Can I share with you a little meal planning secret?
I’ve been using the same meal plan for breakfast and lunch since school started back in August.
And you know what? I love this! I love that I only have to sit down and plan dinner each week (from a list of favorite meals, and some “to try” meals that peak my interest). That, my friend, is how I’m simplifying life right now–consistency and routine (in the form of a rotating weekly menu) for breakfast and lunch, and variety and spontaneity for dinner.
I do add variety to this set plan by incorporating different fruits and veggies as they go on sale and now with the changing seasons, but for the most part, these meals are consistent and unchanging. Does my family get bored with this predictability? Not yet. Will I change my plan in the future? Definitely. Maybe I’ll create a new plan for breakfast and lunch in January, which we can use for the remaining months of the school year.
Without fail, carrots and celery are always served on the side of the lunch mains. Why? Because both are inexpensive (whether they’re from the local market or purchased from the grocery store) and both foods are staples in my fridge since they’re so versatile. Some weeks the lunchbox carrot and celery sticks are served with a dip (like a homemade ranch, hummus, or a roasted eggplant dip).
I personally don’t like to cut veggies every single morning, so I’ve added this task to my weekend prep time. It takes about 10 minutes for me to cut a bunch of carrot and celery sticks. I also cut some apple slices (soaking them in lemon juice and water before adding the slices to a storage container) and cucumbers. That, my friend, is time well spent. And doing this shaves off precious minutes from my morning routine. Those precious minutes, as all parents know, are incredibly valuable on a busy school morning. Every second counts.
If you’ve ever prepped carrot or celery sticks in advance, you’ve probably run into a major issue: limp, dry veggies. For a while, I continued to prep these veggies, despite this issue. I figured no one noticed how dry the carrots looked (and tasted) and how limp the celery was. My assumption was wrong.
After weeks of sending these veggies in the kids’ lunchboxes, Piper spoke up, “Mom, I don’t like the carrots in my lunch. They don’t taste good. And they’re so dry.” At the time, I didn’t know how to fix the issue, other than going back to slicing the carrots and celery each morning.
A couple of months ago, right after Piper’s confession, I walked into a local health food store and immeadiately noticed the prepared veggie section in the front of the store. The store had a bunch of pre-cut options, ranging from fruit to spiralized veggies, but that’s not what caught my eye. What caught my eye was the carrot and celery sticks, which were cut into slices and stored in water. “Hmmmm, could this be the answer to my carrot and celery issue?”
I immeadiately tried out the “hack” in my own kitchen–slicing carrots and celery and then placing the “sticks” in mason jars filled with water. The cut carrots and celery remained fresh and crisp for the rest of the week (7 days).
I’ve been using this hack to keep carrots and celery fresh and crisp for months now, and it hasn’t failed me once. The veggies always taste and look amazing, even on day seven. I’ve already described how this hack works, but I’ll spell it out in a more step-by-step way, below. Plus, there’s a video.
How to Keep Cut Carrots and Celery Fresh and Crisp: Prep Ahead Hack
Step One: Cut carrots and/or celery into sticks
Cut the carrots and celery into the desired sizes: sticks, coins, etc.
Step Two: Add carrots and/or celery to jars
Add the carrots and celery to mason jars or storage jars. I’ve found that wide-mouth mason jars work well for “sticks” since the pieces can stand up in the jars.
Step Three: Fill the jars with water and cover the carrots and celery in a water bath
Fill the jars with filtered water. Secure the lids on the jars.
Step Four: Store the carrots and/or celery in the fridge
Store the jars in the fridge for up to a week (I’ve gone a bit longer, too). Add fresh water to the jars every few days to keep things fresh.
More Produce Storage Tips
- How to Wash and Store Strawberries (and other berries)
- How to Freeze Fresh Strawberries and Blueberries
- How to Store Green Onions
- How to Wash and Store Leafy Greens: Lettuce, Kale, Spinach, Etc.
- How to Store Fresh Herbs
How to Keep Carrots and Celery Fresh and Crisp
- mason jar
- 1 quart-size mason jar
- Cut the carrots and/or celery into the desired sizes: sticks, coins, etc. I recommend storing the carrots in one jar and celery in another jar.
- Add the carrots and/or celery to mason jars or storage jars. I’ve found that wide-mouth mason jars work well for “sticks” since the pieces can stand up in the jars.
- Fill the jars with water. Secure the lids on the jars.
- Store the jars in the fridge for up to a week (or up to 2 weeks, maybe even longer!). Add fresh water to the jars every few days to keep things fresh.
Useful. Can I put carrots in a mason jar after peeling it? I’d rather have it ready to eat, is there a method?
Hey Walaa, You can use this same method with peeled or unpeeled carrots.
Would this also work with a plastic jar, like a clean peanut butter jar? My concern is a glass jar getting dropped on the floor. Thanks.
Hey Teresa, Definitely!
Thank you! I’ve already tried this in glass jars and it’s amazing how well the carrots and celery keep. I’m glad to know I can use plastic jars, since we have a ceramic tile floor in the kitchen.
Glad it’s helpful, Teresa!
Let me know if you try this trick!
Thank you for sharing this. Can you tell me how you store the apples and cucumbers that you mentioned? I would love to know about those so I can prep those ahead of time too. I want to know how long they stay fresh and how you store them:)
Hey Mariam, I squeeze lemon juice over cut apples, then place in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 2-3 days. And for cucumber, I cut and put in an air-tight container in the fridge, but if they’re extra “wet” (depending on variety), you can place a papertowel or napkin at the bottom of the container first, then add the cucumbers over top.
I like to buy the small English cucumbers. They are usually about 4-5 inches long and you don’t need to peel them. What is the best was to store them?
If you want to store them cut, I would slice them, then place in a glass container with a papertowel at the bottom for up to 4 days.
Does the water have to be filtered?
Hey Riddy, It doesn’t need to be filtered.