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An easy guide to keep your produce and prepped veggies fresh for as long as possible
In today’s post I’m going to share all my tips on how to keep chopped vegetables fresh so you can meal plan like a boss! I also include tips for keeping your groceries fresh longer when whole and how to freeze them to get the best bang for your buck.
I don’t know what your household is like before dinner, but it seems like mine is on the verge of shambles. Kids always seem to be hungry and tired and emotional little wrecks who need quite a bit more, shall we say, scaffolding. It can be a stressful time to chop and prep stuff for dinner, but dinner is exactly what everyone needs.
My three year old in particular gets hangry at this time. Like, I seriously feed her snacks and her mood shifts within minutes (I need to talk to her pediatrician about this. Maybe it’s legit blood sugar issues??? Idunno).
Also, to be honest, I’M tired, too. It’s been a long day (no matter how good it was!).
It can be a total mess.
Prepping food in advance can definitely relieve the stress of the time before dinner.
To ease some of the strain at this delicate time of day, I try to prep as much of the veggies as I can either earlier in the week or earlier in the day. But different things last different lengths of time. Keeping prepped veggies fresh can be a bit tricky. I still want my veggies to taste delicious and crisp! Not just be convenient!
Maybe you struggle, too, with wanting to prep your veggies earlier in the week, but you just don’t know how to store them or how long they legit last.
Tips to keep prepped veggies fresh
I have scoured the interweb, have tried many a hack, and have done many “refrigerator experiments” to test these methods and find out what actually works and what doesn’t at keeping those prepped veggies fresh.
I’ve got some tips and tricks to share with you.
And I also put together a cheat sheet to hang up in your cupboard or on your fridge as a quick reminder of how to keep those prepped veggies fresh and crisp until you need them.
I’m going to break it down with more details below, but don’t forget to grab the condensed version cheat sheet HERE! I use it in my kitchen
Quick Tip: My favorite mesh “produce bag” isn’t actually a produce bag. It’s these mesh laundry bags from the Dollar Tree. You can buy three for $1. Umm, yes please!
How to keep potatoes fresh after dicing
Potatoes. My family LOVES potatoes. The bummer about potatoes is that they turn brown and look very unappetizing if just left in a container, even in the fridge.
Here’s the details on potatoes.
- Put diced potatoes in a bowl of cool filtered water so they’re completely submerged. This keeps them looking great until it’s time to cook them up.
- Potatoes only last about 24 hours after they’re peeled, so prepping potatoes is one to only do a day in advance of when you need ‘em.
Note: if you leave potatoes whole, they can last months. Leave them in a cool, dry place for a month or two, and then move them to the fridge. Most types of potatoes generally last 2-3 months (isn’t that crazy?! That’s such a great shelf life), but russet potatoes are known to last the longest at 3-5 months. Go ahead and buy that Costco sized bag!
How to keep herbs and stem vegetables fresh in a “bouquet”
Certain herbs and veggies last SO much longer when they are put in a jar of water like a bouquet and covered with a plastic bag to create a greenhouse effect.
I’ve personally used this for basil, cilantro, and broccoli florets with great success, but it’s also ideal for most fresh herbs.
- First of all, DON’T wash the herbs or veggies! That actually can make them rot more quickly
- DO chop off the end of the stem, much like how you would chop the ends off of a flower bouquet before placing them in a vase
- Fill a jar or glass container (hey, a vase would work for this, too!) ¾ of the way full with cool filtered water and add the herb or vegetable
- Cover the whole thing with a plastic bag (I like to reuse the produce bag for this)
- Now place it in the fridge, and change the water every other day or two to keep it healthy
Depending on the type of herb, they’ll last anywhere from 7-20 days
As for broccoli in particular
- It’s best to wrap chopped broccoli in a towel or paper towel (or a cloth napkin if you don’t use paper towels like me) before tightly sealing it in a container
- Chopped broccoli is best used within 2-3 days
- Whole broccoli florets can actually last a pretty long time (between 2-3 weeks) if you keep them similar to cilantro
How to keep tomatoes fresh and not gritty
Fresh tomatoes are one of my favorite things to add to salads. Nothing is like it! But tomatoes can be finicky and can go gritty fast. And gritty tomatoes on salad are, like, my least favorite thing.
- To keep whole tomatoes fresh, it’s best to store them on the counter (what?! It’s true), stem side down, until they’re perfectly ripe. Once they’re ripe then move them into the refrigerator.
- Whole tomatoes last 2-3 weeks
- After dicing or slicing the tomatoes, store them in foil inside an air tight container. They’ll last about 3-5 days this way
Are you getting overwhelmed with all of the details? Grab the condensed version with the Fresh Veggie Cheat Sheet
How to keep carrots and celery happy
Carrots and celery are so different to me. Their composition, texture, flavor, everything. But they go SO well together in many dishes, and actually store very similarly.
