Salad’s in the Bag

I will tell you straight up that I do not buy bagged double- or triple-wash—or any other variety—of prepared greens that come in a plastic clamshell or bag. But not be for the reasons you might assume.

It’s not because I’m overly concerned that bacteria might make it through all that pre-washing in a chlorinated bath. Recent tests conducted by Consumer Reports did find bacteria that are common indicators of poor sanitation and fecal contamination, when they tested 4,000 samples of all kinds of packaged greens from baby greens to spinach, traditional and organic. As creepy as that is to think about, the report assures that the contamination falls within the FDA’s acceptable levels.

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It’s not even my concerns about just how long ago these greens were cut and washed. Granted, I am not a fan of limp, tired-appearing romaine, iceberg lettuce or cabbage. And even though I am a believer that once you wash, cut and prepare any kind of fresh produce—be it fruit or vegetables—the flavor and quality begin to degrade, that’s not it either.

Nope, it’s not any of those things that cause me to just walk on by that prepackaged section in my supermarket produce department.

The reason I don’t buy salad in a bag is the cost. I can’t bring myself to pay at least three times more to get my salad greens cut up, pre-washed and then sealed in a plastic bag or box. At my local supermarket, Fresh Express/9 ounce iceberg lettuce mix is $2.99. A head of iceberg lettuce is $.99/pound, or $.54 for a 9 ounce equivalent.

As I’ve queried readers and friends on the bag versus bulk question, the overarching reason so many people go for the prepackaged, triple-washed, salad greens in a bag, is down to one thing: time. Bagged salads are convenient and so easy to just grab and go. (Ironically, nearly everyone I’ve chatted with admits to rewashing those bagged salad greens, just to be on the safe side. So where’s all the convenience in that?)

Last night I did my own test. I shredded an entire head of green cabbage using a sharp knife. I was done start to finish in 7 minutes. I ended up with a bowl of beautiful, bright green, crunchy, fresh cabbage for our favorite coleslaw. It took another 5 minutes to make the awesome dressing. And the cost? About $1.30, complete. Yum.

Sweet Restaurant Slaw

  • 1 head green cabbage, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons diced onion
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black ground pepper


Combine shredded cabbage and onion in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Pour dressing over cabbage mix and toss to coat. Chill for 2 hours before serving. Servings: 6.

Question: Do you buy pre-packaged greens at your supermarket? If so, do you rewash them? Join in the conversation here


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  • We buy the prepackaged because my dh would rather do so – he likes all the added things like pea pods and the like. Pre-wash? If I remember to. 😉 Also, as for the coleslaw, he only like the prepackaged and one type of coleslaw mix – it’s in a jar – Marzetti’s. So, I figure it’s easier to keep him happy and if he grouses about the cost, I can mention buying everything and making our own and I hear, “No – I don’t want that”. LOL! Otherwise, I would gladly make my own.

  • Florida Reader

    The problem I have with prepackaged salads is that it turns brown if I don’t use it all when the package is opened and it doesn’t really taste as good as freshly made salad. If I need a large amount of tossed salad, I do buy the large package at Sam’s Club.

  • Kim Engel

    Iceberg lettuce has no nutritional value so that is why I buy the bagged or boxed lettuce. Also I can get a wide variety of dark leafy greens in one container. If I were to buy all the different types of lettuces that come in one box, then they would end up going bad and not getting used just because the quantity is too much for my small family. The size of the box/bags of lettuce make it easier to eat up in one or two meals.

  • Q

    If I rinse them again they go bad faster. On the other hand, if I turn the bag everyday, that last longer… I rinse them as I use them usually.

  • Julia

    Buying bagged lettuce is the biggest rip-off ever! I can even buy ORGANIC lettuce by the pound for less than bagged lettuce would cost! I wash all of my lettuce and veggies in apple cider vinegar diluted with water and some salt…. easy and cheap!

  • B

    With any salad greens main problem is keeping them from going bad. Best product found for keeping these fresh is oxo salad spinner..keeps spinach, romaine, etc fresh for week or more.

  • Sandra from MN

    What a great discussion! I’m a senior on fixed income that loves salads but not EVERY day. I too like the mix of ingredients, but not their individual cost. Every comment so far strikes this home at some level. When Cub offers BOGO, I know better eat fast, they’ve overstocked. Our Sam’s is offering 2 types of specialty mixes in smaller bags that I still have to gouge on to use up unless sharing with a friend. I do like head lettuce, can usually finish a head, try variety of toppings or sometimes just munch. Otherwise….the dilemma continues. Grocery prices are over the top! Thx BOEC!!!

