Say So Long to Soggy Lettuce: Genius Tips for Meal Prepping Your Salads

salad meal prep tips cover

iStock / Cheapism

Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.
salad meal prep tips cover
iStock / Cheapism

Nothing Kills the Vibe Quite Like Mushy Croutons

Salad is such a great go-to for lunch. It's (generally) healthy, capable of being packed with loads of different nutrients, and it's not that difficult to prepare unless you despise chopping vegetables. Still, if you're approaching your salads from a prep-ahead perspective, it's easy to ruin them to the point of no return. As the self-proclaimed goddess of green leaf lettuce (my personal favorite salad base), I have some tried-and-true tips you'll want to use yourself. 

Thinly Sliced Romaine Lettuce in a Salad Spinner
Candice Bell/istockphoto

1. Get Yourself a Salad Spinner

I love a good kitchen gadget, and the salad spinner is one of my most used. First of all, I'm big on washing my produce. Salad spinners come with bowls that allow you to soak your leafy greens — and since we've all found a bug or two in our romaine before, the benefit of washing is evident. After you've washed your lettuce, you can use the spinner to — wait for it — spin the excess moisture off your greens. Just as the name suggests, folks. The most obvious way to avoid a soggy salad is to ensure your lettuce isn't sopping wet. 

Woman wiping lettuce with paper towels at grey table, top view
Liudmila Chernetska/istockphoto

2. Paper Towel is Your Best Friend

As much as I love the salad spinner, I don't cut corners when it comes to making sure my lettuce isn't too wet to hold up in the fridge for the duration of the week. After spinning, I line a big container with a double layer of paper towel. I put the lettuce in on top of that paper towel padding, and before placing the lid on that baby, I top those lovely leaves with another double layer of my Bounty BFF.

Vegetable salads displayed in a commercial refriger

3. Plan Different Variations and Prep Accordingly

Salads are a great go-to for lunch, but they can get mundane, especially if you swiftly tire of eating the same thing every day. I like to play around with the kinds of salads I'm making, and if they share a couple of ingredients, I can achieve variation without too much extra effort. A week's salads might look something like this: 

  • Monday: Southwest chicken salad
  • Tuesday: Asian chicken salad
  • Wednesday: Chicken Cobb salad
  • Thursday: Chicken Caesar salad 
  • Friday: Chef salad 

So, I'll use chicken for four out of five of the salads, which I can season differently to mix things up (and switching up the dressing helps too). I'll use bell peppers for both the Southwest and chef salads. Onions for almost all of them. Hard-boiled egg for Cobb and chef, and so on. There's enough variety to keep things interesting but not too much that it becomes overly complicated to prep. 

For more great kitchen and grocery tips,
please sign up for our free newsletters.

Fried chicken breasts on vegetable oil, iron cast pan
Bartosz Luczak/istockphoto

4. Cook Meat All at Once and Store in Separate Containers

This goes along with what we just discussed. I use lots of chicken when I meal prep salads, and even though I like to season some of them differently depending on the type of salad I'm making, it's still easiest to throw them all on the grill, smoker, frying pan, or baking sheet all at once. Once they cool, I cut the chicken into strips and store them in portioned containers in the fridge. Things get slightly more involved if you want chicken one day, salmon the next, and a steak salad to end the week. But it's still your best bet to take it on all at once instead of rolling the task over day to day.

Hands of a Woman Packing a Healthy Salad into a Glass Container to be Taken Away

5. Assemble the Morning Of

If you're packing a salad to take to work, I strongly suggest assembling it the morning that you're going to eat it. If you're working from home and you're low on time during your lunch hour, this is also a good plan. Otherwise, putting it all together right before you eat it works A-OK. The point is, if you keep your ingredients separated until as close to go-time as humanly possible, it's going to taste fresher, and none of the textures of the ingredients will be compromised.  

Related: 15 Old-Fashioned Salad Sandwiches for Easy Summer Lunches

Preparing Lunch in the Office

6. Leave Cheese and Any Crunchy Toppings Out Until It's Time to Eat

Because who wants their croutons to bite like Wonder bread? Adding cheese and any crunchy toppings to your bowl of inherently moist veggies isn't going to bode well for texture as the hours pass by.

Healthy salad in the plastic food box, potato salad with hard boiled egg, shredded ham, cucumber, tomatoes, lettuce and spinach with a honey and mustard dressing pot

7. And Obviously: Do the Dressing on the Side

This is a no-brainer I hope, but I'm throwing it out there for posterity. The best way to ruin your packed salad is to put the dressing on it hours before you're going to indulge. Please do not abuse lettuce this way.