We wake up in a whole new world every day lately, it seems.
There’s always something changing, and that uncertainty is hard on the psyche. But I feel like those of us who have been cooking real food for a long time are uniquely suited for sharing our years of knowledge with those of you who may be suddenly finding yourself stuck at home, cooking all your meals.
I want to continue to share my knowledge with you and help you stock up intelligently and to use your pantry stores creatively. As we see how things progress, if you can’t, shouldn’t, or don’t want to go to the store, what vegetables can you buy that will last a long time?
Even if you decided to start intermittent fasting like we did, which likely means you’re eating less, we all know VEGETABLES are important to continue in your diet, both for your overall health and that of your microbiome.
Typically when we think of veggies, it’s the fresh produce section and “shopping the perimeter” — but what if you don’t want to go to the grocery store weekly? Focus on buy long-lasting vegetables and fruits!
Not lettuce. That salad’s not going to last very long!
Not fresh berries. Some things that you might regularly buy every five to seven days are just not going to work anymore.
Here’s my list of vegetables that last the longest, plus a bonus fruit and a list of foods that are easy to freeze. An added bonus is that many of these vegetables, like potatoes and cabbage, are pretty cheap!
If you’ve never bought a turnip, you might be thinking, “What if I buy it and then I waste it?” That’s the worst of all worlds, so we don’t want you to do that!
I’ll also give you inspiration and some recipes to use these items.
What Vegetables Last the Longest?
1. Potatoes – Classic Long Term Storage
How to buy potatoes: Look for potatoes that don’t have any soft, wrinkly, dark or moist spots. Make sure the eyes aren’t sprouting yet. Potatoes should be unwashed for maximum shelf-life.
How to store potatoes: Store potatoes in a cool, dark place. They should be in a container that is breathable (not plastic bags like in the store), so for true long-term storage, transfer to an open box or crate (or make sure your bags have sufficient holes in them) and cover with a towel so that light does not hit the potatoes, which will turn them green.
We buy 50 lbs of potatoes each fall and store them in our basement which stays right about 55F here in Michigan. At room temperature potatoes will last 3-5 weeks, much longer if you have a cold garage or basement.
Beyond 3-5 weeks, your potatoes might start to sprout, but you can just break off the sprouts to keep them longer, and don’t be bashful about using potatoes that don’t look perfect. Cut out any sprouting eyes or dark/soft spots and carry on.
How to use potatoes: Potatoes are a classically versatile vegetable. You can add them to soups, bake, pan-fry, mash, or roast them easily even if you don’t have a lot of experience cooking. My kids even fried up some potatoes when they made us a surprise breakfast and filmed a video.
Some favorite potato recipes:
- Instant Pot mashed potatoes
- Lazy fench fries
- Potato Salad (my kids love to make this!)
- More potato recipes
2. Sweet Potatoes – Healthier Cousin, Still Lasts a Long Time!
How to buy sweet potatoes: Similarly to potatoes, you want to look for sweet potatoes with no soft, wet or dark spots. Fresher sweet potatoes will feel heavy and get lighter over time.
How to store sweet potatoes: Store sweet potatoes in a cool, dark place in a container that won’t trap moisture. Like potatoes, they will last about a month at room temperature. We can make our 50 pounds in the fall last longer than that, but I feel like sweet potatoes have a sliiiightly shorter life than white potatoes.
If you’re starting to lose too many to rot, you can peel, dice, blanch (lightly steam) and freeze the sweet potatoes for roasting later.
Poke steam holes in them with a knife or fork, place them on a baking sheet and bake for 45-60 minutes at 425 degrees F. Done! Add some butter, sprinkle with salt or even some sugar and cinnamon for a dessert potato.
Sweet potatoes can even be eaten raw like carrots, so peeling “tongues” off to munch or spiralizing them is excellent.
Our favorite in the Kimball house, where many of us don’t love the “mushy” feel of regular baked sweet potatoes, is to peel, dice (or cut French fry shapes) and roast with olive oil and seasoning like cumin, chili powder, and garlic powder. Here’s a quick tutorial on roasting vegetables.