- After dicing carrots and/or celery, the best way to keep them fresh is to place them in a container with filtered water until just covered. Just change the water every couple days
- They’ll keep like this for 14-21 days.
- Celery specific tip: Keep the unused bunch of celery wrapped in foil in the fridge. It can last weeks this way!
Note: My family also eats carrot and celery sticks for snacks, and I try to prep those in advance, too. A simple hack is to put them in a jar with about an inch of filtered water, standing up. Cover with a lid and enjoy them within 7-14 days. Just change that water every few days, or when it gets low.
How to store chopped onions
I love to cook with onions. We seriously have onion in our dinner and/or lunch and/or breakfast eggs every day, so these hacks are tested extensively.
- After peeling and dicing the onion, it can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge (I personally reuse the same sour cream container with ONION written on it)
- They’ll last for 7-10 days
Note: You can freeze diced onions without cooking them! This hack has changed my life. I chop up 3-4 onions at a time and shove them into plastic bags or these reusable containers in my freezer to pull out for sautéing.
Extra Note: Frozen onions do NOT work well for things where you wouldn’t be cooking them, like in a fresh salad or to top hamburgers. Ick.
How to keep onion’s best friend, garlic, fresh
Nothing beats the smell of sautéing onion and garlic. My husband ALWAYS seems to come home when these two are in the pan together and exclaims, “Wow, dinner smells so good!” This combo is all it takes.
- Chopped garlic will only last 2-3 days in the fridge, so use it quickly!
- Unpeeled garlic can last 10-25 days on the counter (halfway through its life move it to the fridge)
- Once garlic cloves are peeled they will last about 5-7 days in the fridge
Note: Another great way to use and store garlic is to peel and freeze the individual cloves on a baking sheet. Once the garlic cloves are frozen, move the garlic cloves to an airtight container/bag and stick it back in the freezer. It will keep up to a year this way. Just pull out the amount of cloves you need for your meal and leave them to thaw for just a couple minutes before dicing or slicing.
How to keep zucchini and summer squash NOT slimy
When I think of bad soft squash, I think of slimy zucchini. I’ve experienced that so. many. times. Ew. It’s good to know that these squash just really don’t last very long, so don’t buy them too far in advance.
- These softer squashes can be chopped (or spiraled) and wrapped with a slightly damp towel before being refrigerated
- After being chopped, zucchini and summer squash last about 24 hours, so use it quick!
- Whole zucchini or summer squash should be kept in a mesh or paper bag in the fridge for about 7-8 days. Moisture is the enemy. Just keep that in mind.
I have found that raw sliced zucchini and summer squash freeze well, too. Just lay the squash slices on a baking sheet, freeze, and move to baggies or reusable containers to store in the freezer until needed. It works great for sautéing with some onions for a quick side or omelet filling. No need to thaw them first.
A note on freezer containers: I use these plastic reusable containers to store chopped vegetables now. I’ve tried freezing things in glass jars, but they’ve cracked without warning, no matter the tricks I’ve tried. I’ve had to throw away a lot of good food since I’m not going to risk feeding my family glass shards. These plastic containers are a compromise for trying to reduce waste around here. I like that they’re dishwasher safe and reusable!
How to keep bell peppers fresh and crunchy
Okay, I have to start this with a story! When I first told my 2 year old son that his snack was “bell” peppers, it was sometime right after Christmas. He knew that bells jingle. So, after trying one, he declared, “Mmm, JINGLE PEPPERS are GOOD!” That name stuck around here. So we don’t eat bell peppers here anymore. We eat jingle peppers. But for the sake of your brain, I’ll go back to referring to them by their universal name.
- After dicing or slicing bell peppers, place them in an air tight container with a damp towel. They’ll keep for 2-4 days
- Whole bell peppers should be kept in the refrigerator crisper drawer in a mesh or paper bag. They’ll last 7-14 days
Note: raw, chopped or sliced bell peppers can be frozen in a single layer on a baking sheet, placed in a freezer baggie or container, and kept frozen for up to a year. Best thing ever for fajitas. And breakfast burritos.
Don’t forget to grab your Fresh Veggie Cheat Sheet! This printable is by no means an exhaustive list of all the veggies you use, but these listed veggies are the most frequently used and prepped fresh veggies in my kitchen.
What other veggies do you want hacks for? Are there any vegetables or herbs that just don’t last for you?
What tips do YOU have for keeping some of these prepped veggies fresh? Have you had success freezing more of these raw? Please share below!
Want more frugal kitchen tips? Check out how I meal plan to save my family a bunch of money!