Meal prep salads are a great way to enjoy an easy and delicious lunch. Learn how to make lunchtime easier with a prepped salad just the way you like it.
You want something quick and easy for lunch. You don’t want to spend a lot of money. And you’re trying to eat foods that make you feel good, not sluggish?
A salad would be great, but have you noticed how picking expensive salads are these days? Where a burger or a chicken sandwich will cost you a couple bucks, a salad can ring up as high as 8 to 10 dollars! For vegetables!
What gives?! And more importantly, how can you eat your salad and afford it, too?
Salads can be a refreshing and nutrient-rich meal, but the fragility of greens and vegetables calls for special handling on the part of restaurants and take-out establishments.
The good thing is that you can make your own meal prep salads – fresh and easy!
Can you prepare salad in advance?
Salad is a great dish to prep in advance. I regularly stash 4 to 6 basic salads in the fridge to be used in the coming days. The convenience can’t be beat, and the taste and texture is so much better than bagged salads from the produce department or what I might get from a fast food restaurant.
How do you meal prep a salad?
To meal prep a salad it’s important to use very fresh ingredients. Lettuce, carrots, and other items that are at their end of their prime aren’t going to last very long and will leave you disappointed.
Make sure to use fresh ingredients. Wash them well in cool water. I like to wash veggies with white vinegar first to kill surface bacteria and then rinse with water. Spin or pat dry.
Having your ingredients very dry is the key to a long-lasting meal prep salad. Moisture will hasten decay.
What do you put in meal prep salads?
I make a basic meal prep salad of lettuce, shredded carrots, red cabbage, chopped green onions, and sliced bell peppers. I’ve found these to be ideal basic ingredients that can go with almost any flavor profile.
I go with this basic “base” salad so that I can add whatever toppings I like on the day in question. I don’t have to commit to certain flavor profiles too far in advance and I can add leftover proteins from dinners as the week progresses.
How long do prepped salads last?
Meal prep salads should last 3 to 5 days when prepared with clean, dry ingredients and stored in the refrigerator.
Basic Meal Prep Salad Variations
Once you’ve got your salad bases prepped and ready to go, you can make things more exciting by varying the toppings.
Keep in mind that adding very wet toppings too far in advance can make the salad soggy and reduce its freshness. Add them closer to serving for best results.
Great toppings to add to your meal prep salads:
- fruit, such as berries, chopped apple or pear
- beans: black, kidney, garbanzo
- tomatoes, chopped or whole grape/cherry variety
- cooked potatoes
- steamed green beans
- corn kernels
- sweet peas
- diced avocado
- cooked chicken
- chopped deli meat
- canned tuna
- cooked shrimp
- hard cooked eggs
- cooked, chopped bacon
- shredded or cubed cheddar or Monterey jack
- crumbled cheese, such as feta, gorgonzola, goat cheese
- chopped nuts
- pepperoncini, sliced jalapeños
- crushed tortilla chips
Tasty dressings for your meal prep salads:
One of the objections to meal prep is that folks don’t want to commit in advance to what they’re going to eat all week long. I love making basic meal prep salads so that I can decide the day I serve one how I’m going to top it.
Here are some of the ways I can mix things up from day to day:
Variations for meal prep salads
- meatballs or falafel, hummus, tzatziki, feta cheese
- tuna or shrimp, potato, tomatoes, green beans, vinaigrette
- chicken, fruit, nuts, goat cheese crumbles, vinaigrette
- turkey, bacon, avocado, onion, blue cheese, hard cooked egg, ranch
- ham, cheddar, peas, corn, tomatoes, egg, cheddar cubes, ranch
- black beans, tomatoes, sliced jalapeños, avocado, shredded cheese, salsa, sour cream
Can you freeze salad toppings?
Your standard salad toppings are not freezer-friendly. Frozen lettuce? Sog city. While you can freeze a number of vegetables like peppers or onions, they are best for cooking after thawing, not for using in salads.
However, there are many ingredients that you can use as salad toppings that can be prepped and stored in the freezer until ready to use.
Cook, cool, and package in small portions the following:
- cooked proteins (chop for easier serving upon thawing)
- cooked chopped egg (texture may change upon thawing)
- shredded or crumbled cheeses
- cooked beans
- frozen peas and corn make great salad toppings, no need to cook them in advance, just thaw and add to your salad
How to make meal prep salads inexpensively
All of my recipes are affordable to begin with but there are some things you can do to make sure you’re spending well. Here are some of the strategies you can use to make this recipe more economical:
- Stock up on ingredients when they are on sale. When I find regular kitchen staples on sale, I buy a lot. It’s a great way to save money on your groceries without clipping a single coupon. I’m currently using a price book to track prices and that’s saving me money. Vegetables are generally pretty affordable, but items like bell peppers can get pricy. Stock up during a sale and enjoy salads all week long!
- Shred or chop your own. While I like the convenience of buying shredded cabbage and carrots, you can save more money by shredding your own vegetables.
- Grow your own! If you’ve got the space and inclination, growing your own lettuce and other vegetables can be a great way to trim costs.
Tools I use to make this easily:
- salad spinner – I have this one and love the salad bowl bottom. A salad spinner is key to getting lettuce dry. Dry lettuce lasts longer and holds dressings better.
- plastic cutting board – I have several: blue for veggies; white for meats
- Ergo chef chef’s knife – some of my favorite knives
- meal prep containers – These are available in BPA-free plastic as well as glass. I prefer the square Pyrex Snapware.
Basic Meal Prep Salad
- 1 head romaine lettuce can use 4 mini romaine lettuce heads
- 10 oz carrots (shredded)
- 8 oz shredded purple cabbage
- 4 green onion sliced
- 2 red bell pepper sliced
- Chop the lettuce into bite sized pieces. Place in a salad spinner. Spray with vinegar, rinse with water. Spin dry.
- Divide the lettuce among four meal prep containers
- Divide the carrots, cabbage, green onions, and peppers among the containers. There may be leftover vegetables, depending on your tastes.
- Seal the lids and store the salads in the fridge for up to 4 days. Add additional toppings and dressing as desired.
After you’ve prepared the recipe, would you do me a favor? I’d really appreciate it if you came back and left a starred review. Thanks in advance for your feedback!