Produce Prep Part 1: Storing Vegetables

Grocery shopping for a week or more? Learn which veggies to buy, how to store them to keep them fresh, and how to use them in a way you'll love!

How to store vegetables

Like so many of you, Jack and I spent last weekend going from store to store, looking for supplies like hand soap, toilet paper, and, of course, groceries. I know many of you are pros at shopping and prepping meals for a week, but typically, I visit the grocery store almost every day to pick up basics for dinner, fresh produce for a new recipe, or the one key ingredient I forgot to grab the last time I was there. But last weekend was different. Instead of running to the store for a few things, we were stocking up on food for two weeks or more.

I’m guessing that many of you did the same, or that you have a big shopping trip ahead of you in the next few days. For us, it seemed daunting, especially because most of what we eat puts fresh vegetables front and center. Instead of going in with a full-blown multi-week meal plan, I looked for vegetables that would keep well for a week or more and others that I could freeze for longer. That way, we’d have plenty on hand to mix and match into whatever we might be craving.

Today, I’m sharing my favorite long-lasting veggies, tips on how to store them to keep them fresh, and ideas for using them. I hope that you find this guide helpful in the coming weeks. As always, reach out with any questions, and check back on Sunday for part 2: freezing vegetables!

Selecting and Storing Long-Lasting Produce

Onions and garlic

Alliums (Onions and Garlic)

Which ones to look for: Any cured onions and garlic (aka the regular onions and garlic at the grocery store!)
How long do they keep: Several weeks
How to store: In a cool, dry place like a cupboard or your kitchen counter
How to use them: In soups, sauces, pastas, and more. Quick-pickled onions will also keep for about a month in the fridge. They add a bright pop of flavor to all sorts of recipes – tacos, salads, and even chili! Find my go-to pickled onion recipe here.

Broccoli

Broccoli and Cauliflower

How long does it keep: Up to a week
How to store: In a plastic bag (or a reusable Stasher bag) in the fridge
How to use it: Roasted broccoli and cauliflower are fantastic side dishes, and you can also toss them with pasta, top them onto a bowl, or add them to a salad. But the uses for fresh broccoli and cauliflower don’t end there by any means. Try using them in one of these recipes:

Red cabbage

Cabbage

How long does it keep: Up to 2 weeks
How to store: In a plastic bag in the fridge
How to use it: Raw cabbage is a great addition to bowls, salads, and slaws, and I love to top it onto tacos or sandwiches for crunch. You can also braise, roast, or sauté cabbage to make a simple side dish.

Fennel

Celery and Fennel

How long do they keep: 1-2 weeks
How to store: In a plastic bag in the fridge
Tip: Freeze fennel fronds to make homemade vegetable stock. Find my scrap stock recipe on page 106 of Love and Lemons Every Day!
How to use them: Eat celery raw with your favorite dip, dice it into salads, or sauté it to add aromatic flavor to soups and sauces. Roast fennel, shave it into salads, or sauté it to enjoy as a side dish or toss with pasta.

How to store vegetables

Fruit

Which ones to look for: Citrus fruits like lemons, limes, oranges, and mandarins, as well as dried fruit
How long do they keep: Several weeks for citrus fruit, several months for dried fruit
How to store: Refrigerate citrus fruit, and store dried fruit at room temperature, in the fridge, or in the freezer.
How to use them: You can use lemons and limes in almost any recipe, so make sure to have a stash on hand! I like to eat other citrus fruits on their own or use them in dressings, salads, or bowls. Dried fruit is a great addition to oatmeal, baking recipes, and salads.

Greens

Leafy Greens

Which ones to look for: Kale, spinach, collards, and Swiss chard
How long do they keep: Up to a week in the fridge. Freeze after that.
How to store: In a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your fridge. If you buy greens like spinach in a large tub, tuck a paper towel into the top to soak up any condensation.
How to use them: Sauté fresh greens to make a simple side dish, top them onto bowls, use them in salads, add them to soup, or toss them with pasta. Here are just a few recipes to get you started:

Rosemary

Herbs

Which ones to look for: Rosemary and thyme
How long do they keep: Up to 2 weeks
How to store: Wrapped in a paper towel inside a plastic bag or container in the produce drawer of the fridge
How to use them: Add these hearty herbs to soups, sauces, salads, breads, or dressings.

