6 Ingredients With Long Shelf Lives & How to Make the Most Out of Them
Produce that doesn’t go bad quickly is all the more important when we can’t grocery shop on a whim. Learn what fruits and vegetables last a long time so that you can cook healthy meals in quarantine!
We’re all trying to do our part to help flatten the curve of the coronavirus, and that means going grocery shopping less frequently than we’re used to. Some experts are even recommending that we limit shopping trips to just once every two weeks.
That’s a small price to pay to save lives. But if you’re like us, it’s a big shift! And you may be thinking that it’s easier said than done. After all, a head of lettuce only lasts a few days in the crisper — are we just supposed to not eat vegetables during week two?!
Fear not. While shopping infrequently is far from ideal, there are actually quite a few vegetables that will stay good for weeks in your fridge or pantry. So we’re going to cover some of our favorite less-perishable produce items, and how to use them.
Our Produce Shelf Life Guide will help you choose the right balance of produce to last you a full two weeks between grocery store trips. Plan your meals to use the more perishable items first, then move on to the items that will last up to a week. Right now you’ll want to buy heavily from the “no rush” section that will stay fresh for two or more weeks. You can download the free chart below and print it out for easy reference!
Produce Shelf Life Guide
Reduce food waste when you learn how to care for fresh produce.
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Both green and red cabbage last longer than two weeks in the fridge, so now is the time to embrace this often-underutilized veggie. The great thing about cabbage is that it can be eaten both raw and cooked. Raw cabbage can be shredded and used as a base for salad, where its crunch will add a li’l something extra to your meal. It’s great paired with other crunchy veggies such as carrots, celery, and edamame, and holds up well to acidic, umami, spicy, and even sweet flavors in the dressing. It can also be pickled in apple cider vinegar for a mouth-puckering but delicious treat that goes well on sandwiches, as a side dish, or added to a salad.
Cooked, you have even more options. Cabbage is great in stir-fries, where you can mix it with frozen veggies (if you’re out of fresh) and your choice of protein, and serve it over rice or noodles. Make use of the whole head of cabbage by stir-frying it on its own and serving it as a side dish to fried rice or to a grain and your favorite protein; we like it with fresh ginger and sesame oil, and finished with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
Cabbage also makes a great addition to soups; anything from minestrone to borscht to deconstructed cabbage roll soup will benefit from the flavor. It can even be thrown into creamy pasta dishes — depending on your preference, cook it briefly to retain the crunch, or slice it thinly and cook it a little longer so that it practically melts into the sauce.
- Toss shredded cabbage with pieces of toasted ramen noodles, almonds, and edamame, then pour on your favorite Asian-style salad dressing to play up the cabbage’s crunch, as we do in our Asian Chicken Salad with Crunchy Ramen.
- Make a light Pasta Alfredo by sautéeing cabbage along with frozen peas and canned artichokes, then tossing with fettuccine and your favorite jarred Alfredo sauce, or try our lightened-up version of Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo.
- Elevate your burger by topping it with red cabbage quick-pickled in apple cider vinegar with garlic, chopped jalapeño, and carrots, such as in this curtido topping we use on our BBQ Portobello Burger.
Carrots & Parsnips
You probably already have carrots in your fridge, but if you’re not familiar with parsnips, a winter veggie that looks like albino carrots, you’re missing out! Sweet and savory, parsnips are a root vegetable that tastes like a mix of carrot and potato. Hands down, our favorite way to prepare both carrots and parsnips is roasted, either alone or with other root vegetables. Peel them and chop them into cubes, then simply toss them in some cooking oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper before putting them into a 425-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes for carrots, 35 to 45 minutes for parsnips.
Want to get fancy? Once out of the oven, you can toss them in a sauce. We’re partial to miso-maple butter, honey lemon butter, and lemon paprika butter — pretty much any sauce that combines sweet and sour / savory works great!
Carrots are also great in smoothies thanks to their sweetness; they pair particularly well with mango and other tropical flavors. They’re also a natural in soups or stir-fries, or make a crunchy addition to salads. For a more out-of-the-box dish, add grated carrot and parsnip to potato pancakes.
- Carrots or parsnips can be sautéed in butter, shallots, and herbs and served on a salad or as a side dish, just like the brown butter parsnips from this Glazed Pork Chop recipe.
- Create the winning sweet-sour combo by roasting carrots with a touch of maple syrup, then squeezing lemon over the top before serving, like in this Rosemary Mustard Chicken recipe.
- Or go a different direction entirely and create a lightened (and lightly sweet) version of mashed potatoes by steaming or boiling one part parsnips to two parts potatoes, then mashing the two together with butter and milk. Give our recipe for Potato and Parsnip Puree a try, and you’ll discover a new, delicious way to enjoy parsnips!
Celery is a long-lasting veggie that’s good far beyond just ants on a log (though we wouldn’t fault you for saving a few sticks for that!). It’s part of the classic soup base of celery, carrot, and onion (called “mirepoix”), and adds juicy crunch like a superstar to cold dishes such as salads. For soup, sauté the mirepoix in oil until the onions soften, then add any proteins, then liquids, and finally soft vegetables such as greens.