  • *only* if the price has been heavily marked down. and then i’ll wash them thoroughly as if they’ve never been washed 🙂

  • Jeanette

    I don’t buy the pre-washed salad greens in bags. I wash and bag my own. Like to cut up lettuce, celery, green pepper, onion in bulk. This keeps in a bag in the refrigerator for quite a while, as long as tomatoes or other foods with a lot of juice, liquid are not added. It takes no time to add these and the dressing just before serving as most of the salad is already prepared. I find I eat more salads when I can just grab the bag of already washed and cut greens – it seems they are even more crisp than when just prepared.

  • Kacy

    I agree with this and mostly buy romaine lettuce heads to chop up instead but occasionally Meijer has bags of ready made Dole salad for only $1. When they have that special I do buy it.

  • Sharon

    I used to buy the bagged salad mix for the variety of greens that you can get all in one package. Besides the cost, I found that they do not hold up for more than a couple of days. I can buy a big head of Romaine and iceberg lettuce that will keep for the whole week. It is just my husband and I so we use a smaller quantity than a family would use.

  • Nyackgal

    Guilty…but because I like a variety of greens in my salad,and live alone,I find I get the different veggies I prefer without losing any to spoilage.Your solution is great for a family,but I’m a 69 yo widow who lives by herself!Yes,I do rehash them!

  • I read the article about salads only to find that the end is about Cole slaw. Cabbage lasts a lot longer than salad greens so I purchased cabbage and make my own. I was just wondering why you started talking about salad greens and then switched at the end to cabbage. The best way to get good greens is to grow your own in season and wash what you need before preparing. Eating foods in season would solve the cost and freshness problem. That would mean green salads in spring and fall and things like cabbage in winter since they store better.

    • Jean

      The article really is about cost. Bagged versus washing and cutting your own. Good article, Mary. And that cole slaw recipe sounds like a winner. Can’t wait to try it.

  • Beth

    I don’t use the prepackaged lettuces or greens. Just opening the bag emits a smell that makes me nauseous. I haven’t tried the mixes in the plastic boxes. I get romaine in a three or a six pack from Meijer or Sams. It stays good for three or more weeks; one head makes a salad for us – if there are left overs,it stays good for a day or two (so long as I remove any tomatoes); I don’t put dressing on ahead of time. We like different flavors, so we add it at the table. I do splurge on the dressing – Marzetti’s in the refrigerator section.

  • Pat

    Our 99 Cent stores sell packaged and boxed, some organic and with good dates. That is the only way I buy it now.

  • ellieinkentucky

    I never buy iceberg lettuce – doesn’t keep well, no nutritional value, blah taste. Love to grow my own lettuce in season – just plant a mixed variety package of seeds and you’ll have all kinds and colors of great fresh lettuce that you can pluck daily. Out of season I buy Romaine or curly leaf, whichever looks fresher and crisper, wash and tear up as much as I have time to, spin it dry and package in wax paper bags left over from cereal. Add a small damp piece of paper towel, roll closed and secure with rubber band and it will keep fresh and ready to throw a salad together for many days. Yes, I miss the variety of the packaged baby greens but don’t like the cost and other factors mentioned by others. Plant some this spring! You’ll love it.

  • As with others, I do buy the bagged lettuce to get the mix. I can’t afford to buy multiple heads of lettuce and there are only 3 of us, so it’s tough to get through even one bag before it goes bad. And no I don’t wash it. I do put it in a sealed bowl with a paper towel. That seems to help it last longer. And I say away from mixes with iceberg lettuce since there’s no nutritional value there. And my body doesn’t digest cabbage well so we never buy bagged or fresh cabbage.

  • Marsha332

    I do buy bagged spinach regularly and occasionally a spring mix. I’m the only one who eats them so I usually have to throw away about a quarter of the bag. and I’m guilty of hardly ever washing them. I’m never sick so that must be OK.

    • Emma

      you should stick part of the bag in the freezer and leave the rest (that you’ll eat quickyly) out. great in smoothies. or even to pull out and saute the spinach in a little olive oil later! that’s what i do for my little family of 2.

