Skip to main content

How to keep produce fresh for weeks without taking up valuable fridge space

It pays to know how to save fresh produce so that it doesn’t spoil before you can use it. Whether you are preparing for harvest time from your new vegetable garden, taking advantage of in-season sale, or want to stock up because going to the grocery store is a hassle, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with an abundance of fresh produce.

Fresh is best

The shelf life of fresh produce varies based on the type and the conditions in which it is stored. But before you think about how to store it, first consider the quality of the fruits and veggies you buy. For extended storage, it is vital to start with the freshest available. Avoid buying items with wilted or yellow leaves, dull coloration, blemishes, or wrinkled skin. Cabbage, onions, root vegetables, and squash should feel heavy for their size, an indication that they are still well hydrated. If you’re harvesting from your garden, use any blemished items first and store the healthiest stuff for later use.

Store fresh produce in the right conditions

The three elements that most affect the storage quality of fresh produce are temperature, airflow, and ethylene gas. Lots of produce stores best in the refrigerator, but onions, garlic, potatoes, and sweet potatoes prefer cool room temperature.

Refrigerated produce benefits from a sealed environment, like a plastic zipper bag, grocery store produce bag, or lidded container, where it is protected from dehydration and ethylene gas exposure. Produce that is stored at room temperature requires good air circulation to avoid condensation and rot. Never leave these items in plastic bags, even if the bag is perforated. 

Some items such as ripening bananas, avocados, tomatoes, and apples give off ethylene gas as they sit on the counter or in the fridge. Other fruits and veggies, like green beans, broccoli, carrots, leafy greens, and sweet potatoes are sensitive to ethylene. Ethylene-sensitive produce ripens and decays faster in the presence of ethylene, so take care to keep them separated.

cherry tomatoes

Potatoes and sweet potatoes

Refrigeration changes potato and sweet potato sugars to starch, and warm temperatures make them sprout, so a cool location is best. Prolonged exposure to light makes potatoes turn green. Store these roots in a dark, humid, room-temperature environment. Provide good air circulation and keep them away from ethylene producers like onions and bananas. 

If an otherwise firm, healthy potato or sweet potato sprouts, it’s fine to cut off the sprout and cook the potato. If a regular potato turns green, do not eat it, as the green color is associated with buildup of toxic compounds in the tuber. Toss any potato that is shriveled or moldy.

Other root veggies

Beets, carrots, rutabagas, turnips and other root vegetables are some of the best for long storage. Prepare them first by removing leafy tops, then seal the roots in plastic bags.  Place the sealed bags in any convenient place in the fridge. 

The tops of root veggies are useful as salad or braised greens, or to make stock. After removing them from the roots, store them in the same way as other leafy greens. They’ll stay fresh for about a week.

Onions and garlic

Common onions and garlic store best at room temperature with good air circulation. They can be stored together. Moisture will cause them to spoil quickly, so be sure to remove them from plastic bags. Because alliums are gas producers, be sure to keep them away from ethylene-sensitive produce like potatoes.

If green shoots appear at the tops of onions or garlic, they are still safe to eat. The shoots themselves are edible, as well. Store green onions or scallions like root vegetables: cut off the root crown. Cut the tops short enough so they fit in a zipper bag, dry off any excess moisture, seal them in a bag, and store them in the fridge.

Cabbage family

Cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower keep for a long time in the veggie crisper with little preparation. Remove leaves from broccoli and cauliflower, cut them to fit in zipper bags, seal them up, and store them in the refrigerator. Leave heads of cabbage intact and simply place the head in the crisper or quarter the head and store the quarters in zipper bags. 

Winter squash

Hard-shelled squashes like butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squash should be stored at room temperature. Keep them out of direct sunlight with good air circulation, and they will stay in peak condition for several months. Store winter squash well away from ethylene producers.

whole carrots in a plastic bag

Leafy greens

Leaf lettuces and baby greens don’t last long in storage, but other leafy greens can stay fresh two or more weeks. Romaine, iceberg, and other head lettuces last a couple of weeks or more stored in the crisper. Kale, collard greens, escarole, endive, watercress, and others require a minimal amount of preparation prior to storage. Remove any yellow, wilted or slimy leaves from the bundle and store them in a sealable container without washing them. 

Apples and pears

Apples are susceptible to drying and getting soft, and they produce ethylene gas. Keep yours fresh and crisp by storing them in a plastic bag in a crisper drawer. But be sure to only store them with produce that is not sensitive to ethylene. If there’s no room in the drawer, they’ll keep just fine in the coldest part of your fridge.

