5 Make-Ahead Mason Jar Salads Perfect for Back-to-School Lunches

5 Make-Ahead Mason Jar Salads Perfect for Back-to-School Lunches

by M Caroline
affiliate disclosure

This make-ahead mason jar salads post is sponsored by the Dairy Processors Association of Canada.

Need easy and healthy ready-made mason jar lunch salads for back to school?

These mason jar lunches for school are sure to please even the pickiest eater, and they make packing back-to-school lunches a breeze.

mason jar lunches for kids

It feels like summer just started yesterday, but believe it or not, back to school is here in just a few short weeks.

One of my favorite ways to cut back-to-school stress is to plan ahead, with easy, make-ahead school lunches prepped and ready to go. Pulling one of these ready-made mason jar lunches for kids out of the fridge in the morning means that school mornings aren’t quite so hectic!

Every one of these salads is made with simple ingredients you should have in your pantry, or that you can pick up at any grocery store.

Even though they’re pretty to look at, these lunches are also realistic to make. There’s no Pinterest-perfect trickery here. The salads you make should look almost exactly like these.

Make-Ahead Mason Jar Salads

We’re a busy family; probably a lot like you. It’s often hard to grab a healthy meal when we’re on the go, but meal prep makes that easy.

I’ve made all of these salads with simple, wholesome ingredients like fresh bocconcini cheese, shredded cheddar, and fresh tortellini, coupled with fresh fruit and veggies, and whole grains.

mason jar salad meal prep

If you can’t tell by now, we’re huge fans of quality dairy in our house. It’s so tasty, and dairy is such an easy way to contribute to a healthy and balanced diet.

We all need plenty of healthy nutrients and vitamins, which are found in dairy, to help us with in the healthy, active lifestyle we want, no matter our age.

Making Lunches Easy with Meal Prep

These mason jar lunch salads are perfect meal prep. They make it quick to make lunch every day for a week for your family. You can also make extra salads to use as sides for dinner time.

I especially love making extras of the Greek yogurt and mixed berry fruit salad parfaits for easy, to go breakfasts.

Strawberry Blueberry Parfait with Greek Yogurt in a Mason Jar

You can make all five of these salad recipes in one week, if you’re feeling ambitious. To make things simple, you could just make five jars of just one of the recipes, or make two jars of one recipe, and three of another.

Helpful Tips for Making Mason Jar Salads for Kids

Life’s complicated enough. Life as a parent is especially complicated, so I’ve answered some of the most commonly asked questions about mason jar meal prep for kids below.

Won’t Glass Jars Break? Is There an Alternative?

I used regular pint sized glass mason jars here, because they’re just so darn pretty. My kids are also a little older, and at 13 and 17, can be (mostly) trusted to take glass jars to school without breakage.

mason jar lunches for kids

For younger kids, or kids that are more likely to break glass, plastic jars are a great alternative. You can buy plastic mason jars at most major retailers.

Get Plastic Storage Lids for Your Mason Jars

If you choose to use glass jars, pick up some plastic storage lids. The metal lids and rings that come with the jars can rust in the refrigerator, but a plastic lid prevents rust.

Can I Use Store Bought Dressing?

Of course! Use store bought dressing – anything that makes mornings easier for you!

I’ve used simple ingredients to create homemade dressings for each salad, but if you want to make it easier, just substitute your favorite store-bought dressing.

Can I Make the Salads Bigger?

Each recipe makes one 500 ml (pint sized jar) salad. Because these recipes have kids in mind, I kept the quantities a little bit smaller, so they’re perfect for smaller appetites. To make a one liter (quart) sized salads for bigger appetites, just double each salad recipe.

Greek salad in a mason jar with Chickpea Cherry Tomato and Feta

Do the Jars Need to Be Vacuum Sealed?

You don’t need the lids to vacuum seal to keep these salads fresh. Just make sure the tops are screwed on firmly, and the lid is closed.

How Long will the Salads Keep?

These salads will keep four to five days in the refrigerator.

Can You Freeze These Salads?

No, unfortunately, these salads don’t freeze well, because of the fresh lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes and other ingredients.

It’s all about the dairy goodness

These salads are packed with delicious, wholesome ingredients like fresh veggies, cheese tortellini. creamy Greek yogurt, fresh bocconcini cheese, shredded cheddar, and fresh fruit. So good!

Mason Jar Salads for School Lunches

A lunch that’s made with dairy, and foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains, can help children meet the recommended daily intakes of nutrients and vitamins.

I was inspired to add more delicious dairy products to these recipes, since the Dairy Processors Association of Canada is sponsoring this post.

Like we learned in school, dairy products have long been recognized as an important part of a balanced diet. I wanted to point out some of the health benefits of the dairy products I used in these salads.

  • Greek yogurt – Health Canada recommends kids get between 1000 and 1300 mg of calcium each day for proper bone development. There are over 220 mg of calcium in just one cup of Greek yogurt!
  • Feta cheese – Dairy contains vitamins and minerals such as calcium and vitamin B12, and includes bioactive peptides, which can be beneficial for cognitive development (source).
  • Cheese tortellini – Milk, cheese and yogurt have the calcium and vitamins that growing children need for healthy bone development.
  • Cheddar cheese – Studies suggest that milk and dairy products have the nutrients our families need to maintain and achieve healthy weights (source).

How to Make a Mason Jar Salad

Making a mason jar salad is simple process.

Basically, you make your salad in reverse. In a mason jar salad, dressing goes on the bottom, followed by proteins and grains, and then veggies. Leafy greens can get soggy if they come into contact with dressing or wet ingredients, so add your leafy greens last.

  1. First, get your ingredients and jars ready.
  2. Add your dressing to the bottom of the jar.
  3. Next, add your protein or grain.
  4. Add heavier ingredients next, then wet ingredients like tomatoes or apples.
  5. Finally, add leafy greens and toppings like nuts.
  6. Put on lids, and store in the fridge for 4 or 5 days.

Southwestern Cheddar, Corn, and Black Bean Salad

southwest mason jar salad with corn black beans and cheddar cheese

This recipe is my daughter’s favorite. She adores burritos, and this is basically the cold version of her favorite burrito recipe.

I’ve deliberately made this recipe extra simple for younger appetites, but you can easily add a few tablespoons of spicy salsa to the sour cream to spice it up a bit! Try some siracha in the dressing for an extra spicy, tangy kick!

Here’s what you’ll need for this salad. You’ll find the exact amounts in the recipe below.

  • sour cream
  • taco seasoning
  • salsa (optional)
  • black beans
  • corn
  • cherry tomatoes
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • lettuce

Mediterranean Feta, Grape Tomato and Chickpea Salad

Mediterranean Feta Grape Tomato and Chickpea Salad in a Mason Jar

If you love Greek salad, this one’s for you. I could eat this Mediterranean salad, with a simple homemade dressing, chickpeas, and creamy, delicious feta cheese every day!

You’ll need these ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • dried basil
  • dried oregano
  • chickpeas
  • grape tomatoes
  • black olives
  • cucumber
  • red onion
  • feta cheese
  • romaine lettuce

Pesto Pasta Salad with Mini Fresh Mozzarella Balls and Cheese Tortellini

Pesto Salad with mini bocconcini cheese and cheese tortellini

This recipe is absolutely packed with the goodness of dairy, with yummy bocconcini balls and fresh cheese tortellini taking center state.

It’s an especially tasty combination of the earthy, fresh tang of pesto, coupled with creamy tortellini and the fun squeak of the bocconcini / mozzarella.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • pesto
  • water
  • cherry tomatoes
  • fresh cheese tortellini, cooked
  • mini bocconcini cheese (mozzarella balls)
  • baby spinach

Quinoa, Cheddar and Apple Salad

Quinoa Cheddar and Apple Salad in Mason Jar

Oh my gosh, this salad surprised me by being one of my absolute favorites. It’s a delicious mix of sweet and tangy, with plenty of hearty goodness from the quinoa and cheddar cheese.

I used medium cheddar cheese in this recipe for younger palates, but substitute aged cheddar for an extra flavor kick.

These are the ingredients you’ll need for this recipe:

  • olive oil
  • apple cider vinegar
  • honey
  • cooked quinoa
  • Granny Smith apples
  • cheddar cheese
  • romaine lettuce
  • pecan halves

Mixed Berry Fruit Salad with Greek Yogurt Dressing

Mixed Berry Fruit Salad Parfait with Greek Yogurt in a Mason Jar

Now, I call this a fruit salad with Greek yogurt here, but it’s essentially a fruit parfait. Whatever you call it, it’s cool, creamy and packed with fresh fruit flavor.

This is such a simple recipe, and so, so good!

I used berries in this recipe because they hold up especially well when stored in the fridge, but you can substitute any fruit that you like.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • vanilla flavored Greek yogurt
  • strawberries
  • blueberries

More delicious dairy recipes:

Yield: 5 jars

5 Make-Ahead Mason Jar Salads for School Lunches

mason jar lunches for kids

These make-ahead mason jar lunches are perfect for back to school! They're made in one pint (500 ml) jars, which are perfect for smaller appetites, but you can easily double the recipe for bigger salads.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

Dressing for Southwestern Cheddar, Corn and Black Bean Salad

  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon taco seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 4 tablespoons salsa (optional)

Southwestern Cheddar, Corn and Black Bean Salad

  • 2/3 cup black beans
  • 1/4 cup corn
  • 1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup lettuce

Dressing for Mediterranean Feta, Grape Tomato and Chickpea Salad

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Mediterranean Feta, Grape Tomato and Chickpea Salad

  • 1/2 cup chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/8 cup olives, sliced
  • 1/4 cup cucumber, cut into 1/4″ cubes
  • 1/8 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup romaine lettuce

Dressing for Pesto Pasta Salad with Cheese Tortellini

  • 4 tablespoons pesto
  • 2 tablespoons water

Pesto Pasta Salad with Cheese Tortellini

  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup cheese tortellini, boiled and cooled
  • 1/4 cup mini bocconcini cheese (mozzarella balls)
  • 1/4 cup baby spinach

Dressing for Quinoa, Cheddar and Apple Salad

  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Quinoa, Cheddar and Apple Salad

  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked and cooled
  • 1/3 cup Granny Smith apples, cut into 1/4″ cubes (about 1 medium apple)
  • 1/3 cup cheddar cheese, cut in 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1/3 cup romaine lettuce
  • 3 pecan halves

Mixed Berry Fruit Salad with Greek Yogurt

  • 1 1/2 cups vanilla flavored Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup strawberries
  • 1/4 cup blueberries

Instructions

    1. Cook your make ahead ingredients: quinoa and cheese tortellini, according to package directions. Cool and store in the fridge.
    2. Mix your dressing of choice in a small bowl. You can also use store bought dressing to save even more time.
    3. Add dressing to the bottom of a 1 quart (500 ml) jar.
    4. Layer ingredients in the order listed. For example, for the Southwestern salad, add black beans first, followed by corn, then cherry tomatoes, then cheddar cheese, and top with lettuce.
    5. For the mixed berry fruit salad with Greek yogurt, layer half the yogurt, followed by half the berries. Repeat.
    6. Place lids on jars and store in fridge for up to five days.

Notes

Each recipe makes one 500 ml (quart sized jar) salad. To make a one liter (quart) sized salads for bigger appetites, just double each salad recipe.

You can make all five of these salad recipes in one week, if you’re feeling ambitious. To make things simple, you could just make five jars of just one of the recipes, or make two jars of one recipe, and three of another.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

5

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 636Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 54mgSodium: 469mgCarbohydrates: 51gFiber: 7gSugar: 19gProtein: 21g

Nutritional values are approximate, and will vary based on the ingredients in each jar. All information and tools presented and written within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information should only be used as a general guideline.

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