How to Make Your Perishable Food Items Last for Two Weeks

After my recent post on menu planning and sharing my current two week grocery shopping routine, I had several readers ask how I made my produce and perishable items (like dairy & bread) last for a two week period. Here are a few tips I have learned to make it work!

1. Use the more perishable produce items during the first week and save the more hearty produce during the second.

For example, we will use the softer produce, green beans, cucumbers, pears, grapes, etc during the first week and use more of the coniferous vegetables squashes, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, apples, oranges, and such for the second week. Pears and bananas usually take a week to ripen anyway, so they can be consumed later as well, depending upon their ripeness at time of purchase.

So in my menu planning, we will usually eat fresh salads, green beans, zucchini, carrot sticks, and such during the first week, with grapes, pears, bananas, and such for lunches, and then once that is consumed, we will eat squashes, broccoli, steamed carrots and other veggies with our dinners during the second week, and more apples and oranges for breakfasts and lunches. I also occasionally purchase some frozen produce (such as spinach, peas, and corn) during the second week as needed for fillers to throw into many meals. Many vegetables can be blanched and frozen to preserve them. This helps preserve the most nutrients. If you store the lettuce properly, we usually can still have fresh salads in the second week as well.

2. Store produce in airtight containers.

A general rule of thumb is that you can rinse and prepare your produce and store in airtight containers in the fridge to extend their life. For a full extensive list on this practice without using any plastic bags, check out: How to Store Vegetables & Fruit without Plastic. This helpful article explains how many vegetables can be stored wrapped with a damp towel or paper towel. I also have found green bags to be very effective in preserving produce in the past. They can be rinsed and reused many times.

Another effective method is storing a paper towel in a ziploc bag with your produce items (lettuce, cucumbers, zucchini, etc) and that helps absorb the extra moisture from the produce and prevent early spoilage.

A few tips on specific items:

Lettuce – I recommend buying lettuce in airtight sealed bags or plastic 1 lb bins, as this prevents the lettuces from perishing quickly. Many stores carry organic spring salad mixes in these bins, and I have found they last at least two weeks in the fridge, if not longer. Also, many stores sell lettuce in sealed bags that you don’t have to open until needed, which keeps them dry and preserved for much longer than just buying a head of lettuce.

If you choose to buy by the head, you can also rinse and dry your lettuces with a salad spinner. Allow to sit at room temperature for an hour or so until lettuce is completely dry before transferring to the fridge. Store in the airtight container until ready to use.

If my lettuce begins to spoil, I will simply throw it into a green smoothie, and nothing goes to waste!

Bananas – I find it best to purchase bananas in various stages of ripeness so they can be used throughout a two week period. If they start to fade and I cannot get to them, I will simply open them up, cut into small chunks, and stick in a ziploc bag in the freezer to use with smoothies on another occasion. This works really well.

Pears – I store pears on the countertop until they just start to get ripened and then I transfer them to the fridge in a paper bag to preserve them until they can be consumed.

Apples & Oranges – These store well in the same drawer together in the fridge. Apples do give off a gas that can cause other fruits to spoil more quickly, so it is best to keep one drawer for just apples and oranges, since oranges are not affected in the same way.

Berries - I buy all my berries in bulk during the summer time and then freeze them in ziploc bags to use throughout the year for smoothies. The key is not to rinse them until they are ready to be used otherwise they perish quicker in the fridge or clump together in a frozen mess in the freezer.

Onions – I keep these together with potatoes, winter squashes, and other vegetables and fruit that take time to ripen on a shelf in my kitchen. These can also be stored in the fridge to preserve them longer. I try to keep one or two in the fridge at all times, as the refrigeration process seems to eliminate the watery eye syndrome that is common with onions.

Celery - This can be stored upright in a jar with a small amount of water in the bottom to keep them fresh. Cut off the ends and store them by individual stalks. More often then not, I just keep in the original bag and it lasts just fine.

Mushrooms – I usually buy mushrooms by the pre-assembled package to help preserve them. Otherwise, store in a brown paper bag.

Bread- (Obviously, not produce item, but someone asked how I extend the life of my bread) Since we eat a fair amount of bread, I buy a dozen loaves of bread at a local discount organic bread store and store in the freezer and pull out as needed. This prevents any bread from getting moldy.

