DIY: Mason Jar Meals

mason-jarIt’s a sad day when you realize that all three of your meals came from the office vending machine.

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Luke Saunders spotted a dire need for nutritious food on the go and founded Farmer’s Fridge, a new Chicago-based company that has revolutionized automated dining with a healthier alternative.  You swipe your credit card and affordable salads, sides, breakfast dishes, and healthy snacks (all made early each morning) are delivered by 10 a.m. to the company’s kiosk in jars.

READ: Need A Fun, Healthy Lunch On The Go?

I commend this company for making a new healthy way to get food on the go, but I challenged myself to take this idea a step further and create my own mason jar meals. Follow these tips to create your own, too!

8 Cooking Tips

  1. Purchase and lay out all the food you are going to prepare.
  2. Wash and dry your jars and lids. It helps to have a variety of jar sizes giving you different portion options. Meals I knew I would take to work went in pint-sized jars, snacks in half pint jars, and larger salads that more than one person would eat went in the quart-sized jars.
  3. Roast all your vegetables in one giant aluminum pan, setting your kitchen timer for the items that need to be removed first. In my case, I set my timer for 18 minutes for the green beans. The potatoes took another 40 minutes or so.
  4. Cut your potatoes or veggies in uniform pieces. Season each as you would like.
  5. Roast your meats in the same fashion. I cooked my salmon and chicken together removing the fish after 18 minutes and the chicken at 22 minutes.
  6. Multi-task! Fry bacon, boil grains or pastas and hard cook eggs while the meats and vegetables are roasting.
  7. Clean up as you go.
  8. All cooked items must cool before placing them in jars or you will wilt salads or cause other items in the jar to get mushy. As things came out of the oven, I placed them on plates to cool, shredded the chicken and cut the fish in bite-sized chunks.

READ: Party Of One: Tips On Cooking For Yourself

7 Tips for Filling the Jars

  1. Choose the jar size you are going to work with for a particular meal. Some recipes divide well in half for smaller families, while other recipes would need to be doubled for larger families.
  2. Lay out all the ingredients you need for that particular jar meal and start layering the items in the jar with the dressing always on the bottom and more delicate ingredients on the top such, as leafy greens or fresh herbs.
  3. Make the meals look visually appealing by making the layers look nice and even.
  4. Layering also helps for when the meal is removed from the jar. For example, in my salmon salad as I removed each layer, I was easily able to remove the potatoes for a bit of heating. Although the salad can be eaten cold or at room temp, I wanted to take the chill off my potatoes.
  5. Items that need to remain crispy, like ramen noodles for a chicken ramen salad, can be stored in a little baggie or container, and placed with the jarred meal.
  6. I am no expert on this, but I am going to keep my jarred meals up to five to seven days in the refrigerator. Anything left over beyond seven days gets tossed out.
  7. If you choose to freeze these jarred meals, it is the same concept as freezing any meal. Only freeze items that are freezer-friendly. Lettuce does not freeze and be sure the items are cool before freezing or you will have condensation and ice crystals.

So will you try this out? These ready-made mason jar meals have kept me from reaching for the chips or running to the vending machine. I have found this to be a great way to take lunch to work and the bonus: they’re pretty! I don’t know about you, but pretty food makes me hungry!

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Find out my favorite mason jar meal recipes here.