  • Marlene

    I buy romaine, bring it home, wash it, cut it up, add shredded carrots, sliced celery and shredded red cabbage. After it drains in the colander it goes into a plastic bag with several paper towels. A large handful makes a nice dinner salad to which I then add raisins, or whatever else we might want. This bag of salad ingred. will last in the refrigerator for at least 5 days and my salad making takes about two minutes to complete as I’m preparing dinner.

  • Farm Girl At Heart

    I to despise precut bagged lettuce. Her in the Pacific Northwest we have local Farmers that deliver Local non GMO, certified fruits and veggies to my door. I order exactly what I need and have it delivered every week. It is still less expensive to buy than bagged salads. To me the smell and flavor of bagged salads is very noticeable and seems very unnatural. I find the health benefits of fresh organic salad greens to be worth the 10 minutes it takes to prepare them.

    I also want to say that I work full time as a college professor and go to school full time for my doctorate so its not like I am oblivious to the benefits of convenience foods. Its just that School has forced me to save each and every penny I can and my health has taken number one priority in all of this as well. I cannot afford to get ill. I find that my fresh local grown organic diet has provided a huge health benefit in terms of weight loss, immune system strength and brain power! Thank you Mary for the comments I appreciated the Coleslaw recipe by the way. Very Yummy!

  • Kay

    The smell of some packaged greens is sickening. Sometimes I can even smell it at the salad bars in restaurants. I do love the spring mix. Don’t detect a smell with that. I do wash the packaged spring mix just like I wash all the produce.

  • Luann

    Ice berg lettuce is 95% water and little to no nutritional value, so I buy bagged spinach, etc. It doesnt make sense to buy heads of iceberg lettuce. As far as nutrtion is concerned Spinach beats it 1000 to 1. You want to get fuel for the dollar.

  • oldwomanmom

    I admit that I have a ‘lazy’ streak and of late, have been buying the mixed greens in bags and/or even ready made varieties of salads in the clamshells which come complete with dressing in a separate cup. In my itty bitty kitchen, I find it a hassle to pull out all the ingredients, if I even have them, and do a lot of chopping, slicing and dicing to get the same variety, and then still contend with waste because with buying each item individually, it may not get used before it spoils. So from a cost standpoint, for us, it’s been more costly to ‘do my own’ because it ends up in the compost bin.

    • Granny Nanny

      THANK YOU! You hit the nail on the head. The slaw has very few ingredients, but my Trader Joe’s classic greek salad has 13 ingredients which would cost me a fortune and probably not be all eaten up and therefore waste of money!

  • gayleanna

    Lettuce here in CT is almost $2 to $3 a head if not more and they seem to have the bagged stuff on sale more often. There are only 2 of us so there is waste but not as much as if I buy a head of lettuce.

  • I agree with Kim–it comes down to nutrition–which anything spinach and darker are the best for you. And buying each induvidually (if available), would be too pricey. Bottom line, it is my and my husband’s way to get our kids extra nutrition. BTW, I don’t wash the bagged/boxed stuff.

  • Barb

    The main reason I buy prepackage salads is that if I buy a head of lettuce of cabbage over half of it get thrown away because it turns brown before I can use it. So I buy premade salads or package salads and they seem to go quicker and less waste. Throwing out half of my purchase versus eating it all saves me money.

  • Chaundel

    I love to get the organic boxes at the 99 cent store – sometimes the 11 ounce ones! Then I buy it. Love the convenience.

  • Gaynelle

    Guilty! I buy the mixed baby spring greens, spinach, and romaine in the bags. I only wash them if they have an “odor”. The two of us could not possibly eat all the varieties of lettuce we like if we bought them all separately before they spoil. I admit that they are expensive, but feel that we waste less by buying them, and it also encourages us to eat more greens if they are ready to go.

  • Nancy Bronkema

    I buy bags because there’s more than just lettuce in the bag and I like the additions. Same with cabbage. I have heard it’s cheaper to buy spinach from the salad bar at the local grocery store than from the produce section

  • teresa

    Romaine is better nutritionally, and I can make a salad for my husband and I which we have with dinner almost every night. Their are about 10 different things in my salad including hard boiled eggs and it only takes me 10 minutes to chop everything my self.

  • ernestine

    Not usually, and probably will less now! My son does, and when he is visiting, I eat what he cooks. I may have a hard time now. (The things you listed that remain in the “washed” bagged greens). What bothers me the most about the cabbage for slaw is, I don’t like shredded cabbage, I like grated cabbage. I have not seen any in the grocery stores in bags and it takes too long to do it at home, especially since slaw lasts such a short time, except the kind with sugar and vinegar, which I also don’t like. So there I am, out of luck.

