bagged salads in grocery store produce department

The Best Reason NOT to Buy Prewashed Salad in a Bag

I don’t buy bagged double- or triple-wash salad in a bag but not be for the reasons you might assume.

bagged salads in grocery produce department

It’s not because I’m overly concerned that bacteria might make it through all that pre-washing in a chlorinated bath (although tests conducted by Consumer Reports did find bacteria that are common indicators of poor sanitation). Show me any produce in any grocery store’s produce department that is 100% bacteria-free. Watching customers touch and test fresh produce is just one indicator.

It’s not the rumors of fecal contamination, when samples of all kinds of packaged greens from baby greens to spinach, traditional and organic were tested. As creepy as that is to think about, even Consumer Reports assures that the contamination falls within the FDA’s acceptable levels.

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, brown-ish, 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.

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

The reason I don’t buy salad in a bag is the cost. Paying at least three times more to get my salad greens cut up, pre-washed, and then sealed in a plastic bag or box is too hard to swallow.

At my local supermarket, Dole Hearts of Romaine Salad Mix/10-ounce romaine lettuce mix in a bag is $3.59. One large head of romaine lettuce is $1.49 each, or $.93 for a 10-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 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 weekend I did my own time test. I shredded an entire head of green cabbage using a sharp knife. I chose cabbage for my test over Romaine lettuce because, well, I love cabbage.

I was done from washed-to-finish in 7 minutes. I ended up with a big bowl of beautiful, bright green, crunchy, fresh cabbage for our favorite coleslaw. It took another 5 minutes to make the awesome dressing. Total cost about $2, complete. Yum.

sweet restaurant-style coleslaw in a white bowl
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5 from 3 votes

Sweet Restaurant-Style Coleslaw

If you've ever wished you could duplicate the coleslaw served at popular fried chicken or fish restaurants, here's your dream-come-true. It's excellent with burgers or on top of pulled pork sandwiches, too. Or all by itself.
Prep Time20 mins
Chill in the refrigerator2 hrs
Total Time2 hrs 20 mins
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6
Calories: 114kcal
Author: Mary
Cost: About $2.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound green cabbage, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons diced sweet onion
  • ¼ cup grated carrot
  • cup Miracle Whip, or mayonnaise is a fine substitute
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, or white vinegar
  • ½ cup white granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds

Instructions

  • In a large bowl, combine cabbage, onion, and carrot.
  • In a smaller bowl, whisk together Miracle Whip or mayonnaise, oil, sugar, vinegar, salt, pepper and poppy seeds.
  • Pour dressing over cabbage mixture and toss to coat.
  • Chill for 2 hours before serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 114kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 3mg | Sodium: 338mg | Potassium: 159mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 22g | Vitamin A: 985IU | Vitamin C: 28mg | Calcium: 37mg | Iron: 1mg

Prewashed tips

If you still prefer to purchase prewashed salad greens, follow these tips:

  • Buy packages as far from their use-by date as you can find.
  • Even if the bag says “prewashed” or “triple-washed,” wash the greens yourself. Rinsing won’t remove all bacteria but may remove residual soil.
  • Prevent cross-contamination by keeping greens away from raw meat.

Question: Do you buy pre-packaged greens that come in a bag or box? If so, do you rewash?


NEXT UP:

How to Make Your Own Highly Effective Fruit and Vegetable Wash

Smart Saving Tastes Like Chicken

11 Practical Ways to Stretch Your Food Budget

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27 replies
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  1. DD says:

    I make a slaw that is really good. Similar to yours but I use Apple Cider Vinegar instead of white vinegar, and coconut sugar (1/8 to 1/4 cup max) for white sugar. Onion powder if out of onion. No need for salt, pepper and certainly not vegetable oil which is really bad for you (could use extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil if you prefer using oil). I add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup raisins or craisons or similar, and about 1/4 cup sunflower seeds or pepitas or such. And Avocado oil mayo instead of regular mayo. Always use organic when you can. These ingredients are much more flavorful as well as much better for your health. And yes, it is sweet taste.

    Reply
  2. MaryTX says:

    I realize it is cheaper to buy individual greens but we don’t eat many salads. I think it’s cheaper to pay $3.59 for a bag of greens with several types of items in it rather than pay $1.49 for lettuce, and “x” amount each the other items. I’ve tried it both ways and since we don’t eat many salads, the greens etc spoil before we can use them up.

    Reply
    • Elle says:

      MaryTX,
      I used to have that problem all the time but not anymore. Now if I have salad greens that are getting too old, I sauté them quickly and eat them hot. I know it sounds strange, but it tastes great!