Raw celery is great in any meal that uses a peanut sauce — think of it as the grown-up version of those ants on a log — and pairs well with apple or pear. It’s also fantastic in potato salad, tuna salad, mashed chickpea salad, or egg salad, where it adds some necessary crunch to otherwise soft and creamy dishes.
- Sauté your mirepoix, then add a can of crushed tomatoes and some chicken stock for a simple soup that can be enriched with your choice of beans, sausage, pasta, and additional vegetables, like we do in our member-favorite Pasta e Fagioli.
- Get your peanut sauce on by combining peanut butter, grated ginger, water, brown sugar, rice vinegar, and soy sauce, and use it as a dip for raw celery. Or add your celery to a salad with peanut dressing, like we do in our Asian Kale Salad with Chicken.
- Make a jambalaya by sautéeing chopped celery with onions and bell peppers, then add rice, garlic, tomato paste, and spices, just like how we do in our Shrimp & Sausage Jambalaya recipe!
Lemons and Limes
The lone fruit on our list, these citruses are great to have on hand for the days after your fresh herbs are not-so-fresh anymore; they can really elevate savory dishes through just a squeeze of juice at the end. Because they’re so highly acidic, lemon and lime help balance out other flavors in a meal and bring out complexities of flavors, so it’s worth picking up a few when you’re at the store. (If you do have your heart set on cooking with fresh herbs, rosemary and thyme both last for at least two weeks, unlike more delicate herbs.)
Lime is perfect for finishing Mexican or Asian-inspired dishes, such as tacos, salads, stir-fries, fried rice, and more, while lemon shines alongside European or classic American flavors, such as on steamed broccoli, oven-roasted salmon, minestrone soup, and in pasta dishes. Lemon can even be sliced thin and baked on fish, chicken, or pizza! Citrus is an important element in many sauces, from Thai peanut sauce to honey lemon butter, and the zest can be used in sauces, muffins, smoothies and more.
- Slice lemon very thinly and spread it on pizza before baking, peel and all, for a dish unlike any you’ve tried. That’s what we do in this Asparagus and Prosciutto Pizza!
- Stir lemon zest into melted butter with thyme leaves and drizzle it over chicken before baking, as we do in these Sheet Pan Chicken Thighs.
- Squeeze lime over the top of a rice bowl with your protein of choice, cabbage, carrots, and Thai sweet chili sauce — or let the lime play double duty if you make your own sweet chili sauce, as we do for our Egg Roll in a Bowl meal.
Many people think of onions as simply a way to add flavor to a dish, but if you’re aiming for your five-to-nine-a-day, they definitely count as a vegetable! The great thing about onions is that when stored properly (in a cool, dark place away from potatoes), they can last for months. Sautéed onions start off many dishes, from stir-fries to soups to curries, but they’re not just a supporting player: onions can be used as the primary (or only!) veggie in a stir-fry or veggie scramble served with rice and protein.
And let’s not forget caramelized onions! Their phenomenal flavors take center stage all on their own. To caramelize onions, start with thinly sliced red onions and sautée with oil over low to medium heat, adding a splash of water anytime it looks like the onions may burn. Once they soften, add some balsamic vinegar and a little brown sugar and continue cooking to your liking. Tip: Traditionally, caramelized onions are cooked low and slow, but turn up the heat a little to speed up the process (just don’t let them burn!).
- Caramelized onions turn a mediocre grilled cheese into a thing of beauty; they’re particularly good with creamy cheeses such as brie or havarti. We’re a little obsessed with these Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Balsamic Red Onions.
- A quick pickle of red onions adds some sweet and sour bite to a salad, such as in this Thai Steak Salad with mango, pickled onions, and peanuts.
- Sauté onions with garlic and mushrooms to start off a soup and build some incredible flavor, as we do in this fan-favorite Lasagna Soup — or in the case of French onion soup, just commit to the onions!
Potatoes & Sweet Potatoes
Classic pantry vegetables, potatoes and sweet potatoes are versatile and almost universally beloved. Baked (or microwaved wrapped in a damp paper towel with knife slits to prevent an explosion), they make for an easy meal that can be topped with caramelized onion, avocado, broccoli, cheese, yogurt or sour cream, black beans, grilled chicken, or just about anything else you can think of. Leftover sweet potato is also surprisingly good in smoothies — think pumpkin pie spice, frozen banana, and almond milk.
Cut into wedges, fries or sweet potato fries make a great side for steak, chicken, or fish with steamed veggies or a salad. And of course, who could forget mashed? If you’ve got mashed potatoes on the dinner menu, turn leftovers into potato patties and crisp them in a pan for tasty potato pancakes.
But if you want to get a little more creative, breakfast skillet hashes or stir-fries containing shredded or cubed potatoes are a win any time of the day, especially topped with a fried egg.
- For a twist on the classic mashed potatoes, use coconut milk in mashed sweet potatoes. These pair perfectly with Indian flavors, such as in our Roasted Indian Curry Chicken Drumsticks.
- Chopped and roasted, even the simplest of recipes creates delicious caramelized crispness on potatoes. These work great alongside spinach, mushrooms, and eggs, like we use in Smoked Salmon Breakfast Bowls.
- Potatoes thicken and add texture to soups, such as potato cheese or vegetable soup. We’re also partial to our Mulligatawny Soup, which gets its flavor from curry powder, garam masala, and turmeric.
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