Getting ready well ahead of time, commuting, sitting at a desk for hours — if all that sounds hard to you, imagine what it feels like to be your lunch! Keeping a salad crisp and fresh from weekend meal prep to midweek lunch is no easy feat. But it is possible! Here are some tips for packing a desk lunch so that it stays happy and fresh (and helps you do the same):
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1. Pack it upside-down
The best salads have a happy mix of heavier bits and bobs — grains, hard-boiled eggs, beans, shaved and chopped veggies — and delicate, crisp greens. (We like the O Organics® Convenience Salads from Albertsons, which are always organic, non-GMO, and grown without synthetic pesticides.) To keep those tender greens from wilting and bruising, pack your salad upside-down: Put the heavier things on the bottom of your lunch container, then lay the greens on top. Make sure to keep the container upright in transit, then when lunchtime rolls around, dump the contents into a large bowl, toss, and dress.
2. Stow dressing separately
Dressings and vinaigrettes make salads sing — but only if the leaves are dressed right before serving. Oils and acids wilt greens over time, which means that if you want to keep your greens perky, you have to pack dressings (like a maple-balsamic for O Organics® Baby Spinach or mustardy white wine vinaigrette for O Organics® Spring Mix) separately. Store them in small, tightly sealed snack containers or mini jam jars, and wait until you sit down to eat to drizzle. The same rule applies to add-ins like marinated artichoke hearts and oil-packed tuna: Keep them away from the greens until it’s time to eat.
3. Throw in a damp paper towel
Once you’ve packed your salad (upside-down, of course), wet a paper towel under a cold tap. Wring it out until it’s just damp, then uncrumple it and lay it over the top of the greens before popping on the lid of the container. The damp towel serves the same purpose as those misters in the produce aisle of the grocery store: A little cool moisture helps to keep salad greens hydrated and crisp, not dry and droopy.
4. Keep it cold
If you have a refrigerator at your workplace, get that salad in there right away! (Ideally not on the top shelf, which can sometimes freeze.) The less time a salad is out at room temperature, the less opportunity there is for wilting to occur.
5. Finish it off day-of
If you like to do all your meal prep at once, you can still do that with a salad. There is one caveat: Pack all those heavier, hardier salad “toppers” — like green beans, boiled potatoes, olives, cherry tomatoes, and jammy eggs (to pair with O Organics® Baby Arugula) or grilled salmon, chopped figs, and toasted pecans (to serve with O Organics® Half & Half Blend) — together when you’re doing your big prep push. Each day, add a big scoop of toppers to a container with your greens just before you leave the house. Keeping the various ingredients separate for as long as possible helps keep the greens crisp and delicious.
Shop O Organics® only at your local Albertsons or their family of stores, including Safeway, Vons, Tom Thumb, Randalls, Shaws, Star Market, Jewel-Osco, ACME Markets and Pavilions.
Caroline Lange is a recipe tester and developer, writer, and food stylist living in Brooklyn, New York.