But we also use sweet potatoes in place of any pureed pumpkin or butternut squash, or for breakfast like the casserole shown above. Perhaps having a little ‘extra time’ could mean that you start a veggies at breakfast habit!
- Sweet Potato Breakfast Bake
- Paleo Breakfast Hash
- Grain-free Breakfast Porridge
- Crockpot Curried Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup
Here are some more recipes for sweet potatoes.
3. Turnips – A Long-Lasting Root Vegetable
Pretty much any veggie that grow underground is going to last a long time, and all those vegetables that are picked in the fall, as a general rule. You might remember turnips as a vegetable from Super Mario World…but they’re edible outside the screen too LOL!
How to buy turnips: The larger the turnip is, the longer it will last. So choose a large turnip with no soft spots or dark spots.
How to store turnips: Store your turnips in the fridge for 2-4 weeks (I’ve gotten away with more).
How to use turnips: Turnips can be roasted or mashed, and I really like to substitute turnips for white potatoes in soup recipes like this one or this one, because turnips are lower in carbs. Plus, we know our microbiome loves diversity, and I’m always looking for ways to get in a wider variety of plants in our diet. Here are some recipes that include turnips.
4. Another Hearty Root Vegetable – Rutabaga
How to buy rutabaga: Smaller is better with rutabaga. Look for about 3-5 inches in diameter.
How to store rutabaga: Rutabaga stores best in the fridge for 2-4 weeks, but mine is in the garage right now at about 40-50F, and I predict it will be fine for a month. Rutabagas are coated in quite a thick waxy film in the store, helping them last even longer.
How to use rutabaga: Rutabaga is a cross between a turnip and a cabbage. It is a little sweeter than a turnip and not quite as “cabbagey” as a cabbage. It makes a great substitute for potatoes in recipes and can be peeled/diced and roasted or sauteed or added to soups. Here is more info and a recipe for rutabaga.
5. Whole Carrots (Channel Your Inner Bugs Bunny)
How to buy carrots: I’m not talking about baby carrots here, you need to get whole normal carrots that still have their skins on to protect them from decomposing too quickly.
How to store carrots: Store carrots in the fridge, unwashed, for 3-4 weeks.
How to use carrots: Carrots are great steamed or roasted with some salt and pepper, and you can throw them in a stir-fry or soup. Raw carrot sticks are a staple in our house, dipped in homemade ranch, hummus, or guacamole. Homemade hummus made with dry chickpeas will be your most shelf stable option here, but did you know you can freeze guacamole?
- Ferment carrots to make them last even longer
- Slow Cooker Ginger Beef
- Tuscan Beef and Bean Stew
- Hearty Lentil Stew
Here are some other recipes that include carrots — we have a lot!
How to buy parsnips: Most say to look for skinnier parsnips, as the thicker ones tend to be more fibrous and woody — I tend toward medium sized parsnips so I don’t have to do as much work peeling!
How to store parsnips: Parsnips will keep for about a month in the fridge.
7. Fall Squash Lasts SO Long!
How to buy squash: Look for firm squash with no soft or dark spots. Some varieties such as butternut and acorn tend to last longer than others like spaghetti squash.
How to store squash: Squash will store best in a cool location. They can really last a long time, several months — we keep ours from October until January in our garage. More tender squashes like spaghetti squash can be cooked, scraped out and frozen (I still have some in my freezer from last fall).
How to use squash: Squashes roast well and can be cooked in the Instant Pot. They’re also good for pureed soups, and we tend to use them exclusively as a “mushy orange vegetable” in baking recipes in place of pumpkin, although a lot of people like pureed squash or roasted cubed squash as a side dish.
- “Pumpkin” fudge
- Maple Roasted Acorn Squash Soup
- Pumpkin muffins (these are foolproof!)
- Spaghetti Squash Lasagna
- Butternut Surprise Pancakes (use any orange vegetable in these, like sweet potatoes too)
Here are some more recipes that can be made with squash, and you can even add a 1/2-1 cup to a smoothie!
