How To Make Produce Last When You Only Shop Once a Month

Trying to get by as long as you can until your next shopping trip? Here are some tips on how to make produce last as long as possible!

Trying to get by as long as you can until your next shopping trip? Here are some tips on how to make produce last as long as possible!

How To Make Produce Last When You Only Shop Once a Month

We try and keep our grocery shopping to a minimum and only shop once a month. This gives us the opportunity to buy many of our foods at a lower price (since we will generally buy in bulk), plus it helps stop any impulse shopping at the very expensive local grocery store.

But one question that we get quite frequently is, “How do you make your fresh produce last if you only shop once a month?”. I’ll be honest…that is a tough one! But I have some tips for you on how we make it work if you are looking to shop once a month as well. Of course, make sure to share your tips in the comments section!

1. Have a garden all year round.

Of course, it’s easy to pull fresh produce from your garden in the summer to supplement your meals but you can do this in the winter as well! Plant a few “bush style” veggies (like beans, lettuce, etc) in flower pots or other containers in your house. Keep them warm and make sure they get plenty of sunlight and water and they will reward you will yummy fresh veggies even on the coldest of days!

Here’s a bit more on my winter garden from this past year.

You could also build an inexpensive cold frame to be able to extend your growing season. Here’s how we built a mini greenhouse for free.

2. Use a produce eating pattern.

You know that carrots will last a long time in the fridge while lettuce tends to go bad quickly. And of course, apples can last for months when stored at a cooler temp while peaches will go bad not long after they ripen. Use these trends to make your meal plan!

If you know that you will be able to get lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, apples, cabbage, and oranges on your next grocery shopping trip, make sure to plan meals with the lettuce and tomatoes first, cabbage and oranges sometimes in the middle, and apples and carrots towards the end of the month.

Here’s a quick list of the longest-lasting fruits and veggies:

pears2

 

3. Add in frozen produce.

Sometimes it isn’t always possible to get fresh produce to last until the end of the month. This is when we like to add more frozen produce into our diet.

Frozen produce not only lasts a long time, but it was also usually picked at peak ripeness so it contains a great deal of the original nutrients, and it’s inexpensive! I love to buy my frozen produce at Costco where I can get 5lbs of peas, broccoli, corn, and more for around $5-$8…for organic!

–Here are my favorite Frugal Vegetables to buy!

4. Keep your produce well.

If you practice good root cellaring techniques and keep your produce drawer clean and rotated food will last longer. One rotten apple will spoil the whole bunch quickly! We make sure to store our longer-lasting produce (winter squash, apples, carrots, onions, potatoes, etc) in root cellar like conditions to keep them lasting as long as possible.

Fresh Produce

5. Follow these quick tips for making produce last longer.

Here are a few shorter, random, but helpful tips!

  • Don’t wash berries until ready to eat them otherwise they spoil quickly.
  • Try rinsing certain fruits in a vinegar solution. I’ve heard others use this tip but I haven’t personally tried it.
  • Dice and fresh herbs in olive oil in ice cube trays. I’ve done this and it works well!
  • Store fresh herbs in a glass with a small amount of water in it.
  • Place paper towels in between layers of lettuce. We always do this with our fresh garden lettuce to keep it fresh longer!
  • If produce is going bad faster than you can use it, stick it in the freezer to use later.
  • You can always make jam!

And of course, we try to let nothing go to waste at our home, so anything that we didn’t eat quick enough before it spoiled or got mushy heads straight to my piggy slop pail or for the chickens to munch on.

Using these techniques we can usually keep our produce buying to once a month along with the rest of our groceries. Of course, if we happen to be in a town near the grocery store and have money left in our grocery budget for the month we will grab a few extras as well to keep our diet fresh and interesting!

Make sure to check out all of our articles on Buying in Bulk for even more tips on this topic.

What are some of your best tips for making produce last a long time?

merissabio

This blog post on how to make produce last was originally published on Little House Living in February 2015. It has been updated as of March 2020.