Milk – We go through about three gallons of milk every two weeks (we certainly could use more but we are also on a budget ;) . I usually buy raw milk for the first week and a half (since that is about as long as it lasts before going sour) and then a gallon of organic milk for the last portion. We just have to make sure we use it slowly but surely and not overindulge to make it last the full two weeks.

Cheese & Butter- These two dairy items freeze very well, so I will buy my cheese in a 5 lb block and cut it into 1 lb chunks and place in ziploc bags in the freezer until needed. Butter can be stored in the original box and pulled out also as needed.

All other dairy products seem to last just fine for the full two week period.

Remember, it will take a bit of trial and error to figure out how much you will consume to make a twice a month shopping excursion work for your family. I know personally, it took me two or three tries before I really figured out how much we needed to eliminate quick trips to the store between the two week cycle. And that’s perfectly normal and okay. I also find it useful to make sure to plan in a extra buffer meal or two (sometime quick and simple (baked potato bar, cans of refried beans for quick burritoes) and dessert, for those impromptu guests and evenings when I just don’t feel up to making a big dinner.

For a complete guide on how to store all your produce, check out this excellent list.

{Photo Credit}

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of four, homemaker, and writer. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

39 Responses to How to Make Your Perishable Food Items Last for Two Weeks

  1. gaye January 17, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

    The only tip that I know of to help extend the life of produce is to
    soak it in a peroxide water bath. About 15 mins maybe 1/2 cup peroxide to 3quarts or a 1 gallon of water. I’ve had yellow squash last 3 weeks and still look great. I rinse it again just before I use it.

  2. Raejean November 16, 2012 at 11:28 am #

    Milk Tip: We buy milk from two different dairies both approximately 90 miles away. So when we go, we stock up. To make our 6 gallons of milk last we simply freeze it! We pour a little out of each gallon into a separate container so that the frozen milk doesn’t break the bottle. We date it with when we purchased it then into the deep freeze it goes. The only issue we have had is that it does take a while for the milk to thaw. The taste is the same, the texture is the same, we do not notice a difference at all!

  3. Fedelm November 12, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    A lot of these tips are really helpful but, and I’m sure you’ve heard this before, please reconsider your use of raw milk! Its actually illegal where I live because so many people used to die from drinking it and even though hygene methods have improved its still very dangerous. A lot of people used to think that it would cause a natural immunity to TB (my mother’s granny gave it to her for that reason) but it doesn’t!

    • jana November 15, 2012 at 7:50 pm #

      This is actually not true! Look up raw milk online and you will find a host of mythbusting, factually correct benefits to drinking raw milk.

    • Jen November 27, 2012 at 12:14 am #

      We love our raw milk, and our two sons are thriving on it! They’re never sick with anything more serious than a rare cold. Please do some research about the very real health benefits of real (raw) milk.

  4. Lauren @ New Fashioned Housewife November 8, 2012 at 4:47 am #

    I use frozen veggies quite a bit. They are pre-chopped so it saves time. They are less expensive (at least in my area). And they get frozen at their most fresh so they have more enact vitamins and minerals. But the main reason is because I waste a lot of produce, but with your tips, maybe I’ll be able to be better :)

  5. Christene November 3, 2012 at 6:59 pm #

    Thank you for this post, Lindsey! This is so helpful!

  6. Amber November 3, 2012 at 8:34 am #

    I am so happy to have found this. I will be printing it off and sticking it on my fridge. We are currently learning how to best preserve our food. Thanks for sharing!

  7. mommy November 2, 2012 at 9:07 pm #

    I’m from Beaverton—I was wondering where you buy you organic bread at a discount? I didn’t know such a thing existed. I did know about Franz outlet, but ORGANIC! Hook me up please.

    • Lindsay November 3, 2012 at 6:05 am #

      Dave’s killer Bread also known as Nature Bake in Milwaukie, OR. They sell frozen dozen loaves of bread for under $2 a piece. We love their bread and its a steal when you buy at their factory store!

  8. Ambra November 2, 2012 at 6:52 pm #

    Thanks for the tips! I am so tired of throwing away spoiled food!

