Can I Add Other Foods to My (Vacuum-Packed) Jars of Salad?

salad in a jar with veg 1 sm.jpg

Adding other food changes the rules.


It’s the number-one question I am asked on this blog. Following close behind is the related question, “Can I use different types of lettuce?” Although I’ve answered these questions many times, in bits and pieces here and there, I decided it was time to devote an entire post to the subject.

Many have tried adding other foods to the basic Salad in a Jar. Some add a few vegetables–carrots, cucumbers, or cherry tomatoes and the like. Others go hog wild and put dressing in the bottom, then chopped veggies or fruit, maybe some herbs or spinach, and finally, a layer of lettuce. I don’t think the latter are usually vacuum-packed, so they obviously aren’t going for long-term storage (a week or more) like I am.

In the beginning, I also experimented. However, the conclusions that follow are more philosophical than scientific.

FOUR REASONS WHY I ADD NOTHING BUT LETTUCE TO MY VACUUM-PACKED SALADS

1. Including cleaned and cut veggies increases preparation time.

This is the number one reason I don’t do it. I’ve been vacuum-packing my lettuce for over 7 years, so occasionally, I weary of the whole vacuum-packing process. However, I have not tired of eating it or of the waist-preserving benefits, so I continue. When 6:15 in the morning rolls around and I’m getting ready for work, I’m mighty happy I took 20 minutes out of my weekend to prepare 5+ jars of lettuce so I only have to grab a jar from the fridge for my lunch bag.

One girl told me she took about 2-1/2 hours to cut up several types of lettuce and vegetables. I wasn’t surprised to hear she doesn’t do it anymore. Who can keep that up?

2. Adding anything but lettuce significantly complicates things.

When I first came up with this idea, I was looking to maintain my ideal weight in a way I could sustain for LIFE, not just for a few weeks or months. It had to be simple and relatively easy. Despite the pretty pictures, adding veggies, not to mention salad dressing in the bottom, makes the whole process more complex, and therefore less likely to become a part of your routine over the long haul.

3. Additional veggies limit the amount of time you can store the lettuce.

Some veggies will last several days, like carrots, while more delicate vegetables, like cucumbers, become rather slimy and disgusting within two or three days. This may vary, depending on their freshness going into the jar. More delicate types of lettuce also fall into the latter category, e.g. spring mix, spinach, and Boston lettuce.

I never like my tomatoes chilled so those are out for me, too. Some of these things (carrots, squash, strawberries, etc) are fine when vacuum-packed by themselves in Mason jars, I just don’t like to add them to my lettuce.

Plain Romaine lettuce, when packed alone, will nearly always be good for a week but can last up to two weeks if it was very fresh when you packed it. Believe me, washed and cut lettuce that lasts that long can be VERY CONVENIENT.

4.  Lettuce-only jars mean I can add whatever I’m in the mood for on any particular day.

Part of my eating philosophy is to consume exactly what I’m craving instead of eating everything I’m supposed to eat before I finally eat what I really want. How will I know what I really want in my salad a week ahead of time? Sometimes I use warmed-up leftovers that taste good with lettuce, such as Chinese food. No dressing needed. More often than not, it’s just dried fruits or vegetables and toasted nuts, along with Fiber One. I store these foods in my desk at all times. Some days, I like fruit, nuts and a sweet dressing. Other days, I go down the savory road.  More than anything, I crave variety.

Conclusion? If you still want to add other ingredients to your jars of lettuce, I encourage you to try it.  Just don’t expect your lettuce to last as long as advertised in the original Salad in a Jar post. For some people, that doesn’t matter. You decide.

Related Posts:

Salad in a Jar

Salad Fixins

The Lettuce Experiment

How to Make Salad in a Jar That Lasts a Week–a Video and FAQ

Which Vacuum-Pack Machine Should I Buy to Make Salad in a Jar?

Yes, You Can Use a Handheld Vacuum-Pack Machine to Seal Salad in a Jar

Is a Plastic Knife a Substitute for Vacuum-Packing Lettuce?

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

The Café Sucré Farine May 28, 2012 at 6:41 am

You’re so smart Paula, you really have this whole thing down to a science, and an easy science at that!

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Paula May 28, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Chris,
You are right–very easy.

By the way, congratulations on your new grandson–in process. So exciting!!

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Paula May 28, 2012 at 10:39 am

I haven’t done any *salad in a jar* yet but this is a great post to bookmark should I decided to one day.

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jan May 28, 2012 at 11:50 am

Such good advice for the newcomers, Paula. For me, adding other ingredients just cuts down on shelf life. I make 8-10 quarts of lettuce at a time, and a week later, it’s as fresh as the day I made it. In the beginning I tried adding onions, red peppers, and the results were NOT good. The shelf life was compromised and the lettuce took on the flavors of the other ingredients and did not taste fresh! Great advice for those just getting started. I’ve been doing this six months now, every single week, and I love, love LOVE it!!!

You’re the BEST!!!!

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Paula May 28, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Thanks for the confirmation Jan. Glad to hear you are still enjoying it.

