So I absolutely adore Paula Rhodes blog http://www.salad-in-a-jar.com/. I don't remember how long ago it was that I came across her youtube video, but I have been wanting to try out her technique ever since.
When I first came across her idea she was using a FoodSaver vacuum-pack machine, which I knew I'd never be able to afford. Budget-wise I couldn't justify the expense. But I still loved the idea of making a week's worth of salads all at once and not having to worry about them going bad. Dieting is hard enough so why not make part of the meal preparation easier? And packing David's lunch in the mornings takes so much time so anything to help there makes me happy too!
Since I started school back in January I've had little time to blog or even read up on my favorite blogs, but a couple of months ago I checked back in on Paula's blog. She has since done an updated version and had some lower cost alternatives for vacuum sealing. The blog post can be seen here:
I've had all of my equipment for well over a month now, but tonight was the first time that I actually got to try them out. First I purchased a salad spinner from Walmart. It's nothing fancy and I think was less than $10. Removing as much moisture as possible is one of the tricks to salad in a jar.
I also purchased a dozen quart size mason jars from Walmart. These were around $10 as well. The only bad review that I found about the jars was that the sealant in the lids contains BPA. There are other companies that you can buy lids from that are BPA free, but that's an expense that I'll worry with another time. Paula's blog mentioned that wide mouth jars made the process much easier so I went with those. I'm not sure what size jars Paula is using in the original video, they could be quarts, but I figured this would be a good place to start.
I bought a huge bag of romaine lettuce from Sams Club that had five heads for about $2.50. Unfortunately I got busy (as usual) and it sat in the fridge for over a week. I had to peel off all of the brown pieces and throw quite a bit of it away, but I chopped up the rest and crammed it all into four jars.
On the original video I didn't see anything being added to the jars other than romaine lettuce, but I wanted to see how other ingredients would hold up. I love tomatoes, but David does not so I only added them to two jars. I added cheddar cheese to two jars and shredded parmesan to the other two. Then I finished them all off with real bacon bits. David likes croutons, but I knew they would get soggy so I left them out. I figure they can be included in a separate tupperware container and the dressing will have to be as well.
After reading Paula's post about choosing a vacuum-pack machine and reading reviews online I went with the FoodSaver FreshSaver handheld vac. I bought mine from amazon for about $15. I also purchased the wide mouth jar sealer from amazon for $10.
The process is pretty simple. After filling the jars you put on the lids and the wide mouth jar sealer fits snugly on top. The FreshSaver sits on top of that. You do have to apply pressure as you are holding in the button to suck out all of the air. After just a while you will hear a pop to signal the lid has been sealed. Screw the rings on and you're done!
Right now I have four days worth of salads. I'm keeping them in the crisper section of my fridge. It will be interesting to see how well these keep. I wonder if the cheese will get soggy. If they all hold well then I'll definitely start making a week's worth at a time. I'd also like to try adding cut-up pieces of pre-cooked skinless chicken breasts, but I don't know how well they will keep. Maybe changing up the order would help too - putting the chicken in first, then cheese, then bacon bits, tomatoes, and lettuce. Who knows?
Happy Wednesday everyone!