Martha Stewart's Flavorful Secret For The Best Make-Ahead Salads

Martha Stewart's love for using Mason jars runs deep. These extremely handy containers were featured in the very first episode of her television show, "Martha Stewart Living." In the inaugural 1993 airing, she demonstrated how to use the jars to make cherry jam and preserves. Along with an introduction to canning, it also provided fantastic glimpses of her kitchen filled with hundreds of hermetically sealed glass jars of fruits and jellies.

Mason jars are good not only for storing food, but also for preparing and transporting it — which might be why they're Stewart's secret weapon for make-ahead salads. For one thing, they're leak-proof. Their lids stay on securely and create an airtight closure that prevents spills, and when vacuum-sealed, will keep germs out. There's no need to worry about tough lids either, because Martha Stewart even has a hack for opening stubborn jars. Their versatility provides a near-infinite amount of uses — plus, glass does not stain like plastic or other materials.

Whether you use them for make-ahead salads, overnight chia seed pudding, or potato salad, jars are practical for meal prep with the bonus of being an attractive way to serve food. Reusable and easy to clean — what's not to love? Fill them with snacks or a nutritious salad to take to work, or load them up with vegetables and brine to marinate on your counter.

Prepping salads in advance using Mason jars

Layering salads helps to keep their ingredients from getting mushy and infuses flavors where you want them. To do this effectively and keep everything fresh and tasty, put your dressing in as the first layer — keeping liquids at the bottom of the jar prevents soggy veggies. On top of the dressing, place foods that can handle being soaked in it or which are also wet, like tofu or tomatoes.

The following layers can be heartier ingredients like broccoli, sliced bell peppers, grilled chicken, kidney beans, or cubed cheese. Then add lighter items like shredded carrots or purple cabbage, and as the final layer, put greens like lettuce or spinach on top — this ensures they remain dry and that your salad won't wilt. You can sprinkle the lettuce with any toppings that also need to be kept crunchy, like fried onions, bacon bits, tortilla strips, or nuts.

To serve on the go, simply shake or stir, and eat straight from the jar. This works great for picnics, as well as for enjoying just-for-one at the office or on your couch — there's less mess and less to clean up. You can also dump your salad right into a bowl, mix it up, and enjoy. Use half-pint and pint jars for single servings, and larger Mason jars to feed more people.

The Martha Stewart way to feed friends and fix lunch

Far from being a mere sad sack-lunch affair, Mason jars can add convenience and drama to your meals. When planning your picnic menu or what you're going to eat throughout the week, channel your inner Martha Stewart to put together flavorful dishes that delight and satisfy. Mason jars can be filled with more than just simple salads. Everything from pickled vegetables, to soups, and even sweets can set the stage for your delicious movable feast.

For example, pack a chickpea, feta, and red onion picnic salad for something spicy and different. Foods are easy to keep cold in ice chests or insulated bags, so try filling jars with cold soups like chilled cucumber or gazpacho. Jars full of cherry tomatoes and balls of buffalo mozzarella marinating in balsamic vinegar make for a tangy and irresistible side. Heartier fare can include steamed potatoes with sliced beef marinated in a Thai-style lime vinaigrette, or a jar layered with peanut sauce, curried rice, and grilled shrimp.

Mason jars can, of course, also transport drinks and dessert. Fill gallon-sized jars with horchata or agua fresca for family-friendly beverages, or for adult gatherings, you can offer spiked sangria and mimosas ... excellent for brunch. For desserts, parfaits made with fresh fruit are as fun to layer into jars as they are to eat, while more decadent treats like chocolate mousse or ambrosia salad are perfect for spooning straight from the jar.