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27 Comments

  1. Another line of thought is to eat with the seasons. January tomatoes taste like cardboard,so I don’t buy them. If I need or want to add them to a salad or something similar,I drain(very well!) some home canned ones. It isn’t quite the same as fresh,but isn’t that why I canned them in the first place? We also shop once a month. I go to an Amish bulk food store for most things. Our local grocery store is small and expensive! I do buy some bananas sometimes,as well as celery to use in soups,etc. I try to keep apples for the duration,as well as potatoes,onions,and carrots. The other fruits and veggies were either canned or frozen last summer and fall. I do get a hankering for something green and fresh about now..but dandelions will soon be here..I hope! I do appreciate your tips on storing these things,though. You accomplish alot for a young person!!

  2. It’s really a matter of self control around here. It’s funny really. I “think” I need to go to the grocery……. But reality is different.

    we have been snowed in and experiencing very cold temperatures…. I haven’t been out since Sunday, and haven’t been to a store in weeks (I normally go every week). Not shopping has forced us to eat the avacodos that were about to go bad, the peppers hiding in the back of the fridge, the 25 lbs of apples in the outside storage , and the cabbage that’s been sitting in the bottom drawer for 2 months!

    You are right. I can go much longer than I think between grocery trips.

  3. I just love the tip about practicing produce rotation. SO simple, yet SO smart. I need to spread out my grocery visits a bit more, I am sure it would be better for the family budget. Thanks for the encouragement.

  4. In the heat we have here on the coast, drying food is a way to preserve food for winter. Although we can grow some things year round, an abundance of some things like basil, which I love, is easily dried. We love sun dried tomatoes too. With just two of us, it is sometimes cheaper to buy or beg, : ), produce or fruit from others. That’s why I have a freezer with figs, persimmons, chopped clementines, kumquats every year. Most people are happy to share so we are blessed with fruit from trees like these. Never hurts to ask!

    1. Thank you for the clementines tip, I never thought to freeze them. I usually wait for them to go on sale, enjoy then wait for the next sale as they can be up to 8 or 9.99 here for a 2lb bag. I looked it up and even found a recipe for covering them in dark chocolate when you freeze. Yum!

  5. To make fresh berries last from the grocery store put them in a 3part water part apple cider vinegar, and swirl them around for a minute or two as soon as you get them home. This will kill bacteria just waiting to mold your precious berries! Dry them gently and put back in the package and in the refrigerator. They wont taste like vinegar, and will last a lot longer. Ive done this with strawberries, black berries, rasberries, and blue berries and it works every time!!

    1. I will definitely try the above suggestion. Fresh berries are expensive where we live and they go bad so fast! Another suggestion to avoid waste is to use up all your “expiring” veggies for stir fry, chow mein, or fried rice recipes. Also if you line your fridge’s veg. bins with paper towels or newspaper I find my veggies don’t wilt as fast.

  6. This is such great advice. I have failed several times at doing this so I really appreciate the tips. Thanks for sharing this with the Tips & Tricks Link Party. Pinned!

  7. don’t forget about bean sprouts..all you need is a mason jar and some water, and of course the seeds….yummy, easy, cheap, and nutritious

    1. Thanks for the reminder! I really need to try this and get into the habit of making them regularly! Where I live (Michigan), we don’t get enough sun to grow fruits or veggies in the winter, even indoors, but sprouts I could do! ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. But the name of the article was how to make them last all month long, how do you make produce last all month long? Not just eating with seasons or in a pattern, how do you make the lettuce I just bought last all month because I am not going shopping again for a month. Help??

    1. Not every kind of produce will last for an entire month. The idea behind this article is to eat your produce in a pattern…with the varieties that go bad first being eaten first.

  9. Store your fruits & veggies in seperate produce drawers because the fruits give off a gas as they ripen (even very slowly in the fridge) that will speed up the ripening of the veggies (which generally ripen slower). So veggies will,last linger if seperated from fruit. Also, I store asparagus upright in a wide-mouth coffee mug of water…like a vase of flowers. They last a long time this way!

