even have room in your fridge to do so! The good thing is, throwing the lettuce in a container in the morning only takes a matter of seconds, and when your toppings are already pre-packed, the hard part is already done!)
Now to put it all together. When you are ready to enjoy your salad, simply open your jar/container with your salad ingredients, and your large Tupperware filled with lettuce, and pour the toppings and dressing on! If you want, you can put the lid back on the large Tupperware, and give your salad a shake to mix everything together, and enjoy!