Maximize Fresh Produce | How to Store Leafy Greens

Here at Flawed yet Functional, I believe in eating real, whole foods. In order to eat real, whole foods, proper storage is key. There’s nothing more frustrating for me than to carefully plan a meal, shop for the ingredients, then go to make it a few days later and the key ingredient has spoiled. Enough of that crazy cycle! Today, we’ll focus on the proper storage of leafy greens. This method of storing fresh greens applies to all those rich green leafy vegetables: spinach, kale, collard greens, leaf lettuce, Swiss Chard, herbs, etc.

My latest shopping trip brought home 2 bunches of spinach, 1 bunch of kale, and 1 bunch of cilantro. Before learning and taking the time to properly store these leafy greens, the cilantro would be yellow or brown in a day or two. The spinach might get half eaten then the other bunch and a half meet the trash can once they started to stink. The only real contender to make it one week was the kale, as it is the most hardy. None of these greens stood a change of making it to the two week mark.

I used to get discouraged because I could never plan my meals just right to get the fresh, leafy greens all consumed in 2-3 days. Here’s some truth for you: when properly stored, greens can last two weeks or more in the refrigerator. What? Are you mind-blown? I was!

I grocery shop, with a plan, every other week. Fresh, leafy greens are purchased every time, and they stay fresh until the next shopping trip. Well, what’s left of them, I usually have everything used up. On the rare occasion I have some left, it is still edible two weeks after leaving the store. Want to know how? I’m so glad you asked! Read on!

Fresh Green Info Graphic

5 Simple Steps to Save the Leafy Greens

Items needed:

  • Bunches of fresh greens (kale, spinach, collard greens, leaf lettuce, herbs, etc.)
  • Paper towel
  • Plastic bag (I usually just use the produce bag I brought home from the store, but a shopping bag or zip top bag works great too.)

Remove the ties or wrapping around the greens

The key to keeping lettuce or any leafy green fresh long is letting them breathe. The first step to doing this is to remove the metal or plastic tie that is holding them together from the store. When you loosen this tie, you may find wilting or mushy stems or leaves hiding in the middle of the bunch. Go ahead and throw those way now. No sense in letting a little rot spoil the whole bunch!

Fresh Greens from Store

Rinse with cold water and shake out excess water

Run the bunch of greens under cold water to get out any dirt or bugs that might be hiding in there. I know that sounds gross, but you never know! Produce spray is also very helpful for removing dirt, especially if you are storing greens from your own garden which will be much more dirty than greens from the store.

Cleaning the greens now before storing them not only allows them to last longer, but it makes it quicker to use them when you are cooking. Just pull from the fridge, chop, and toss in your recipe!

Cleaned Fresh Spinach

Wrap in paper towel

Not too tight! Wrap the towel tight enough to keep the bunch together as the paper towel gets wet from the freshly washed greens but not so tight as to not let air in. Remember, the greens need to breathe!

Some methods will say to dampen the paper towel at this point. I have found that if my greens are still damp from the wash, there is no need to wet the paper towel. In fact, wet greens + damp paper towel = too much wetness. Rot is quickly to follow. Only dampen the paper towel if you’ve allowed your greens to dry after washing.

Store Green Wrapped

Slide into Plastic Bag

Slide your little leafy green burrito into a very loose fitting plastic bag, leaving the end open. Again, the greens need to breathe! I usually use the produce bag I brought the greens home in from the grocery store to hold my leafy green burritos. I’ve also used the plastic shopping bag or even an unzipped, zip-top bag. Really any plastic bag will do. It just needs to form a little bit of protection from the cold air of the refrigerator while allowing, wait for it, the greens to breathe!

Fresh Spinach Stored

Store in the Fridge for Two Weeks (or more!)

Be careful putting the packages in the refrigerator. Make sure they aren’t smashed by other food or each other. These do best in my fridge alone on a shelf or resting on top of some leftover containers on the deeper shelves. I don’t put these in the produce drawer. There’s not enough air flow in mine (could be because mine are stuffed to the gills though!). Remember, keep the bag loose so the greens have room to breathe, so place them wherever that is optimal in your fridge.

