Make Your Own Salad Buffet – Batch Cooking for Salads

Food prep is a pain in the butt – and many people are familiar with the concept of “batch cooking”, but don’t often think of doing this with salads. During the summer months I’ll often take the time out to “batch cook” to create my own salad buffet, ready for use in the fridge so I can dip into it and pick and mix salad items on a whim!

This weekend I made my first salad buffet of the year, just a simple salad.  It’s now all stacked up in the fridge and I’ve already had two meals from it.

This week’s core ingredients to my salads is:

  • Lettuce, I’m not a fan of lettuce to be honest, but it does put a cheery green splash of colour onto the plate and I like the crunch. Chop up the lettuce, then cut it or shred it. Rinse it through, then dry it off.  Lettuce should be dry, not wet, although for a salad buffet I do leave a little moisture in there. Pack the lettuce into a lidded box and put it in the fridge.  My sister uses a salad spinner and then simply keeps the lettuce in the fridge in the spinner, adding in other items so the salad spinner becomes a ready-made mixed salad.
  • Tomatoes – this week I picked the regular/common salad tomatoes, rather than little cherry tomatoes.  I tend to alternate between the two and this week I picked salad tomatoes purely based on price and that they’re better to make tomato sandwiches with (in my opinion) as they’re larger, so less likely to drop onto my lap when I’m eating 🙂
  • Boiled Eggs – I’ve got a microwave egg boiler that makes four boiled eggs.  I just add water, add the eggs and microwave for 10 minutes and I’ve got four hard boiled eggs.  Cool these quickly in a bowl of water, then dry the eggs off and put them into a small lidded box, or just a small freezer bag – I’ll usually use a freezer bag, then place the bag in an old margarine tub just to help with stacking/moving fridge items.around. I always keep them in the shells once boiled as a boiled egg will keep for 1-2 weeks, I just shell an egg when I want it.
  • Grated Cheddar – I’ll buy large blocks of cheddar (1Kg) then cut the block into chunks that fit into my cheese grater.  I’ll then just be able to grab one block of the right size each time I want to make a batch of cheddar.  I’ll typically grate 80-100 grams of cheese at a time, grated directly into a lidded takeaway box and put into the fridge.
  • Red Peppers – I bought a pack of three peppers (red, yellow, green).  I’ll just cut one up at a time as they keep better uncut.  I’ll put some foil into a takeaway box and cut the pepper into the box, then fold the tin foil over and put the lid on the box.  This keeps the peppers fresher for longer.
  • Coronation Sauce Pasta Salad – this could’ve been any pasta salad, but this week I made a coronation sauce pasta salad just to give a little bit of “flavour” to the salad.
  • Cocktail Sausages – I bought a 400g pack of ready-cooked cocktail sausages.  These I’ll keep in their original packaging until I’ve opened the pack.  Once opened I’ll transfer them into a lidded takeaway box.  I’ll slice up individual cocktail sausages at the point when I’m actually building a single portion of salad from my salad buffet selection.  I buy sausages ready-cooked as it saves the faff of cooking them myself.  They freeze and are great on top of pizzas, or added into pasta salads, too.  I’ll slice each cocktail sausage into 3-4 long lozenges, or slice them into halves or thin round slices at the point when I’m throwing items onto my dinner plate.
  • Chillies – I bought the chillies as I can just grate them straight onto the top of a salad if I wish.  But, the interesting thing about chillies is you can freeze them simply by tossing them into the fridge. So I know if I don’t get round to using them I can just freeze the chillies without any effort at all.

Salad Buffet! Salad Buffet Fridge

With all of that lot boxed up and ready to go in the fridge, I can now simply open the door and pull out neat boxes of what I want to put into a salad.  As the days progress and an item runs out I can then add a new item into the salad buffet, so every day I get a different meal!

The photo shows, on the left, two boxes of lettuce, grated cheddar, foil covered peppers and coronation sauce pasta salad; on the right are the cocktail sausages, salad tomatoes, 2 spare peppers, chillies and boiled eggs at the top.  I’ll admit that I did stack them up just to fit them in the photo – the spare peppers are actually now in the salad drawer and the chillies I decided were better off on the worktop.  The eggs are in a margarine tub, but that wasn’t photogenic 🙂

For lunch today I’ll probably make a Sausage & Egg salad.