  10. I wish there was a way to preserve lettuce. I crave those chicken Cesar salads we have weekly during the warmer months. I eat seasonally with the occasional splurge if something is on sale or looks decent. I also follow a pattern where the most fragile produce gets used first. I use canned tomatoes all winter and I freeze what I can if we haven’t used it up before it expires. I have a window herb garden so that helps with some freshness. I’ve gotten my shopping down to once every two weeks, and my goal is once a month. We’re in a rental, but I’m planning a big container garden this spring, my first garden that I’m hoping the deer keep away from! I’m trying to look up winter gardening for next fall as well.

    1. To extend leafy veggie purchases (like the kinds you get in the bag or plastic boxes), put a couple of paper towels in the top of the package. This will wick any moisture out of the container which leads to wilted soggy greens. Has helped me extend those purchases by as much as 2 weeks or more!

  11. Our potatoes from the store sprout and rot within a week or 10 days at most in Texas. Short of storing them in the fridge, I have to use 5-10 lbs. of potatoes in a week, which we get tired of. I do freeze mashed potatoes.

    1. Carol the retired cook…

      When I worked my husband would bring 50 lb bags of potatoes home. So, I researched how to freeze potatoes. I would make bags for firing, mashed, for soups and stew. Peel, rinse, cut, cubed for your mashed potato and for your soups and stews. cut slices for you fried potatoes. In a large pot have a saltwater solution hot and ready for blanching your potatoes. Time for blanching…. for fried about one to two minutes {pending on how thin or thick slices}. For the cubed potatoes…blanch for two minutes. Only try to do two or three batches at a time, bring potatoes out of hot water solution in cold icy water to stop cooking process the lay on cloth towels and pat dry bag and put in freezer. They will last two or three months. Do not thaw out! Take them from the freezer to boiling water for mashed, soups and stews, let them finish cooking. Now for your frying potatoes put in oiled skillet and fry with a lid on them {helps thaw them to fry. For french fries you need to deep fry or cook them and then freeze. I know it sounds like a lot of work, but in the long run they are a time saver! Buy 10 lb bag! I had 8 to cook for. I also cooked with my crock pot a lot.

  12. Check out articles about making fermented foods. I buy vegetables on sale and then ferment some of them, including cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, asparagus, onions, cucumbers, etc. It’s easy and the food lasts a month or more. You don’t have to buy special equipment-just use wide mouth canning jars or large size peanut butter jars and use a cabbage leaf or small glass jar to weight the produce down under the liquid. it’s fun and amazing!

  13. I meal prep my salad for the entire week. Iโ€™ve noticed that if I use spinach and put it in individual containers, it lasts longer and I have fresh salad all week.

    And if your produce is slightly wilted or past itโ€™s prime, you can keep a container or zip lock bag in the freezer for soup. Iโ€™ll put those extra bits of celery, onions, or carrots and make broth or soup.

  14. We have tried making clothe paper towels (the size of three paper towels) out of diaper clothe (just a single layer) for wrapping out greens in, (such a lettuce). When we prerinse or soak first, make sure it’s basically dry, then wrap them …. this crisps them nicely plus helps them last also. Plus we’re not spending a bunch on paper towels or time wise is buying them. Thank you for all your tips as well … we’re looking to making our lives more simply and efficient …. and just in being happy with simplicity. Thank you! P.S. we got diaper clothe at Walmart in a precut fabric.

  15. I use my dehydrator to reduce food waste and stretch out produce purchases. I buy bags of frozen veggies on sale and then put some of them into the dehydrator. If carrots, peppers, onions, and celery look like they are getting old, I dehydrate them. Same thing with apple slices. I soak slices in lemon juice, a little sugar, and cinnamon for apple crisps.

    I save tomato skins and ends, dehydrate them, and grind them into powders. Same thing with celery leaves.

    My chihuahua loves grated carrots, frozen peas, and apple slices, and so I stretch her food out with those. This also helps me to use up older produce.

    Careful planning goes into produce purchases. I carefully monitor the produce that I have on hand and make sure that it gets used or preserved. By doing this, I can stretch out the produce purchases and save money.