  9. Laurie November 2, 2012 at 11:02 am #

    Just a thought on raw milk, if it is going sour after a week and a half, it may not be cold enough. Make sure your refrigerator is at 40 degrees or below.

  10. Maegan November 2, 2012 at 9:23 am #

    Hey there! I just made my 1st monthly menu, thanks to help from your blog. And although this is off of the produce topic, I wanted to ask you a question about organization for meal prep.

    I am wondering how you organize & prepare meals for the month. Do you prepare each meal each day, a week’s worth @ a time then freeze them…? Do you prep anything ahead of time- say, maybe chopping carrots for the first and third night in the same batch…

    I’m not very organized in the kitchen, and this monthly menu is a large endeavor for me, so any tips would be super helpful.

    • Lindsay November 3, 2012 at 6:11 am #

      I’m not all that organized in the kitchen either. I just prepare my meals day by day.

  11. Lore November 2, 2012 at 7:01 am #

    Celery can be stored in tinfoil, without the plastic and it stays crisp for up to a month.
    I put paper towel at the bottom of the lettuce package and on the top, stays fresh for up to two weeks.

    • Kansas April 29, 2013 at 8:25 am #

      Yes tinfoil works great and I’ve had my celery in the fridge for over a month.

  12. esti November 2, 2012 at 5:57 am #

    Hi Lindsey, I am on the verge of weaning my 16 month”baby” and i am wondering if you add any supplements to your babys bottle of raw milk? thank you for your great posts! God bless.

    • Lindsay November 2, 2012 at 6:23 am #

      Yes, I’m not terribly consistent, but I try to add a liquid infant multivitamin and liquid cod liver oil once a day.

  13. Sara November 2, 2012 at 4:46 am #

    I am learning to keep a close eye on declining produce so that I can freeze it for flavoring homemade broths and smoothies. Now all the dry carrots, pale celery (includiing all the leafy tops) and partially-used onions are getting used!

    • Lindsay November 2, 2012 at 6:24 am #

      Yes! Making chicken broth is a great use of old carrots, celery and onions!

  14. Jane November 1, 2012 at 11:44 pm #

    Love your blog and follow your posts regularly on my reader. Thanks for your thoughtful writing and inspiration.
    We buy raw milk too, and I’ve had great success freezing it. Have you tried that? I just have to make sure it has lots of ‘head room’ in the mason jars to expand, or I freeze about 1/2 gallon in the large gallon jars we buy it in. Each gallon we buy has 2 cups or more of cream at the top, so I skim that and freeze that separately in smaller jars, if I don’t plan on using it within a day or two. We also buy raw milk cheese in 5 lb. blocks and freeze that (like you) in smaller portions. Freezing the raw dairy we buy has helped our family immensely and allows us to go to the farm just once or twice a month, instead of weekly. Since we live in Philadelphia and travel out to the country for our raw milk, that saves me considerable time each month.

    • Lindsay November 2, 2012 at 6:27 am #

      Great tip! I’ve heard of others freezing their raw milk, but thought it separated pretty badly upon thawing making it best for yogurt and kefir and such. Is it clumpy to drink fresh? Love to hear your experience!

      • Lori November 5, 2012 at 9:00 am #

        I have frozen raw milk in past and have several gallons frozen for if or when our friends cow goes dry. My boys will drink it plain after its thawed but I won’t. It isn’t too bad just has some tiny little balls of cream in it, really tiny like smaller than pin heads. I usually make “shakes” with milk, ice and some vanilla and a drop of stevia (and sometimes coffee substitute powder or really strong chai tea if I want something special :) ) if I’m drinking thawed milk. It works fine for yogurt or ricotta cheese after frozen.

      • Lisa M December 7, 2012 at 5:18 pm #

        We freeze our milk and it thaws just fine for us. We shake it up when we get it and pour it into ziploc type bags with the date and freeze. We thaw it in the fridge when needed and pour it in to a large jar or pitcher (I have a terrible fear of freezing glass jars and the bags are nice and flat). Ours taste just fine and no white clumps of separation for us.
        The first time I froze some I just froze a little bit to see if we liked it and then the next time I froze a bit more. never had a problem

  15. Rachel W. November 1, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

    This is great! It’s given me a lot of ideas to possibly work towards being better at managing our produce.