Greens Wrapped Bagged

That’s it! Super simple 5 steps: untie, rinse, wrap, bag, store!┬áIt does take a little bit of time when you arrive home from the grocery store. However, a few minutes of work for 2 weeks worth of fresh greens? I’ll take it!

Another perk, beyond frustration when cooking is proper storage will save you money! The best way to save money on your grocery bill and maximize your health is to not throw food away. Don’t let it rot in your fridge! Want to read more? Check out this post for other tips to maximize your grocery budget.

How do you store your fresh lettuce, herbs, and leafy greens? Any other tips to keep them fresh for a long time?

How to Store Fresh Greens


Maximize Fresh Produce | Help for Green Onions

As we are wrapping up the menu planning series (click for parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5), I’ve gotten questions on affordability. How do we afford to eat a Paleo diet? Isn’t it expensive?

Yes, it is, and I’m still ruminating the cost of our diet question. I will share once I get my thoughts straightened out!

For today, I want to share one aspect of affording a whole foods, Paleo diet:

Don’t let your food rot in your fridge.

I know, shocking, right? If most of your fresh fruits and vegetables end up in the trash can, it is going to be pretty expensive if you end up buying them twice or three times.

Making a menu plan will solve a lot of that. You will only have the ingredients for the meals you plan to make. You won’t have that theoretically-good-to-snack-on-or-cook-with celery rotting in your fridge. You will only have celery in the fridge if it is actually an ingredient in one of the recipes you are going to make.

The problem I still run into, even with a menu plan, that I’d like to present to you today is what if you get ahead of your menu plan and veggies/fruit are hanging out in the fridge longer than intended?

I ran into this just this week. I had purchased two bags of green onions from Aldi (equivalent to 4-5 bunches of green onions from the regular grocery store. So…a lot!) for use in soups that I never made. I still plan to make them, but the meals I had planned this cycle ended up stretching farther than I thought they would.

So here I am with a whole bunch of green onions that are past their prime. Most have squishy, slimy green pieces. Some only have slight browned ends, mostly crisp and fresh still. They are on their way out. They will be a pile of stinky, mush if I leave them in the fridge too much longer.

Enter my amazing mother-in-law’s solution: snap off the slimy or brown parts, rinse them off, chop as usual, then toss in a zip-top bag and throw in the freezer!

It’s so simple, but I never thought of it. Freeze the vegetables that are about to go bad. Later, toss them into a soup or baked dish, and the consistency will not be noticeable!

Here are my tired green onions. Honestly, I’ve had way worse in my fridge, but I knew if I didn’t take care of these right away, they’d be a stinky mess in no time!

tired green onionsI pulled off all green strands that were slimy or discolored.

cleaning off dead partsThen I snapped off the ends of any pieces that looked dried or discolored. The difference here is I did not remove the entire green piece from the onion. The piece was still crunchy and fresh(ish) looking except the ends.

snapping off dead partsNext rinse each onion under cold water making sure to remove any remaining slimy parts. Since the onion is in layers, you will find that the entire layer is not always removed down to the white roots. Just make sure all the onions are cleaned up and fresh.

cleaned green onionsMove the onions to the cutting board. Remove the root ends then chop the rest of the onion.

chopped green onionsI, uh, had a lot of these in my fridge. I should’ve counted. I chopped at least 20! Yikes!

Put the chopped onions in a zip top bag, label it, and toss them in the freezer!

baggie green onionsThe next time I need to add green onions to a soup or egg casserole, I pull these out of the freezer and pour them in frozen. They do not freeze in a hard clump. They are easy to break up when frozen. I never thaw them before I add them to a dish. I know the consistency will be mushy, so I always add them to a dish that will get just a little bit more cooking. I would not use them as a raw topping, say on tacos.

There you have it! You never need to waste green onions again! Chop them up and throw them in the freezer! This tip, and many other like it, will help you use all of the vegetables you buy without wasting any.

Anyone else know this trick? I’ve also done it with bell peppers. Have you tried any other vegetables?

Save the green onions