How to buy onions: Look for firm, dry onions with the papery skin intact. Sweet onions won’t last as long as solid, yellow onions, and the red/purple variety does pretty well too as long as they’re fresh when you purchase.
How to store onions: Store onions in a cool, dry place — my mom always had them in the basement. While onions will last a month or two already, they can be chopped and frozen (without blanching) to last even longer or so they’re easy to grab. Tip: Store onions a few feet away from potatoes, because the gas produced by onions may cause potatoes to rot more quickly.
How to use onions: Onions can be used in just about any savory dish. You can roast them with other veggies, and they’re an almost essential part of a soup, stir-fry or sauteed hash. Here are plenty of recipes including onions.
9. Cabbage – A Salad Option That Lasts a Long Time!
How to buy cabbage: Look for a firm, clean looking cabbage with tight leaves and no gashes or marks.
How to store cabbage: My Busia, my Polish grandma, had a huge garden every summer. She’d pick the cabbage from her garden, wrap them in newspaper and tuck them away into a root cellar. If you have a basement or garage and you happen to live where it’s below 50 degrees, you may be able to keep cabbage outside your fridge. Otherwise, store them in your fridge for up to 2 months (in a bag or not). If the outer leaves get a little funky, just peel them off!
I’ve often said cabbage is one of the best buys of the produce section, because they’re so darn frugal AND packed with nutrition, although cabbage often gets a bad reputation because it looks like iceberg lettuce, and most people think iceberg lettuce is mostly water and not that many vitamins.
How to use cabbage: Sometimes I don’t want to go shopping every week! I want to go every two weeks, so I’ll buy lettuce for our salads for week one, and cabbage for our salads for week two. Cabbage is great for fresh raw salads, as well as cooked applications and fermenting.
Some of our favorite cabbage recipes:
10. Brussels Sprouts
How to buy Brussels sprouts: Look for clean Brussels sprouts without little black spots and holes in the outer leaves.
How to store Brussels sprouts: Store Brussels sprouts in the fridge for up to 2 weeks (and I’ve kept them for longer!).
How to use Brussels sprouts: Ah, Brussels sprouts, they have such a negative reputation, especially with kids. But it’s all in how you cook them! Here’s the first way to enjoy Brussels sprouts that I was introduced to, although they are even better sauteed in bacon grease. They can also be shaved thinly to add to salads raw or roasted until they have crispy edges.
How to buy cauliflower: Make sure your cauliflower is free of marks and moldy spots. The leaves should still look fresh, not wilted.
How to store cauliflower: Store cauliflower in your fridge for 2-3 weeks. If you start to see too many dark spots and you want to keep cauliflower longer, wash, chop into florets, lightly blanch in a steamer basket and freeze.
How to use cauliflower: Cauliflower has a wide range of strengths. Raw, roasted, pureed, riced, and as a substitute for things from chicken wings to macaroni. You can make dairy-free pasta sauce by blending a steamed head of cauliflower with a splash of olive oil and salt and pepper. Super easy way to get another veggie in your meal!
Here are some favorite ways to use cauliflower:
- Raw with a healthy dip
- Cauliflower “mashed potatoes”
- Riced cauliflower in the Instant Pot
- Gluten-free cauliflower mac and cheese (pictured above, so cheesy!)
- More cauliflower recipes
What About Long Lasting Fruits?
12. Apples are the big winner
How to buy apples: Look for apples with no soft, flat spots or gashes in the skin. Apples are often near the top of the dirty dozen, so prioritize organic if possible.
How to store apples: Store apples in a cool, dark place. Experts say they will last 2-3 weeks at room temperature, but I find them to be MUCH more hearty than that. Store them long term in the coldest place in your house, whether that’s the garage, basement, or a bit of extra room in your fridge.
As they say, “One bad apple ruins the bunch.” If you have a lot of apples, you might want to check through them regularly to remove any that are beginning to rot because it will spread fast.
How to use apples: We buy 400 pounds of apples every fall so I know a thing or two about using apples! They last from October to January for us and can be used in savory dishes, breakfast, snacks, desserts, cooked, raw, you name it!
