make a salad box . . . your own mini salad bar

Would you like an easy way to fit more salads into your menu? An easy way to help your family choose salad with dinner or for a quick and light lunch? You need a salad box! A salad box is a self-contained mini salad bar in your own fridge. Everything is prepared ahead of time and contained in the salad box till needed.

my very own salad bar

If you want to give a salad box a try, the first step is to decide where it’s going to be stored in your refrigerator. The point of the box is to be able to pull everything out in one container, so using one of the drawers isn’t the best option. If you have to pull out a lot of little containers, one by one, it isn’t going to work very well. When you’ve decided where it will be stored, measure the depth, width and height of the available space. The next step is to find a plastic container, box or tub, to fit that space. A lid in not necessary. One with squared corners will store more smaller containers than one with rounded corners.

After finding a usable box, the next step is to find smaller containers with lids that will fit inside. For starters, at least six or seven containers. More, if possible. Two sizes should suffice. Larger ones for items you need more of and smaller ones for things like toppings and extras (nuts, seeds, crumbled bacon, etc.). Some items can be included in the box in their original containers…a bag of shredded cheese, a jar of pumpkin seeds, etc. A small pair of tongs can be added to the box for those items that won’t pour well.

DH found a plastic container at Wal-Mart that perfectly fits the available shelf in the fridge. A lid isn’t necessary. I am able to fit more in my salad box because there is no lid. Containers can stack a bit higher than if there were a lid on the box. Just be sure they don’t stack higher than the allotted shelf space. Our salad box is the one with the handle hole.

salad box

Currently, the ingredients in our salad bar are:

my very own salad bar

Back row: Celery, lima beans, and cucumber.
Middle row: Raw sunflower seeds, halved cherry tomatoes, green onion, and chopped parsley.
Front row: Walnuts, radishes, turkey.

Because containers of leafy greens take up a lot of space, I store them separately, washed, cut if necessary, and ready to go. Sometimes we buy the boxes of premixed greens. Sometimes we get a head of Romaine and I wash and tear it, then store the lettuce in a container. It’s ready to go when we want salad. If our refrigerator would accommodate a larger salad box, I could keep the leafy greens in it, as well.

Beans can be anything you like. Black beans, white beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, edamame, green peas, etc. If the beans are canned, rinse them under running water until there is no more foam. If frozen, pour the frozen beans into the container and let them thaw in the fridge.

If they won’t be eaten within a few days, cherry tomatoes could be left whole. I cut mine in half or quarters and haven’t had any problem because the small container I use holds just enough for about three salads. They are eaten before they get mushy. Same for the cucumbers. I love cukes, so I use a lot on a salad.

Any kind of nut/seed that you like can be used. Keeping small containers of two choices with the salad fixings makes it easy to add what I like, and they will keep for quite a while in the fridge.

Fresh parsley adds a great flavor to a salad. Having it chopped and ready to go makes it easy to add. I’ve also dipped into the salad bar fixings for stir fry or for adding chopped parsley to a recipe.

When I first made up the salad bar, I had cauliflower and broccoli chopped and stored in containers. It didn’t take long for the broccoli to take on a strong smell, so I don’t keep that on the salad bar any longer. My space is limited, so I haven’t included cauliflower again. When I’m hungry for it and tired of something else on the salad bar, I’ll swap cauliflower for the other item.

One nice aspect of the salad box is the amount of variety that can be achieved. A lot of salad options out of one box. This “salad bar” in a box would be great for larger families when everyone has his or her own favorites for salad. I really like the available options. Each salad can be different without having to prepare a different set of ingredients.

salad

When making up your own salad bar, wash your hands before beginning and use clean cutting boards and knives, clean containers, and work on a clean surface. All vegetables and fruits should be washed due to pesticides and other contaminates. Buy organic, if you can, though those should be washed, as well. Check this link for more information on the best ways to wash fruits and vegetables. I can’t wait till spring/summer when I’ll have our own garden produce to add to the salad box. The freshest possible choices and guaranteed pesticide free.

Here are some ideas for stocking a salad box. Choose those you and your family like best. Don’t overstock items like cut tomatoes or cucumber that won’t last long once cut. If you have other ideas, I’d love to see them in the comments!

Veggies

  • all kinds of lettuce
  • shredded cabbage
  • Chinese cabbage
  • bok choy
  • sorrel
  • all kinds of sprouts
  • sugar snap peas
  • snow peas
  • sweet peppers
  • hot peppers
  • tomatoes
  • mushrooms
  • corn
  • shredded carrots
  • chopped fennel
  • beets
  • celery
  • green onion
  • white and/or red onion
  • cucumber
  • chopped parsley
  • chives

Fruit

  • dried cranberries
  • raisins
  • strawberries
  • grapes
  • oranges
  • Mandarin orange segments

Beans

  • lentils
  • lima beans
  • garbanzo beans
  • white beans
  • black beans
  • kidney beans
  • Edamame
  • peas

Nuts and Seeds

  • almonds
  • walnuts
  • pecans
  • peanuts
  • sesame seeds
  • sunflower seeds

Protein

  • chicken
  • turkey
  • ham
  • bacon
  • tofu
  • salmon
  • salami
  • pepperoni
  • browned ground beef for taco salads
  • egg
  • water packed tuna
  • shredded cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • goat cheese
  • Feta cheese
  • cottage cheese

 Other items

  • pickles
  • olives
  • croutons
  • chow mein noodles
  • quinoa
  • rice
  • guacamole (Thanks to Joy for that great idea!)

My youngest daughter told me she pulled the salad box out and made herself a salad for lunch this past week. She wouldn’t have had salad if she had to take the time to cut all the veggies. And I probably wouldn’t, either, for a single salad. Now I’m including salad in my meals every day because it’s so easy to do.

If you use a salad box, share how it works for you. Any tips or techniques you find helpful? I’d love to hear about it.

~~Rhonda

6 Comments

  1. Tricia
    Posted February 17, 2014 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    What a good idea! I love salads but do not enjoy making them. Bill had a health scare/heart cath last month so we are trying to eat cleaner. I love the craisins but they are probably full of sugar. Enjoyed this post.

  2. Genny
    Posted February 17, 2014 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    Great idea ! I am going to try this. The list of ingredient ideas is especially helpful. I get stuck in a rut.

  3. Mary
    Posted February 18, 2014 at 12:28 am | Permalink

    Great idea. Can’t wait to get mine set up :-). I’ve used black beans, kidney beans, or garbanzo beans on a salad before but never thought of Lima beans – love them so will have to try
    Celery always reminds me of a church dinner at your house. I didn’t have much to take so cut up a bunch of celery on a tray. When I put out my dish you to he your youngest (probably about 4 then) had said that morning that she hoped someone would bring something good like celery.

  4. Posted February 18, 2014 at 1:08 am | Permalink

    Tricia, this has really worked well for us. I hope you’ll give it a try. Tell Bill I said he should eat more salad!

    Genny, I’m loving how easy it is. We had company last week and it took less than five minutes to put a salad bowl together for supper. This would be great to come home to after work. And easy to make a quart jar salad from to take TO work!

    Mary, thanks for sharing that celery story. You never know what friends will remember about fun times together! :)

    ~~Rhonda

  5. Peg in CO
    Posted February 18, 2014 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Hey Rhonda,
    Great idea. I’ve had good luck with the jar salads too but now am working from home so this was a good twist to get me thinking! TFS!

  6. Posted February 18, 2014 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Peggy, I love the jar salads, too. The salad box is a great base for that, if you’re headed to work or just out for a day and want to take lunch. I’ve also used it for stir fry, which works, too. :)

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