By Emma Grace Fairchild:
My life as a full time student is almost always on the go. With a desire to eat well, this usually means going about my day as prepared as possible to feed myself; otherwise, I’m stuck in the midst of a convenience store on campus, trying to sort out the purest trail mix or the least gross snack bar from the shelves. Since this has been my reality for many years, I consider myself quite adept at packing food to go. I know how best to stuff my backpack with snacks and meals and plan ahead for any hunger situation.
One of my favorite tricks is using mason jars for packing meals! It’s a great way to bring food to school in containers that are basically leak proof and also can be heated up in the microwave ovens on campus. Because they are made from glass, there is no risk of leaching chemicals as plastic does. The only downside is that they are a little heavy; but this doesn’t have to be a problem, especially if you use a cooler, lunch box or have a fridge to store them in during the day. Almost anything can be packed into a mason jar and brought to work, school, or wherever you are on the go.
There are many places you can buy mason jars individually, but I typically buy them in a case of 12 from a grocery store or canning supply store. They come with lids and in many different sizes. The best jars for meals on the go are pint sized and quart sized, with a wide mouth. Because the opening is larger, this makes them much easier to fill and easier to clean! The lids also can be cleaned and reused countless times. They need to be replaced only if they are sealed for canning, which isn’t the case here. Using a mason jar for meals is quick, easy and environmentally friendly.
Salad in a Jar
I use a quart sized jar for a full salad, complete with dressing, ready to pour into a bowl or eat right out of the jar. The basic idea is that the greens don’t get soggy from sitting in dressing for a few hours because of the way the ingredients are layered! Here is an example of one of my favorite salads to bring to school and how to add its ingredients to the jar.
- On the bottom of the jar, put 1-2 tablespoons of your favorite dressing or simply a good quality olive oil and vinegar. (Right now, I’m on a balsamic kick: I mix balsamic vinegar with a bit of strong mustard, raw honey, olive oil, and salt.)
- Put in a handful of nuts or seeds. The hardness of the ingredients make them able to withstand sitting in salad dressing for a while.
- Add hard fruits or vegetables. Chopped cauliflower, broccoli, apples, squash, carrots, persimmons, cabbage or any other tough food could be used. They also will marinate a little bit in the dressing on the bottom and won’t be any worse for wear.
- After that, add softer items — tomatoes, avocado, cucumbers, cheese, sprouts, rice or beans, for example. These things might get a little exposure to dressing if the jar is tossed around a bit in transit, but they won’t get soggy or soft.
- For the top layer, add your greens! Don’t fill it all the way to the top because you need room to shake and combine. The greens will be kept away from the dressing, and stay fresh and crisp until you’re ready to eat. My favorite greens to add are arugula, baby kale or romaine lettuce.
- Before eating, give the jar a good shake and transfer the salad to a nice big bowl, or shake it even harder to get dressing on everything and eat right out the jar!
Burrito Bowl in a Jar
Either a quart jar or a pint jar would work for this recipe, depending on your other meals and how hungry you are. The salsa serves as a sort of dressing for this meal, but additional salsa or sour cream could be added!
- On the bottom of the jar, add already cooked rice, quinoa or another grain.
- Next, layer some already cooked black beans or pinto beans.
- Throw in chopped bell pepper, tomato, thawed sweet corn or onion.
- Add a thin layer of chopped avocado or guacamole.
- And your favorite salsa on top of that!
- Include your greens as the top layer, and you’re ready to go!
Chia in a Jar
- First, make some chia seed pudding https://green-mom.com/meatless-monday-chia-pudding/#.VFUo0ceJOuY.
- In a pint sized mason jar, spread a layer of chia pudding on the bottom.
- Next, add a mixture of fresh or frozen berries, mango pieces, kiwi or sliced bananas.
- Add another layer of chia.
- Top with more fruit!
- If you want some more texture, add a handful of chopped nuts, cacao nibs, trail mix or granola!
- Top with a lid and eat whenever you’re hungry for a sweet treat.
Soup in a Jar
In my house, we usually have a big pot of soup at least once a week to use up extra veggies. I will try to make extra so I can pack some to go. I fill a pint sized jar ¾ of the way full, and on the side in a small bag I will bring some gluten free crackers, cut cheese, or a slice of gluten free bread to add to the soup. (Croutons would also be a yummy option.) Once I’m ready to eat it at school, I can microwave it and eat right out of the jar, adding whatever topping I bring. Remove the metal lid before microwaving. Be careful when removing it from the microwave, as the glass may be hot. And use microwaves as little as possible. If you’re lucky, maybe your school or work place has a toaster oven!
As you can see, you have a lot of options for using mason jars. This list is in no way complete, either. I have brought pasta, smoothies, rice dishes, desserts — you name it — in mason jars. Some of these recipes could be made a few days in advance so you you can just grab them in the morning and go. I hope they inspire you and make your eating on the go routine happier and more nutritious!
For more mason jar recipes go here: