Salad in a Bag: Risks and Rewards

August 29, 2016   23 Comments

Have you noticed that the cooler in the produce section of bagged salads seems to be taking over?

Salad in a Bag

Every time I walk into my Stop & Shop or Trader Joe’s there seems to be one more “salad kit” or bag of greens waiting for me. Some of them make no sense to me (bagged kale? – how hard is it to tear and wash kale?) but there are times when I buy it.

I am not alone in my purchasing of these convenience salads.

From NPR:

Since 1985, our consumption of leaf and Romaine lettuce has more than tripled (from about 3 pounds per person per year, to more than 11 pounds per person), according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Isn’t that wonderful? It seems that bagged salads have increased our overall consumption of lettuce which we all know is a good thing.

But what are the risks? Can you really dump out the bag and simply eat the salad or do you have to wash it again? What about freshness? Is this plastic wrapped salad as good for you as a less processed head of lettuce?

It turns out that the growers have triple washed the salad and the amount of pathogens or bacterial equals the amount that you would have if you wash your own lettuce.

The bag of lettuce is made with a special plastic that helps it keep it fresh. These salads are shipped quickly from the processing plant and have been shown to maintain most of their nutrients. Obviously, the longer it sits there - the more brown it will turn but the supply chain has these out to your store very quickly.

But, what about the trash? So, there is no way to cushion the blow here. If you buy your lettuce without a plastic bag then you will be making more trash with the bagged salad. I reuse my plastic bags so I would be creating much more trash if I relied on the pre-bagged salad. Also, the bagged salads often cost twice as much or more than a fresh head of lettuce.

These are fresh, safe, and easy. But these bagged salads are environmentally more costly and more costly to your wallet.

Overall, I think bagged salads are a good thing. They make eating well easier and I am FOR that.

If you do have time, buy a lettuce spinner like the one below. I don’t have this one but I was in a rental house that had one – it is really sturdy and easy to use.

I will buy a head of lettuce, wash it and store it in the spinner in the fridge for when I want to make a fast salad.

What is your take on bagged salads? Do you buy them?

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First 20 Comments: ( See all 23 )

Yes, I'll admit I've succumbed to the bagged salads simply because of the ease of grab and go...I resisted for a long time buying all that prepared spinach, kale, lettuce but found so many times that my fresh spinach, kale, lettuce - full sized heads and leaves were left in the fresh drawer of my fridge a bit too long - and by the time I got to them for washing, drying, chopping, etc. they were looking less than appealing - so ended up getting tossed out. So I buy the spinach, etc. in those clear plastic bins and viola! It gets eaten on a daily basis because it's ready to go in the pan or on a plate; and the container goes into the recycle...better for me to eat all those greens more often and hopefully the recycling center is processing those clean containers appropriately. Occasionally one of those bagged salads gets away from me too...but at least the frequency of that happening is far less than previously. Just sayin' from my own experience, the easier it is for me to get it on the table at mealtime, the less waste I have from my own kitchen. Good subject!

I have purchased bagged salads before strictly for their ease. However, I can taste a difference in the lettuce. It could just be me, but it tastes chemicall-ly. If I absolutely have to buy them because I am close on time, I will re-wash the lettuce. I would always rather buy a head of lettuce, chop it, triple wash it myself, and store it in mason jars for a week's worth of freshness!!

I always have good intentions when I buy my fresh salad, but I have a hard time following through. Either I am in a hurry or just lazy so I now use the plastic container in the produce section. I like these better than the bags.

I do use pre package salads. I love them - I like the kits with everything including the dressing. Lazy - maybe but if I didn't have these, I know I wouldn't take the time to make it.

I agree with Simone, there is a "taste" other than veggies in the bagged salads. I don't buy them anymore.

I think they are great -wonderful varieties - I never taste any"chemical" and if it makes you eat salad more I'm all for it - we have enough to do witout having to re-wash things that don't need it- Just saying BTW- love your Blog - so sensible and helpful - thank you!

I agree with Simone too. I find Romaine has a week or more shelf-life if I wrap a paper towel around it or tuck one in the bag it comes in. For spinach or kale, I purchase these when I know I'll be using them within a day, in a planned menu. When they look extra fresh and beautiful, I'll buy and use them up quickly, sometimes in a quick soup if necessary. Spinach or kale don't live in my vegetable drawers-I store them in plain sight on a shelf so as not to forget them! :)

I do agree, there is a strange order to the bagged salad. I just get my romaine from costo and they even have little baby heads that work out just fine for my family.

I, as a rule, do not buy the salads in a packet. I find them to be very uneconomical. If you buy a fresh lettuce, its much cheaper and the quantity is certainly greater. I have on very rare occasions bought salad in bag but only in an emergency. I agree it is very handy to have the lettuce all clean and ready to use but I still prefer buying a fresh lettuce.

I became addicted to packaged Kale salads complete with package of dressing. They are delicious and always seem fresh. Was eating a pkg every day. However I became concerned not about the greens but about how healthy the dressing was. On the advice of the grocery clerk started buying bags/ boxes of greens (kale,Brussels sprouts,mixed cabbage etc) and make my own salad and dressing. Find the pre packaged greens get used and don't get left in my fridge to wilt like the bunches used to do. Better pre washed salads eaten up than wilted kale and Brussels sprouts in the garbage.

Lisa, that's a mighty nice salad spinner! I'm considering it because salads would be easier stored all ready to grab from the nice container. Nice price reduction too. Thanks for the tip!

I prefer the prepped lettuce in plastic containers rathert than in bags.I have a very sensitive sense of smell and I just don't like the "old" smell of the latter. In either case, I just wish there were smaller size packages available for people who live alone. I love mixed salads but by the time I add all the other ingredients I find that I'm left with greens that are noticeably beyond the "best before" date and they have to be tossed! I'm not always making soups in which i can include left-overs. What else CAN one do with aging

cut-up.greens? I can't stand wasting food - and especially money!

I have on occasion bought the bagged lettuce but also find that I do not care for the taste. They just seem to have an odd flavor that I can not get past. I always wash them again but it is still there so I buy fresh lettuce and wash it and put it in a ziplock which seems to keep it pretty well. I do however buy the "shreds" for tacos. They are so convenient!

I definitely prefer the boxes of fresh greens etc. I choose Organic whenever possible

I will sometimes by the hard plastic containers of spring mix and they taste fine. But I find the bags of salad and lettuce have an odor and smell that turn me off.

I Purchase The Relatively Flat Bagged Salad Items Because My Transportation Is A Bicycle,Two Baskets. Spherical Items Require Too Much Transportation Space To me. For Example I Purchase Bok Choy Because It Requires Less Transportation Space Then Cabbage.

I don't buy the bagged lettuce because they all have a funny "taste" and "smell". On occasion I will buy TJ Organic Romaine Lettuce Hearts and go through washing and spinning it out, but I try to buy lettuce from our farmers market during June-October.

I usually buy Organic Girl boxed spring greens. I find these stay fresher several days longer than any bagged salad greens. As for bagged salads, we generally don't care for the mixes. We buy fresh lettuce (romaine, red or green leaf, etc.) and then we mix the mixed spring greens into it for variety. When I have been really short on time or I am the only one eating, I do go to the grocery store and pick of just the right amount of greens for my personal-sized salad. No muss, no fuss, and no leftovers.

I agree with Simone above. I buy the salad in the hard plastic containers, as the lettuce or spinach lasts much longer. My husband makes a health shake every work day and we go through a lot of greens.

I occasionally buy the bagged salads cause I won't eat a head of iceberg myself, which for some reason is the only lettuce I don't choke on lately. i like the bagged cabbage cause it's just the right amount for me now for cole slaw. And even though they say they are triple washed, I still rinse them and let them sit a few minutes cause I don't want to get sick; it also probably rinses off any chemical odors from being in bag.

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