The Long-Lasting Produce You Should Have in Your KitchenPhoto by Shelley Pauls/Unsplash Food Lists cooking
If you’ve gone to the grocery store lately, it’s probably no surprise to hear that grocery prices continue to rise. In 2023, the USDA predicts that food-at-home prices will increase by 8.6%. As shoppers feel the squeeze of these high food prices, many home cooks are thinking about how they can cut costs in the kitchen.
As someone who perpetually refuses to meal prep, one of the main issues I encounter when it comes to grocery affordability is food waste. Every time I throw away half a bag of spinach I forgot to freeze, I feel like I’m literally composting my cash. This is why I’ve begun to think more about the shelf life of my produce before purchasing it. By spending more of my produce budget on heartier, longer-lasting fruits and veggies, I’ve found that I throw a lot less away than I used to… and that ultimately saves me a lot of money over the course of a month.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the longest-lasting fruits and vegetables you should be stocking your fridge with.
Every few months or so, a new article comes out proclaiming that cabbage is set to become the next “it” vegetable—and yet, it never seems to experience the wide-scale embrace that kale once enjoyed. Regardless of whether it’s getting the love it deserves or not, though, cabbage is one of my all-time favorite vegetables to have on hand. Uncut, it can last for weeks (sometimes even months) in the fridge. Best of all, it’s delicious both cooked and raw and can be incorporated into a wide variety of dishes. I’ll have some combination of beans, cabbage, and a starch several nights out of the week.
It’s always a good idea to have some citrus on hand for when you want an acidic complement to a fat-heavy dish or just want to indulge in a sweet, juicy snack in the middle of the day. That’s why I almost always have lemons, lime, grapefruit, and/or oranges on hand. When you store them in the fridge, they can last for weeks at a time, which means you only have to stock up on citrus about once a month.
There are few vegetables that can compete with potatoes when it comes to a long shelf life. Whether you choose russet, Yukon gold or sweet potatoes, they’re likely to last for months in a cool, dark pantry, which makes them an essential kitchen staple for those who are interested in reducing food waste and spending less money at the grocery store. This most beloved of carbs can find its way into almost any dish, whether it’s used as a side or it’s playing the lead role.
Depending on the type of squash you’re dealing with, it has the potential to last for months when unopened. Not only can squash be roasted on its own or with a mixture of other veggies, but it can also be a delicious addition to soups and stews you’re trying to bulk up. My personal favorite is spaghetti squash (which I absolutely do not use in lieu of actual pasta, just FYI), but most winter squashes have an exceptionally long shelf life.
Onions are one of the most important building blocks to any savory, flavorful meal, which is why you should always have some tucked away in your kitchen. You’ll generally want to keep them in a cool spot away from a lot of light—a dark pantry is your best bet. You can also put them in the fridge, though they might become slightly softer the longer you keep them there. Even if you just place your onions on your kitchen counter, though, you can rest assured that they’re likely to last a few weeks at least.
Noticing a trend? Many root vegetables have long shelf lives, which is why they’re some of my favorite pantry staples. If you’re not already cooking beets at home on a regular basis, you’re missing out. This intensely earthy vegetable is perfect when it’s well-seasoned and roasted, but I also love using it to make brightly colored sauces that add a pop of excitement to pretty much any dish. The beets themselves can last up to two months when they’re stored properly, but you’ll want to eat their delicious, leafy greens within a few days of purchase.
I’m not a huge carrot person myself, but I know they can add a lovely sweetness to a variety of soups and stews, so I usually have some on hand. They’re generally relatively inexpensive to begin with, and considering they last around three to four weeks in the fridge, it seems smart to keep them in stock. Just keep in mind baby carrots spoil more quickly than whole carrots because they’ve been peeled and no longer have their protective skins.
Most fruits tend to go bad pretty quickly—you’re definitely not going to be able to keep bananas out on your counter for weeks at a time. That’s one of the reasons I always have a few apples lying around. You can keep fresh apples for up to six weeks when you store them in the fridge, which means you can cut down on the number of grocery trips you make over the course of the month and still have fresh fruit on hand.
Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.