Pears, on the other hand, often need a little time to finish ripening. Keep them on the counter in a bowl or paper bag. After they soften, move them to the refrigerator alongside the apples. Pears and apples will stay fresh in cold storage for up to three weeks.


Firm berries like strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries may harbor mold and bacteria that can shorten their storage life. When you bring them home, sort and wash them before storing them. Discard any shriveled, moldy, or otherwise blemished fruit, then wash them in a solution of 3 parts cold water to 1 part white vinegar. Drain and rinse with cold water. Spread them on a clean towel and gently pat dry. Wash the container they came in and reuse it, or place them in another clean container lined with a folded paper towel to absorb excess moisture. Store berries in the veggie crisper or on a shelf in the fridge.

If you want to make more efficient use of your grocery money, storing fresh fruits and veggies the right way can help. Proper handling of produce will ensure that it remains fresh longer, so you can eat it rather than throwing it out. It’s an easy way to save money and eat better.

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Wolfe
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Mark Wolfe is a freelance writer who specializes in garden, landscaping, and home improvement. After two decades in the…
How to grow tomatoes from seed for the biggest, most delicious haul
Go from tomato to seed to tomato again with this easy guide
Beautiful ripened tomatoes

Tomatoes are great produce to grow in your home garden. You can have them fresh as a snack, make them into a red sauce, slice them for sandwiches, add them to your salads, and even use them to make homemade salsa. For tomato lovers, these vegetables/fruits (and yes, technically, they really are considered a fruit, even though they're usually used like vegetables), they’re a must—and there are tons of varieties to choose from! Between larger varieties that are perfect for outdoor garden beds and dwarf varieties suitable for containers, there’s a tomato for everyone. Most of the time, you'll purchase tomato plants from a nursery. But have you ever thought about growing your own tomatoes from seeds?

Why grow tomatoes from seeds?
Aside from the rewarding process of growing a healthy plant from seed to maturity, growing your tomato plants from seed can be cost-effective if it’s a crop you grow season after season. Purchasing seed packs from a store costs much less for a larger amount than if you were to buy that amount of tomato seedlings, even when you take into consideration needing to plant a few seeds per starter to increase the chances of developing a viable plant. With just one tomato, you could potentially get multiple new plants just from the seeds!
Can I plant seeds straight from a tomato?
Sort of, but not exactly. As with any other crop, you’ll need to let the seeds you harvest dry out properly before attempting to plant them. That said, it's possible to harvest the seeds from your tomatoes, dry them out, and save them for the following season!

Read more
How to harvest romaine lettuce you can eat fresh from the garden
How to harvest and regrow romaine lettuce
Gardener growing some lettuce

Romaine lettuce is one of the most popular types of lettuce. It has a fresh flavor that’s not too bitter or too sweet, and it full of nutrients, making it a versatile vegetable. If you’ve been considering adding romaine to your garden, you might have wondered how easy it is to grow and harvest. Not to worry, we’ll answer all your romaine questions, from when to plant it to how to harvest it. We’ll even include some tips and tricks for propagating your romaine.

Planting romaine
Romaine is a quick growing plant, and the seeds and seedlings are surprisingly frost tolerant. This makes romaine a low risk, high reward plant for either your spring or fall vegetable gardens. Many nurseries and gardening stores carry romaine seedlings or starter plants. Starter plants can typically be planted as soon as you get them.

Read more
Raspberries are a delicious and tart treat: How to grow them in your garden
How to plant and care for raspberries
Several ripe red raspberries on a vine

Fresh, delicious raspberries are a lovely treat, but it can be hard to tell exactly how fresh supermarket raspberries are. Rather than carefully examining containers of raspberries to see which looks fresher, why not just grow your own? They’re easy to grow, and, if you start with one plant, you can propagate your raspberry plant to make even more. Does the idea of having baskets full of fresh raspberries for homemade jams, pies, or smoothies appeal to you? Then you’re in the right place! We’re about to lay out all the dos and don’ts of planting and caring for raspberries.

What is the right variety of raspberry for you?
There are more kinds of raspberries than you might first imagine. For starters, there are two main categories: summer-bearing and everbearing, also sometimes called fall-bearing. Summer-bearing varieties produce one large crop of raspberries in the summer, while everbearing varieties produce two smaller crops, one in fall and a second in summer. Everbearing varieties tend to be shorter and sturdier, while summer-bearing varieties grow longer canes that need to be trellised.

Read more