Some favorite apple recipes:
- Apple salsa (pictured above)
- Healthy apple crisp
- Gut protecting apple sauce
- Ways to preserve apples in this post – it’s easy to make them last even longer, and if you’re starting to lose some, even wrinkly apples make great applesauce! (Be sure to cut out actual moldy parts obviously.)
- More apple recipes
13. Citrus & Ginger
How to buy citrus: Look for citrus fruits like oranges, Clementines, grapefruits, limes and lemons with firm peels that don’t have flat or dry spots. Buy ginger that is firm.
How to store citrus: Store citrus in your fridge for up to a month, or freeze the juice and zest. Lemon and lime juice can be frozen in ice cube trays so you can use a couple of tablespoons at a time. Zest can be frozen in little bags or mixed in with the juice before freezing. Here’s a guide on storing fresh ginger in the freezer.
How to use citrus: Lemon juice is used in many recipes like this coconut chicken curry. It is especially good to have on hand for making drinks like a homemade electrolyte drink (great for when you’re sick and having a hard time drinking enough), turmeric ginger lemonade (which can be found in the ginger section in this post), or lemon and ginger “tea” (simply steep a few slices of ginger in a cup of hot water for 5 minutes and add the juice of 1/2 a lemon and some honey. Lime juice is an essential ingredient in our favorite guacamole.
Oranges and grapefruits will last a lot longer than berries and bananas, and it’s always nice to have fresh fruit on hand!
Berries, pineapples, peaches, pears and most fruits are not ideal for storing since they ripen and then are done a few days later. Avocado goes bad quickly as well, but if you buy them when they’re still hard, put them directly into your fridge, and pull out one at a time to the counter to ripen, then put back in the fridge until you’re ready to use them, you can usually keep a bag for 2-3 weeks.
If you’re looking to stock up on fruit, I would choose frozen over canned because there are fewer nutrients lost. When you cook fruit a lot of nutrients are denatured, especially vitamin C which is important for immune boosting.
What Vegetables Freeze Well?
When thinking about how to store vegetables, also think about what you can freeze for long-term storage.
I bought some extra celery and peppers because you can just chop those up and freeze them in a zippered bag without blanching. You don’t have to do anything special as long as you’re going to use them in a cooked application. So think stir-fries, soups, casseroles, and veggies in your eggs.
Here’s a quick list of easy veggies and fruit to freeze:
You don’t have to cook or blanch or do anything to these, just freeze!
- Onions, chopped
- Zucchini, shredded or chopped
- Bananas, for baking and for smoothies
- Lemon or lime juice (ice cube trays)
- Spinach or kale, for smoothies
- Berries, use in a smoothie, on pancakes, in yogurt
- Fresh herbs can be blended with some olive oil, frozen in ice cube trays for single-use servings
- Make guacamole and freeze it
Here’s a bonus that isn’t a veggie or fruit: Shredded cheese. Freeze in a bag, not too packed so that it’s not crammed together, and you can’t break it apart. Then you can just bang it on the counter and pour some out as you need it.
You can even use frozen cheese for cold applications like tossing a little bit in your salad. Once the shreds fall apart they’ll thaw within 5-10 minutes. That’s really easy and works really well so if your family loves cheese, buy shredded cheese (or shred your own!) and throw the bags in the freezer.
Bonus Tip for Storing Produce Long-Term
Another great way to help fruit and veggies last longer is to dehydrate them if you happen to have a dehydrator. You can also buy dried or freeze-dried fruit which will last a long time. Just be aware that dried fruits can be high in sugar, so read the ingredients. Dehydrated vegetables are less common to find in the store, but it’s possible!
You can even dehydrate greens to mix into soups and casseroles or turn into homemade green powder for smoothies!
Those are my tips for keeping your produce fresh longer!
We know there are a lot of people not receiving paychecks right now and we want to do everything we can to help people live on a budget, eat and cook healthy, and keep your bodies, minds, and souls healthy throughout this time.
The post How to Keep Vegetables Fresh: Best Veggies for Long-Term Storage appeared first on Kitchen Stewardship | Caring for All Our Gifts.