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The Daily Beet: Tips, Advice and Stories

Home Salad Bar!

Our “Great Salad Challenge” is still underway on facebook! A few days ago we saw this GREAT idea by E2-er Karen, and we asked her to write about it.
A few months ago, we visited a Whole Foods & loaded up on garden fresh goodness from the salad bar.  My husband & I both remarked at how much we enjoy having so many choices to create unique, tasty salads and that we should try to incorporate a system at home that would give us a similar variety. As a busy working mother of two teenage boys, I am not new to pre-prepping and preparing planned leftovers, it is a lifesaver!
I have tried plastic bags and storage containers on their own, only to be frustrated by the un-organization of the fridge and more frustrated at the containers of spoiled, mushy food thrown out at the end of the week.  The real issue seemed to be from fridge to counter and back in an organized way that the whole family could figure out.
I started with 2 heavy weight cookie sheets with handles, that I picked up for under $10 each.  While at the store, I fit the cookie sheet with inexpensive bpa free plastic containers.   Each weekend, we invest a small amount of time gathering our favorite healthy foods. This typically includes a trip to the farmer’s market, our local health food store and a quick harvest from our backyard garden.  We spend an hour or so prepping our veggies and cooking our grains/starches and legumes/lentils of choice. One tray is filled with the proteins, starches, nuts and seeds.  The other with our fresh prepped salad veggies.
The third baking sheet I use is a mini individual loaf pan, similar to a muffin pan. This one gets filled with diced fresh fruits & dried fruits. For dressings, we keep a variety of flavored vinegars on hand. Some are sweet, such as cranberry pear & some are savory or spicy.  We like creamy dressings, so I will add a tbsp of unflavored, unsweetened coconut creamer (zero fat, zero sugar) to the vinegar with a sprinkle of chia seeds to thicken it all up.
The trays stack together and fit neatly on the bottom shelf of the fridge next to the boxed salad greens. At meal time or lunch packing time, we pull out all the trays, pop off the lids & build our meals.  This has made meal prep in our house so simple for every meal, it’s been foolproof!
Here are a few of our favorite ways to use our home salad bar:
  • Fresh & dried fruit tray-  the perfect topper for morning oats, pancakes & french toast, as well as blended veggie/fruit smoothies.
  • Wraps & sandwiches- whole grain tortillas or bread, topped with hummus & sliced fresh veggies.
  • Bowls- Grains, veggies, beans, sauce
  • PIzzas- tortillas or frozen pizza crust, sauce & loads of fresh veggies, tossed on the grill for a few minutes.
  • Stir Fries- Toss veggies in a pan, add sauce & serve over whole grain of choice.
  • Casseroles- Enchiladas, lasagna’s or shepherds pie.
  • Soups- Kitchen Sink Soup. At the end of the week, I fill a stockpot with a few cups of broth,a can of tomatoes, spices, add all the veggies, grains & beans that are left & end up with a delicous soup & no waste!
List of supplies to create your own home salad bar:
  • heavy weight, rimmed cookie sheets-be sure to measure the depth & width of the shelf you are using
  • storage containers to fit snugly on cookie sheets
  • your favorite fresh veggies, sliced & diced to your liking
  • your favorite legumes/lentils, grains/starches, cooked to your liking
  • your favorite fresh & dried fruits, diced/sliced nuts & seeds
  • your favorite greens, pre bagged/boxed or washed & torn yourself
I hope these ideas help you prepare quick, stress-free, delicous & plant-strong meals for you & your family!

We’d love to see your home salad bars! Post your photos of your home salad bars to our Facebook page!

What will go in your salad bar?

About the author

Natala is the director of communications for Engine 2 Diet, she is also one of our coaches on our support site, Engine 2 Extra. A few years ago, Natala was at the end of her rope. She was on almost 15 medications daily, had out of control Type 2 Diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, issues with nerve damage, and was morbidly obese. She was just over 30 years old. She decided to take her life back by becoming plant-strong. She has lost over 200 pounds, got off of all of her medications and now has great health numbers. Natala plays the violin and studied music therapy. She became passionate about plant-strong nutrition, received her Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition through Cornell University, a certificate in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and is currently pursuing a degree in nutritional sciences. Natala is also a featured speaker at our Engine 2 Retreats she talks about the reality of our nations obesity epidemic as well as providing practical steps to becoming a healthier person.