    Right now I do alright doing a trip to the grocery store once a week. The big reason why I don’t know if I could do a trip every two weeks is that our fridge/freezer is pretty small. We’re planning on getting a deep freezer, which I’m excited about because I make my own stock, would love to freeze more produce, and we’d like to buy large shares of meat.

    However, fitting all the food we need for one week gets pretty tight. I just don’t know how we’d fit in every two weeks. Plus, I’m terrible about using up all of our fruits/vegetables. A lot of our produce used to go to waste because I was so bad about using it all. Now, I’ve started teaching myself to use more starting with the simple ones like carrots and celery, and starting to add in more and more as I play with and vary my recipes. Lately veggies have been much easier to use, but I’m still pretty bad about fruit. Frozen has been the way to go lately, and I just throw it into smoothies. I’m encouraged by the progress I’ve made so far, and I’m hoping one day I’ll finally be where I’d like to be with making sure we eat up all of our fruits and vegetables. This post has helped me see where I can start to make some changes.

  16. Lisa November 1, 2012 at 5:22 pm #

    Another tip is to use FridgeSmart bins from Tupperware. You can use them with practically any fruit/veggie and they extend the life of the produce for a super long time!

    • Lindsay November 2, 2012 at 6:27 am #

      Thanks for sharing!

  17. Allegra November 1, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    Thanks Lindsay!

    Helpful as always. That’s actually a really good idea about freezing bread- we eat this sprouted organic bread and it’s kind of expensive, but next time it’s on sale I will buy a couple and freeze them. Oh and your raw milk must be REALLY fresh! Ours never seems to last more than a week.

    • Lindsay November 2, 2012 at 6:28 am #

      Ours lasts about 10 days, so that’s why I have to use the organic milk for the remaining portion. But another reader just recommended freezing the milk, so I might experiment with that.

  18. Ginny G November 1, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

    I recently learned on America’s Test Kitchen to store my potatoes in the refrigerator. I’ve been doing this for about a month and they’ve not grown their white things and taste fresh!
    Throw out any that have a green tint to them, they’re toxic. Throw out any that look like they were hit by the shovel, they’re not good because of the junk that could’ve gotten into them through that space.
    This has helped me stretch my potatoes way longer than I thought I could. So helpful!

  19. Monica November 1, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    Lindsay, I found this article very helpful. I usually buy non-perishables for the month, not much, and have money leftover for the budget to go to the farm or market every week. It’s cheaper at the farm and market for perishables where I live.

    For the lettuce, I thought that the longer you have the lettuce, kale, etc. it loses its nutrients and best to throw out if it’s dying. I will certainly look over the links provided so I can learn how to preserve my produce. Many thanks!

  20. Sarah M November 1, 2012 at 10:18 am #

    We follow a lot of what your family does, too, but I’ve never heard of lettuce in the freezer. Do you mean hearty lettuces like Kale & Chard, or do you blanch regular lettuce?? …I may have misread that :)
    Sarah M

    • Lindsay November 1, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

      I was referring to frozen spinach that can be thrown into main dishes like lasagna, quiche, etc. although I do occasionally freeze heads of kale if i can’t get to it and use it later in soups. That has worked remarkably well.

  21. Bethany November 1, 2012 at 8:44 am #

    We get a gallon of raw milk a week for the 3 of us and I am trying to get my husband not to “overindulge”!! I’ve tried getting 2 gallons and we still run out. I think he would drink a gallon a day if he could.

    • Lindsay November 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

      We were also on just one gallon of milk per week until recently when my baby switched from goats milk to raw milk for her regular bottles, so she mainly drinks all the extras!

  22. Allie November 1, 2012 at 8:42 am #

    Ooh, very helpful post!! Thank you for writing it! :)

  23. kellie November 1, 2012 at 8:13 am #

    this is so great! thank you!!

  24. Kristin November 1, 2012 at 7:11 am #

    Great tips! Under number one (the second paragraph), you mentioned freezing lettuce. I know most people could figure out that’s just a typo, but just in case I though I would mention it. :)

    • Lindsay November 1, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

      I meant sometimes buying frozen spinach to use in main dishes and such.