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Rita May 28, 2012 at 1:10 pm

I love your salad in a jar method. And I like the way a little radicchio brightens the green color of the romaine. It stores in the jars as long as the romaine does. You won’t need much radicchio. I usually just peel off and shred or chop 2 to 4 leaves from a head of radicchio for each head of romaine and wash them together in my salad spinner so they’ll mix evenly with the romaine. I do often trim out the all-white parts, but it’s not necessary. When I’m feeling lazy, I just slice off some shreds right from the head and call it a day. The leftover radicchio head keeps a long time in the refrigerator, wrapped in a damp paper towel. I’d encourage you to give radicchio a try. It gives the salad so much eye appeal and those dark red leaves add extra nutritional value as well.

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Paula May 28, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Rita,
I’m so glad you wrote. I have not tried radicchio. If it keeps as long as the Romaine, I’m in! Going to try it this week.

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violetta May 28, 2012 at 4:04 pm

HI, MY NAME IS VIOLETTA, I AM ITALIAN AND I FOUND YOU ON PINTEREST. I APPECIATED A LOT YOUR SALAD IN A JAR, THAT I WHANT ABSOLUTELY FOLLOW YOU IN THIS ACTION. THANKS A LOT FOR SHARING IT.

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Grace Sevilly June 2, 2012 at 4:06 am

I agree that adding other veggies to a lettuce jar significantly reduces the storage time, especially adding tomatoes. Tomatoes really spoil quickly.

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Stephanie June 23, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Hi! I finally got my wide-mouth sealer in and am just starting my first batch of salad-in-a-jar. I have a stupid question. We tried getting one of the lids off so my son could actually eat it, and couldn’t get it off. Finally, I just barely used an old bottle opener, but can’t do that anymore because it left a dent and is going to bend the edge all up. How do you “just pop off” the lid??? I can’t wait to make use of this wonderful idea, but we need to be able to get in the jars. :-)

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Paula June 24, 2012 at 5:45 am

Stephanie,

The lids are most difficult to pop off right after you prepare the jars. I just use my fingernails but I use to use a bottle opener. A new bottle opener, the larger type with a rounded end, might help. You’ll get the hang of it with a little practice.

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Mrs. Baum January 16, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Hi,
Just like any canning lid. Just use a bottle opener gently on the lid and pops off. I do a quite a bit of home canning. My husband even found a way to just use the band to get the lid off with no damage to the lid. I can’t quite get that one down. Just be gentle and you can reuse the lid for this kind of application. Make sure to mark your lid so you don’t try to use it in a “real” canning-preserving method.

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cin January 17, 2013 at 12:07 pm

I also nicked the lid with a can opener and was worried about it then nicking the interior of the FS wide mouth jar sealer.

About a month later I stumbled upon this YouTube video using the flat end of a bamboo chopstick to break the vacuum seal. This fellow learned the tip from a Yahoo FoodSaver group. I’ve been using my “to go” chopstick successfully. No dings or nicks!
The video is here: http://youtu.be/EWvze7gIuzE

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Paula January 18, 2013 at 8:16 am

A chopstick? How cool is that!

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Trudy June 28, 2012 at 12:44 pm

An FYI…I just purchased the Foodsaver and in the user’s manual it says the following should NEVER be vacuumed packed: fresh mushrooms, onions, garlic and soft cheeses (such as brie) due to the risk of anaerobic bacteria. I was going to put red onion in with the romaine…but think I’ll pass on that!

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gail September 2, 2012 at 10:38 pm

what other stuff can be packed like this in a jar? you stated strawberries and squash. we Rv for about a week at a time and this would take up less room than the heads of lettuce.l can you use other lettuces.
thank you
Gail miller

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Paula September 3, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Hi Gail,
There are many things you can vacuum-pack but some, definitely not. The only lettuce I vacuum-pack is romaine and raddichio. Iceberg may work but I’m not a fan so I don’t buy it. Spring mix and spinach have not worked well for me. Besides googling, I can only recommend that you experiment.

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Suze April 12, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Can you tell me where I can get the dohickey that goes over the jar and the hand held sealer? I’ve looked at local websites (Wal-mart, Bed/Bath) and came up empty. Much appreciated!!

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Paula April 13, 2013 at 7:23 am

You can find them on Amazon last time I looked.

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Carol May 4, 2013 at 10:55 am

Hi, Paula–Found your website on Pinterest and think your salad in a jar is truly inspired. I’m retired, so the lunch time application is limited–but I live in a family who thinks salad must be served with each supper. The quart size jars didn’t fit the bill–just not big enough–but I can. The mason quart sized jar is not the largest canning jar out there. I buy 1/2 gallon size jars at Hobby Lobby to pack my salad. I usually make enough to last 3 or 4 days but it’s still a real time saver. Two–I like to mix my greens and 3 or 4 day limit is perfect to make sure it’s pristine when opened.

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Heather October 11, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Hi Paula,
I found your site via Pinterest, and never thought learning how to store lettuce could be so interesting!

My main job in the kitchen when I was growing up was making the salad – and I hated it! Always have since then. I’ve often thought about preparing the lettuce ahead of time, but you know how that works out!

Now, with your help, I can do that. Prepare it once and I’m done, while knowing it will stay fresh. Thank you so much. I’m off to dig my half-gallon jars out of the attic….

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Wendy Hampton October 24, 2014 at 7:09 pm

At last a way to prepare salad and have it ready when i want it! I used my glass jars the lettuce, cut up celery and carrots etc. It didn’t brown, it isn’t mush, it’s crisp and fresh. Thanks so much for sharing this tip.

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