      Reply
      • Gur8 says:

        5 stars
        Thats what I do too! Its like Asian takeout at home but u can actually be sourced organic! Woot woot!

  3. Bonnie Alcorn says:

    I recently read that when buying bagged salads, one should always buy the flattest package, as it will be the freshest. The rationale behind this is that when salads are packaged, they vacuum all the air out of the package. As the greens age, they emit certain gasses that cause the bag to puff up again. Theoretically, the flat packages must be fresher because they have not had time to emit any gasses yet. What is your feeling on this?

    Reply
  4. Norma Oren says:

    Why not make your own wash for fruit and veggies? I have used this for years. How many?? I have made and used this for years. 1 cup water, 1/3 cup white vinegar, 2 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice. Put in spray bottle. Keep handy on or under sink. I spray everything and let sit for 2/3 mins. rub and rinse well before refrigeration.If you have a spinner, use it before refrig.

    Reply
  5. Candy Stephens says:

    My frustration with washing greens is that I’m very picky about getting them dry. Any advice? I’ve never owned a salad spinner but is that worth the money and having another kitchen gadget to store?

    Reply
    • Paula J. Durrance says:

      I love my salad spinner as the salad greens end up crisp and dry. It also works great for spinning excess water out after cooking frozen spinach to use in a quiche or similar recipe. I used to have a friend who threw her washed salad greens into a clean pillow case & ran it through the spin cycle in her washing machine with essentially the same results as a salad spinner, lol

      Reply
    • Donna says:

      Hi Candy,
      Here is what I do. I fill my sanitized sink with fresh water and immerse the greens. Next I rinse a handful at a time under running water and place in a colander to drain. Then I put the greens in a large dish towel (flour sack cotton works best) bring all four corners together and take it outside on my desk and whirl it around quickly. that removes most of the water. Next it goes into a ziplock bag in my crisper. Hope that helps!

      Reply
      • Nancy Settle says:

        My mother always did that, so I do also. Only change, shake most of water of while still in the colander then put in cloth bag. No need to go outside .

    • Jan says:

      Yes it’s totally worth the price for a salad spinner. OXO makes a small one which makes it easier to store. It makes the greens as dry as bagged product.

      Reply
    • Cathy says:

      I use my salad spinner for salad greens and any veggies I want to wash and have dry before sautéing. I store it inside my large dutch oven in my cupboard so it doesn’t take up extra space.

      Reply
    • Gur8 says:

      5 stars
      I have VERY fond memories as a child of being the official nightly salad spinner.
      It gave me a chore/ responsibility/ respectability of contributing.
      Its such a fun and vigorous activity for kids, always causing laughs to get it going, or to see that in-motion arm spin uncontrollably after release.
      Its made of plastic and working parts, kids LOVE both those things. And kid-powered engines FUEL their creative minds. I would play with the spinner even if there wasnt salad in it. Think about those old kid-powered mary-go-rounds, the Sit’nSpin, and now thise fidget spinners.
      For adults, its a mindless task that u can carry over to the TV, or do while walking anywhere, barely matters if its spun upright or not.
      For storage, there’s 3 parts: A bowl, the salad cage, and the armed lid. U can reuse the bowl for anything, including baking mixes and salad eating. Its double duty, not just for washing.

      Reply
  6. Gina Stevens says:

    One of the news shows viewed a “washing station” for one of the major-brand bagged salads. The station itself was filthy, but it met the standards of the FDA.

    Reply
  7. Roz says:

    I do buy the bagged mixes. I cook for one and to have a nice variety of vegetables, I’d have to buy too many separate greens and they’d go to waste before I could finish them.

    Reply
    • Pat C says:

      Same for me. Plus I live in a high rise condo so growing anything is out of the question. But mostly because I really don’t like veggies and any thing that makes it more work means I won’t bother. And I really should eat more veggies. Same reason I buy the prepared tray of crudités. If I have to cut them up, it won’t happen. I know it’s terrible financially, but if I have to chose between convenience and cost for veggies, I’ll chose convenience.

      Reply
      • Linda says:

        If you have about a square foot of space, even in a dark corner, you can have herbs, salad greens or cherry tomatoes all year long. My Aerogarden is ripening cherry tomatoes here in MICHIGAN in January. I will grow salad greens next. No fear of contamination and no prewashing required.

  8. Carolyn says:

    I do not buy. Grow my own assorted greens year ’round in small growing spaces. Clean. Organic. No one else’s germy hands have touched. Extremely fresh (always). Convenient. Rinsed with purified water (not chlorinated public).

    Reply
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