23 Responses to “Home Salad Bar!”

  1. Megan LaGray says:

    This. Is. Genius :) VIVA LA VEGETABLES!

  2. Dawn says:

    OMG! This is PERFECT!!! I have been trying to think of a way to do this exact thing in my fridge at home.. WILL BE STEALING THIS IDEA!!!!!!!!! Thanks :)

  3. Lynnette says:

    This is great. I can’t wait to try it myself.

  4. Heather says:

    I’m with Megan, seriously genius. I know what my weekend project will be!

  5. Tracy says:

    This is so great. My daughter and I love salads but it’s just too much work when we’re getting ready for the day to get everything out and put it back. This is an idea we’ll use. Can’t wait to get it going.

  6. Meghan says:

    Brilliant! I love the Kitchen Sink Soup so nothing goes to waste. Bravo!

  7. Peggy says:

    Thanks so much!! This is so obvious and I already have the plastic containers. Sometimes you just have to see the picture to see the light!!

  8. Heidi Weinman says:

    Love this!

  9. Julie says:

    This is awesome! I cannot wait to make my own food bar… thanks for sharing!

  10. AnnMarie says:

    We just started a “loose” version of this and now I am inspired to try this tray method, looks like it will work great and my husband (who makes dinner now while I work evenings) will have an easier time making dinners.

  11. Julie Southwell says:

    Karen, this is genius. I tend to get my things prepared ahead of time, too, but the trays facilitate pulling them all out at once. I’m tired of grabbing 8 different pkgs. just to make a salad. A questions – do you ujust use plastic wrap for the loaf tray? I’ve never seen such a tray (except for one w/really mini loafs). Any suggestions where to purchase. I think I will definitely be doing this. Thanks for sharing.

  12. MamaMia says:

    Brilliant. I am a homeschooling vegan mama of two young kids – we all love our daily salads, but lunch prep takes a solid hour every day – an hour that I could be using for many other things (not to mention dinner prep)! I am definitely adapting this idea to our life; we are always saying that we wish we had a fridge with built-in salad bar containers, or a vegetarian-friendly fridge. This will make it more suited to our lifestyle!

  13. Kim says:

    I LOVE this, I usually make up a large salad but this is better because everyone can pick out their own stuff. It would make life easier for packing school lunches too.

  14. Alta says:

    has anyone read anything about how much nutrients the veggies might lose after being cut for a week? does that even matter? I saw something similar to this on the Hallelujah Acres website (www.hacres.com) in their free 60-Days to Reclaim Your Health course. It sure looks like a very workable idea!

  15. Jeannine says:

    What a great idea! So organized! We have been doing something similar but with more flat containers that we can stack.. but I like this better. Only thing is that some fruits/veggies don’t do well cut up.. like peaches & kiwi’s get all mushy, apples of course we all know go brown, and we stopped precutting bell peppers but I can’t remember why. Would love to see an extension of this blog entry, made into a resource list of items that are precut friendly :)

  16. Lisa says:

    I will definitely be implementing this in our house! Thanks for the post Karen!

  17. Renae says:


  18. Debi Marrs says:

    I do the same thing but my storage container is a bin that I found at Target that fits perfectly on the bottom shelf of the refrig. There is room to slide the greens containers on top of it. It has a lid and all the other containers of cut produce are inside. So I slide it out and fix my salad.

  19. Jayne Pynes says:

    How do you keep everything fresh? Or can you recommend a place where I can read about keeping things like pears fresh once cut up?

  20. Susan Steel says:

    Absolutely brilliant! I am just starting and feeling wonderful already. Today I will be purchasing the cookie sheets and containers. Hopefully my refrigerator will be as impressive as yours!

  21. Cindy says:

    Brilliant! Would you please share what brand/size cookie sheets & loaf pan that you found. Thanks

  22. Brilliant idea! Would you please provide a list of vegetables and fruits that store well after being washed and cut and links for purchasing the items you use to store them? Many thanks!

  23. lisa says:

    curious – as my husband has an argument for everything – if you chop up and prepare the food for the containers, how long do they keep. My thought was to buy produce on Sunday and stored in fridge, I would think most items should last til Thursday/Friday?

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