Items that might be added into a typical salad buffet over the week would be:

  • Potato Salad, plain, spicy or dressed
  • Coleslaw Salads
  • Tuna – just a tin of tuna or I might mix it with mayo/sweetcorn so it’s like a sandwich filling
  • Grated carrot, with or without sultanas/orange juice. Just a plain grated carrot is a great crunchy salad item
  • Rice salad – one of my favourite summer rice salads is my minty pea rice salad.

Store Cupboard Staples:

To help a salad along, I’ll also sometimes have in the cupboard a jar of pickled beetroot, this is great as it keeps (for years if you looked in my mum’s cupboard!), or a jar of pickled red cabbage.  Having tasty chutneys to hand is good too as a dollop of, say, a tasty chutney, can go great with the sausages.

If you find salads “boring” and you avoid them, then feel a pang of guilt about that, then this might be a way to motivate yourself

Catering for one can be a problem with salads as it’s tricky getting small quantities. Typical items I’ll go without might include radish (because it’s tricky buying one) or even spring onions (because they don’t sell them singly).

Some items are great in a salad, but then you have to think about the total volume you have to buy.  I like a spoon of cold baked beans, but I’d have to open a can for that.  Or a whole cucumber, I’d have to eat endless cucumber!  I buy about one cucumber per year as a rule.  The running buffet, adding in new items across the week, is what I’ve found motivates me into bothering to make salads and being interested in eating them!

#ZeroWaste

I run a #zerowaste policy in my house.  Everything I buy I have to eat, there is zero waste here – that means I have to think about each item as I buy it: How long does it last, how will I use it, will I actually be able to eat it all before it goes off, or will it simply become a Food Millstone round my neck!  #ZeroWaste means that you do have to rein in your choices, options and variety.  But, I never throw any food out.

Not Exciting!

What I’ve shown here isn’t actually exciting food at all, I’ll be the first to admit that, but the #zerowaste policy I have means I’m limited to what I’ll actually eat.  It’s just the basics, the building blocks of a salad.  A salad starter kit if you like.  What you make is up to you, the concept is that if you batch cook salads you’ve a ready made buffet of all your favourites to dip into.  To be honest, I struggle to choose as there are so many things I COULD have in there, but there is a limit to how much one person can eat before foods deteriorate.  However, if I suddenly do decide to eat something exciting, then I’ve got all the rest of the salad items ready made to accompany it!

Here’s One I Prepared Earlier: Batch Cooking Salads

As the saying goes, here’s one I prepared earlier.  Having gone through the “work” of building up the “Salads to Go” selection, I usually quickly box up a salad to grab.  I can’t face eating food immediately I’ve done all the work and the washing up/clearing away (although this batch cooking salads method does reduce the overall work/mess involved), so I like to walk away from it and relax.  So I usually make up an initial Salad Box just before I put all the boxes in the fridge, just to get started.  When I can then think of food again I know it’s there.

Today my “one prepared earlier” was simply a layer of lettuce, some grated cheese, red peppers, a tomato and a nice portion of the coronation sauce pasta salad. Having made up the box I then ate out of the box, no point creating additional washing up and putting it in a bowl!

Salad Sandwiches:

Having a salad buffet in the fridge also makes it easy for you to make some salad sandwiches, a variety of sandwiches, very quickly.  When the weather’s promising to be hot I’ll make up a salad buffet “just in case”.  I can then make some sandwiches for the beach in about 1 minute flat if I want a quick beach picnic, or if it turns out not so nice then I’ve still got a great healthy lunch just a minute away.

Packed Lunch Ideas:

Having a buffet ready made also makes it easier to make a quick packed lunch – you can either simply choose items and toss them into your lunchbox to take to work with you, or turn those ingredients into sandwiches.

“Batch cooking salads” is simply a time-saver and makes food more easily accessible when you want it in a hurry!

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