  • ernestine

    Some of you have been as badly informed as I was about the nutritional value of iceberg lettuce. It is NOT worthless nutritionally! It is below the greener ones for vitamins/minerals but it does have a significant amount of them, as well as fiber and water, two things we are told constantly to get enough of. All vegetables are high in water content, not a reason to avoid any of them. Don’t deny yourself ice berg if you like the taste of it, as I do, based on faulty information.
    Somebody put this out on iceberg years ago and everybody ran with it, without doing their own research. We really need to stop being lemmings. I know, most of us don’t have the time to do all the research and we tend to trust those who are supposed to know.

  • I will do both. I like the bagged to make a quick salad but a head for sandwiches. I will only by a bag when it runs around $1 which it isn’t any more. I keep an eye out for managers specials. We just got a bag of cole slaw mix for $.49 this way. I have bought the clam shells. I do think they keep lettuces like romaine fresher but I’ve kept the containers & reused them. Ideally the best lettuce is what I grow in my window boxes in the summer. Nothing like fresh picked salad.

  • Craft crazy

    I do purchase the packaged salad and the reason I do is because I get the mixed greens I find it cheaper to purchase that than to purchase each one separately. I save money and don’t waste food by eating what I want and it bot spoiling before I can eat it.

  • Sue in MN

    I buy bagged pre-mixed salad blends when we’re “on the road” with limited refrigeration & storage. Making a large salad & pairing it with grilled fish or meat & a potato is still a lot cheaper than eating out.
    At home I buy fresh, whole ingredients & create my own washed & crisped “blend” & store in the produce-saving green bags. If they start to go bad before we eat them up, they go to my daughters’ pets as extra treats. I never buy prepared cabbage – it is much more appealing to us freshly shredded then mixed with bottled dressing and other ingredients like carrots, dried fruit, apples, or shredded jicama or radishes – whatever the local farm stands or coop is offering. As for the dressing, if folks don’t like vinegar-based slaws, try raspberry or balsamic vinagerette, ranch, Italian, poppyseed or your other favorite salad dressing.

  • sadnana

    I never buy bagged greens. Not only do they cost more per ounce but they go bad more quickly. I use a salad spinner to remove as much water as possible from whole head lettuce (usually Romaine) that I tear myself. I store any leftover lettuce in a ziplock bag in the frig. It usually keeps well for 4-5 days and that is all the time we need as lettuce goes quickly at our house.

  • Becky

    I will occasionally buy the spinach or spring salads but I do always wash them when I get home and I only buy them when they are on sale AND I have a coupon. Through practice I have learned to core and chop a head of cabbage for slaw in under 5 minutes, my grandmothers slaw dressing takes another 2 minutes. Just like growing your own (in southern FL it’s hit or miss whether it will be consistently cool enough for us to grow lettuces) takes more time and effort, gaining the confidence to prepare from scratch the meals your family eats is well worth the effort. My husband and I both work full time jobs but have managed to eat home cooked meals with our 2 sons (now grown) 6 nights a week for over 30 years. Like anything else, a good habit takes work and commitment. It is sooo worth it!

  • Barbara Leppold

    For the slaw recipe I also add a small can of Doles crushed pineapple or apple sauce. Try it, you’ll like it.

  • Mary, I am surprised that you did not include the gatheing of all ingredients & tools, as well as the clean up & putting all away in its place. When one includes all that, now, how long does it take in addition to the 12 minutes for shredding, whisking and mixing??????

  • Zaida L

    Zaida … Iceberg has no nutritional value, it is what you might eat when on a diet, just lots of water. I do buy organic Sping mix, and organic spinach… I rinse it, add cucumbers, tomatoes,avocado, cranberries, sliced almonds, wow, you can be as creative as time allows. Dark greens have anti- oxidants, keeps your immune system strong…. You are what you eat!!!

  • Sandy in MI

    I am a nurse, and as concerned as I am with the bacteria question, I do buy & eat bagged salad mixes and eat them without re-washing them. When they first came out it really didn’t occur to me, but in recent years it has crossed my mind that re-washing might be a good idea. Then I think back. I have never been sick ever from not re-washing my salads, and considering how often I eat them (>5x/week), I am not going to worry about it.

  • Sanuk

    I do not buy bags of salad greens because I read you have a much bigger chance of contamination from huge bins of different heads shredded produce than from chopping from just one that you wash and control.