Years ago I heard of a new peanut-butter product. It was peanut butter packaged like individually-wrapped cheese “singles” that was intended to be used to make peanut-butter sandwiches. For people who are just too busy to open a jar and use a knife to transfer peanut butter from the jar to the bread. Yes, this was actually a thing. (You can look it up, the product was called P.B. Slices.)
If the idea of peanut-butter slices strikes you as both stupid and utterly unnecessary, then maybe you can understand one of my objections about bagged salad. What’s so hard about buying a head of lettuce and cutting it up?
Sure, I understand that people will pay for convenience — and people can save money by not paying for convenience. And I guess that bagged salad can have different kinds of lettuce and people might not want to buy whole heads of 3 or 4 different kinds of lettuce. Okay.
But there’s another problem with bagged salad and it’s the simple fact that it’s not good. It doesn’t taste good. It’s old. Saggy and soggy. Dead. Maybe, just maybe, if you eat them immediately, like within an hour or two, after they were purchased, they might be acceptable. If you store them at home for a day or two, you’ve usually got wilted, lifeless, and sometimes slimy salad greens. Lettuce and other salad greens don’t last long after being sliced into salad-sized pieces. I’m sure they were fine when they were in the bagged-salad factory. But after salad assembly in the factory, the packing, trucking, unpacking, shelving, carting, carrying, and storing before they get into your bowl is more than they can withstand. I look on bagged salads as another example of the dumbing-down of American food culture. A systematic lowering of our standards. We’ve given up good salads for convenience, and paid more in the bargain.
While bite-sized pieces of salad greens don’t have much of a shelf life, whole heads of lettuce last a reasonably long time in the fridge.
If you want better and less costly salad, buy lettuce by the head. When I want salads at work, I buy bag of whole hearts of romaine and a carton of tomatoes. Before I go to work I wash one or two romaine hearts and a few tomatoes in cold water and pack them in my salad container (which originally held a Chicken Caesar Salad from Costco). Maybe add a bit of shredded cheese if there’s any in the fridge. I keep a bottle of salad dressing in the fridge at work. Maybe someday I’ll have some croutons to take; it hasn’t happened yet. Note that I don’t “make” the salad before work, I just put the whole romaine hearts and whole tomatoes in the container. I do all the “work” at lunchtime, just before I eat. Slice the tomatoes with a plastic knife. Cut off the ends of the romaine hearts, maybe take off the outside leaves. A few more cuts and slices and I’ve got a beautiful and tasty salad that no bagged salad can even begin to compete with. It takes about a minute to prepare. If you calculate how much time it takes to make the salad yourself and consider how much money you save by doing so, you’ll find you’ve given yourself a job that pays, on a per-hour basis, several times minimum wage. Too bad only a minute or two of this work is available each day.
I leave the salad dressing in the fridge at work because if I’ve got several hearts of romaine and a carton of tomatoes that means I’ll eat salad for lunch for 2 or 3 days. The romaine I eat on the third day is as good as the one I had on the first day. No bagged salad can match that.
Better. Costs less. Saves money. What’s not to like?