Have you made the commitment to eat a salad every day? I have. We all know we should be eating it. It’s packed with nutrients and fiber (who doesn’t need more fiber?) and it can be a great choice for someone who needs to lose weight. It’s also delicious and so easy to prepare, right? Ahem… right? Hello?
Okay fine, maybe salads aren’t always delicious. I’ve ordered plenty of salads from restaurants that made me sad I chose to eat out. Honestly, can’t anyone come up with something better than the lettuce, tomato, chicken and carrot combo? Some way to add flavor that doesn’t involve cheddar cheese or high-calorie dressings? It’s pretty hard to find, but I’ve discovered that it’s not that hard to do.
I’ve been making salad for lunch for the past (almost) year. In that year, I’ve discovered some tricks to preparing them that make prepping (and cleaning up from) a salad as easy as putting together a sandwich. I’ve also found ways to add flavor, so that eating salad no longer feels like a chore. There have even been times that a temptation to go to the drive thru was thwarted by the thought of eating my favorite salad instead. Yes, salad can be THAT good.
So do you want to love salad? Do you want to make it fast? Here’s what I’ve learned.
My 5 best tricks for prepping (and cleaning up) salad fast
1. Ditch the cutting board
Learn to cut things while holding them. I learned this one from my mom (thanks Mom!!). You want some green pepper on your salad? Instead of washing, coring, and cutting up the whole pepper, just cut off the piece of the pepper you want to eat. Put the rest of the pepper into a ziplock baggie for tomorrow’s salad. Take the piece you’ve cut off, wash it, slice it lengthwise and then chop into bite-sized pieces over your salad. Voila! You’re done with the pepper and the only thing you’ve gotten dirty is a knife. You can chop almost anything you want for your salad this way. Obviously, don’t cut yourself. This may be harder if you have extremely sharp knives. Also carrots are hard to chop without cutting yourself, which leads to my next point.
2. Buy some stuff pre-cut
I choose to buy some things pre-cut. For me, this includes spinach/lettuce, frozen cut corn, and shredded carrots. I like carrots on my salad. I like them to be shredded. I’m not going to take the time to shred carrot on my salad (and wash the shredder) when I can buy a bag of shredded carrots for $1.25 at the store. ‘Nuff said.
3. Keep your salad stuff together
I keep all my salad veggies and fruits together in the fridge. That way when I go to make my salad, I open the fridge, grab everything at once and plonk it down on the counter. When I’m done, I gather it all up and stuff it back in the fridge. Easy peasy.
4. Don’t measure
It’s a salad not a science experiment. Anyone who says you need to measure out 2 tablespoons of chopped green onion has way too much time on their hands. Plus, this salad is for you. How many grape tomatoes do you want to eat today? Then that’s how many you should put on your salad. (Did you say zero? You did, didn’t you? That’s perfectly okay. It’s YOUR salad.) Grab a handful of lettuce and plop it on your plate. Follow that with a sprinkling of carrots. Chop in some cucumber until it looks right to you. Add ingredients according to what and how much you want to eat. If things don’t taste exactly the way you want, tweak it tomorrow. The exception to this rule is dressing, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. Measure your dressing (and any other high-calorie ingredients – nuts, seeds, dried fruits, croutons, cheeses, etc.).
5. Stick with a basic recipe
Work out a basic salad that you love using only ingredients that you enjoy eating (more on this topic later). For me, it’s spinach, carrots, frozen corn (yes, frozen), red bell pepper, apple, avocado, cilantro, yogurt ranch dressing, and goldfish crackers. It’s my go to. I always make sure I have the ingredients on hand to make this salad. When I have other ingredients, I start experimenting. For example, today’s salad (that’s a picture of it up above) had some glorious peaches I got at the farmer’s market. It’s still a variation of my favorite salad. I left out some of the ingredients I normally use (apple, avocado, corn, cilantro, goldfish crackers), added some I don’t always use (arugula, grape tomatoes) and switched out the dressing (feta dill yogurt dressing, yum!). The point is, know what you like and use it as a stepping off point. It’ll make things go a lot faster if you don’t have to choose a salad recipe each day. Shopping for your salad gets a lot easier too.
One trick I know of that I don’t use is to prep a bunch of salad in the beginning of the week and then eat that salad all week long. For one thing, I hate feeling like I HAVE to eat something, and if there’s a huge bowl of salad going bad in the fridge, then I have to eat it. Poof! The salad love has disappeared. Plus fruits and veggies go bad faster once you cut them up. I like my salad to be as fresh as possible, so I don’t cut things up until I’m ready to use them. The exception being, of course, those things I’ve bought pre-chopped.
Those are my 5 time-saving tricks. I’m sure there are more out there. Comment below if you know of others!