Like many people, when the need to eat comes on strong and fast, I don't usually want to take the time to prepare something healthy. After all, it's much easier to satisfy the pangs with a frozen steak-and-cheese burrito or a bag of chips. But when The Simple Jar delivered a five-pack of salads in a jar to my doorstep, suddenly this good-for-you vs. instant-gratification dilemma was solved. Snackers just might reach for vegan, gluten-free salad if it's there and ready; I know I did.
Situations like this are exactly why owners Rudi and Collin Rankin started this small company out of a commercial kitchen earlier this year. The idea came to the couple after attending a salad-in-a-jar party at a friend's house.
"We fell in love with the idea of jar salads, and having a week’s worth of ready-to-eat salads in the fridge made a big difference in our busy lives," Rudi says. "The only problem was that everyone was too busy to meet every weekend, and rather than give up on this method for healthy eating, we seized the opportunity to bring people all of the benefits of having weekly jar salads without any of the work."
So far, the Simple Jar has five gluten-free and vegan options to choose from. Based on seasonality, the list includes a simple Caesar with walnuts, vegan Parmesan and romaine; a spicy Southwestern salad packed with corn, lettuce, avocado, pickled jalapeño, quinoa, kale, cilantro and beans; a Greek blend comprising tofu feta, rice pasta, tomatoes, cucumbers, kalamata olives and red bell peppers; the spinach-focused basil pesto salad with leafy greens, tomatoes, pine nuts, garbanzo beans and roasted garlic; and the Thai noodle salad, made with green and purple cabbage, ginger-sesame baked tofu, mung bean noodles, red and green bell peppers, carrots, jalapeños, green onions, cilantro, mint and peanuts. Each comes with its own housemade dressing on the bottom, with a layer of firmer ingredients (think beans, peppers or nuts) between the dressing and the more delicate greens.
Each jar comes layered like a rainbow of fresh, tasty food. Once you're ready to eat the salad, simply shake it up to marry the dressing and flavors and empty the jar into a bowl. Or, eat out of the jar if you're so inclined or happen to have brought the jar to work and don't have an extra container. You can also put it in a wrap, or add any protein to it for an even fuller meal.
"Today, everywhere you go, you're surrounded by so many quick-serve and fast-food options, and it's far too easy for people to not eat a healthy meal," says Rudi. "With the Simple Jar, we want to change this by making ready-to-eat healthy meals as convenient, delicious and affordable as the other options, because people shouldn’t have to make a trade-off between ease and convenience and wholesome nutrition."
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The Simple Jar offers free delivery of three or five jars a week, at $34.99 and $49.99 respectively. The first order comes with a cooler bag and ice packs, and the idea is to keep everything eco-friendly and trash-free. When you're ready for the next delivery, just put the bag with your empty salad jars and frozen ice packs on the porch, and the Simple Jar will pick them up and replace the empty jars with full ones. There's no need to sign any contract, and customers can skip weeks or cancel at any time.
My family tried a week of salads, sampling each one. One day I had a salad for a quick lunch while my toddler downed his macaroni and cheese. The Southwestern salad became lunch for a hungry welder the next day, and the Greek was enhanced with a tuna steak for his dinner. We split the Thai option and added roasted beets and fried tofu on the side, and the final salad got eaten ravenously for an early, mid-morning lunch.
I thought it would be hard to go through five salads in five days, but after only three days, they were gone and I wished there were more. Luckily for me, it's easy to order another round with a simple click of a button. The Simple Jar delivers to a fairly large swath of Denver; you can check to see if you're in the zone by entering your zip code on the company's website.