Pre-washed, pre-chopped, ready-to-go salad greens in sealed bags can be found in the produce department of just about every grocery store and supermarket.
Those bags are certainly a tempting option because what’s not to like about having someone else do all the work of chopping and then double- or even triple-washing? Even so, I don’t buy bagged salad but not be for the reasons you might assume.
Not fear of bacteria
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). I seriously doubt that any grocery store’s produce department is 100% bacteria-free. Watching customers touch and test fresh produce is one such indicator.
Not creepy contamination
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 concern 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 four times the cost of the bulk option to get my salad greens cut up, pre-washed, and then sealed in a plastic bag or box is just too hard to swallow.
As I write, Dole Hearts of Romaine prewashed and chopped in a 9-ounce bag is $3.49 at my supermarket. A fresh head of romaine lettuce is $1.49, or about $.83 for a 9-ounce equivalent. That’s a 420% markup! Granted, I get that there are prep, labor, and packaging costs required for the bagged option. But just seeing the difference in price makes me more than willing to handle all of that myself.
Bag vs. bulk
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, comes 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 and time-saving in that?)
I did my own time test. I washed and shredded an entire head of green cabbage using a sharp knife. I chose cabbage over Romaine lettuce for my test because, well, I love cabbage.
I was done— washed-to-finish in 7 minutes. I ended up with a great big bowl of beautiful, bright green, crunchy, fresh cabbage for our favorite coleslaw. It took another 5 minutes to make the yummy dressing. Total cost about $2, complete. Yum.
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?
Sweet Restaurant-Style Coleslaw
- 1 pound green cabbage, shredded
- 2 tablespoons diced sweet onion
- ¼ cup grated carrot
- ⅔ cup Miracle Whip, or mayonnaise is a fine substitute
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, or white vinegar
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- ½ cup white granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds
- 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.
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