Mason Jar Meals for the Working Girl

A while back, I was introduced to the mason jar salad idea by a co-worker who prepares them regularly.  I did it for a few weeks, but only had a couple of recipes that I really liked so naturally I ended up getting burnt out on them.  I loved the idea of being able to have your meals ready to go, though, and I didn't mind sacrificing some time on the weekend to make life during the week a little less hectic.  Now that I'm in my new apartment with an open kitchen to the living room, I really don't mind because I can easily cook and have the TV on for distraction.  It makes all the slicing and dicing a little more enjoyable.

After a very busy and draining week last week, I decided that I really wanted to get back into meal prepping.  I was also craving a salad that I had on my trip to Minnesota, and that was the spark that ignited the fire in me to really do this.  I found the salad on the restaurant's menu online and made my list.  I took my motivation with me to the grocery store and got everything I needed to prep breakfast, lunch, an afternoon snack, and dinner for the work week.

Now granted, this was my first attempt to prep everything at once, but I still wanted to share what I learned from this first go-around.  And hopefully each week the process will become more and more streamlined and the idea of meal prepping won't be so daunting.   

1. Wide-mouth mason jars work best. 

Back when I first did the salads for lunch, I used some regular ones and it probably took me twice as long just because I had to be careful when adding ingredients so they didn't go everywhere.  This time, I sprang for a case of wide-mouth jars and used the extras for freezing some leftover chicken tortilla soup.  You can also buy individual mason jars at Hobby Lobby if you'd rather just get enough for meals.

2. Make a list. 

I really cannot stress this enough.  You have to go into the grocery with a plan of what to get, or you'll wander the store for way too long back and forth as you remember things you need for a particular recipe.  I like to make my list in order of breakfast, lunch, and dinner so that I don't leave anything off.

3. Opt for snacks that don't need to be prepped. 

This week it's bananas for me, but apples or grapes would work just as well.  The idea is to have something you can just grab and throw in your lunch bag on the way out the door.  It cuts down on time spent in the kitchen, too.

4. Adapt things you already eat for mason jar prep. 

I've been taking yogurt, fruit and granola each day for breakfast, but I was getting it together every morning before work.  This was at least an extra five minutes in the morning that could have been spent on something else or even getting out the door five minutes sooner.  Now that I have the mason jars, I prepped five yogurt/fruit combos and just brought the bag of granola with me to work to add each morning.

5. Choose recipes that usually make plenty of leftovers. 

I didn't necessarily portion each meal out for dinner ahead of time since I eat dinner at home, but I did go head and prep the full amount of the main protein (chicken) and sides (potatoes and veggies) in separate large containers so that each night I just have to dish some out and heat it up.

I am so excited to give meal prepping a go with mason jars and try new recipes each week!  Seeing a fridge full of beautiful, colorful jars of fresh food makes it so rewarding.  What are some of your favorite recipes for mason jars?