Sweet potatoes

Potatoes

How long do they keep: Up to 2 weeks
How to store: In a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight like a kitchen cupboard
How to use them: Baked potatoes and sweet potatoes are two of my favorite simple, healthy meals. If you need more ideas for what to do with these vegetables, try one of these recipes:

How to store vegetables

Root Vegetables

Which ones to look for: Carrots, beets, radishes, parsnips, celery root, turnips, kohlrabi, and more
How long do they keep: Several weeks
How to store: Clip off any tops, wrap the roots in plastic bags, and store them in the fridge.
Tip: Don’t toss the tops! Keep them on hand to sauté and toss with pasta, blend into pesto, or add to a frittata.
How to use them:

How to store vegetables

Winter Squash

How long does it keep: Months!
How to store: In a cool, dry place like a counter or kitchen cupboard
How to use them: Roast spaghetti, acorn, or butternut squash to make a comforting vegetable side dish, or try one of these recipes:

Save the Scraps!

Once you’ve stocked up on these vegetables, chances are that you’ll actually have more on hand than you think you do! Common vegetable scraps like kale stems, broccoli stalks, and onion ends are just as usable as kale leaves, broccoli florets, and onions themselves. Why did we start tossing these things in the first place? Scallion tops and celery leaves simmer into a richly flavorful stock, kale stems blend into a bright green pesto, and cauliflower cores pulse into perfect cauliflower rice. Check out pages 24-27 of Love and Lemons Every Day for more ideas for using vegetable tops, stems, ends, nubs, and greens!

Looking for more cooking inspiration for a week or more at home?

Check out my freezer meal guide, my best pantry recipes, or these super fun baking recipes!

16 comments

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  1. Shane Reiser
    03.20.2020

    Do you recommend storing cilantro, parsley and similar herbs/greens upright in a glass or mason jar with the stems in water?

    • Hobolet
      03.20.2020

      Do you wash your vegetables before storing them in the fridge?

      • Shane Reiser
        03.20.2020

        I don’t. I wash them right before I use them. Am I doing that wrong, too?

        • Jeanine Donofrio
          03.20.2020

          I don’t wash them until I’m ready to use them… they last longer that way. The only reason you would want to wash them first would be for the convenience of having them more ready to eat. Ie, if you’re more likely to eat vegetables if they’re washed and ready to go, then that’s a good reason. The other exception is that I wash them before freezing them. Hope that helps!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      03.20.2020

      Hi Shane, you can do that (change the water daily) – personally, I’ve have had my herbs last longer in a bag in the veggie drawer.

  2. Barbara
    03.20.2020

    You can always freeze and use the veggie scraps to make stock for soups too.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      03.20.2020

      yep! I love to do that!

  3. Betsy
    03.20.2020

    I bough a vegibag and love it. It’s like a terry cloth towel, but a bag. Dampen it and stash all your perishable veggies in it and they last so much longer! If you can’t buy one, I would suggest on old bath towel that you can create a pocket with. Just keep it damp. I had a bunch of cilantro and parsley that lasted almost 2 weeks!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      03.20.2020

      thanks for the suggestion!

  4. Debra Mikolaizik
    03.20.2020

    I’ve read not to store potatoes close to onions because both will sprout sooner.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      03.20.2020

      I usually keep them in separate bowls on the countertop.

  5. Kathryn
    03.20.2020

    I just wanted to say THANK YOU! I don’t know how to cook (although we try and eat a clean diet) and now we are forced to learn how to cook and have a pantry! Your posts have been invaluable. Off to prep your baked oatmeal for tomorrow! Kathryn

  6. Adela
    03.21.2020

    We have been storing our carrots in water (plastic or glass container) for a while now and they stay nice and crunchy for a lot longer than just in a plastic bag in the fridge.

    • Thanks for the tip, never thought in store carrots in water but now thst we can not get out of the house this tip is great, tanks and please take care.

  7. Sabrina from newkitchenlife.com
    03.21.2020

    great tips, some new and some refresher and nice to have, also thank you for the sweet potato recipes, one of my favorite ingredients!

  8. THANKS SO MUCH for the information, I have found when I put lettuce, spinach or any green veggie in a storage bag (sandwich bags but bigger) they can keep for up to 2 o 3 weeks in perfect conditions as long as they are in the fridge with te bag very well close, now because of this virus your info is very welcome, thanks a lot.

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.