Friday, March 9, 2012

Food Essay Friday: Produce That Will Last a Month or Longer

Ever since the money suck known as December, I've been trying to shop less. I don't actually even enjoy shopping, but I'd gotten into a bit of a habit or going here or there to get the very best deal. Truly, I think it's generally a lousy way to save money (there's always something else there that you or your kids desperately need/want that is not on sale) and it's an enormous time commitment, which--unless you're a super couponer--is not worth it. Yet, somehow it is sort of addicting. I'm not entirely sure why this is. Perhaps it's the draw of those super deals. Perhaps it's some double empowerment you feel by both spending money and saving (or thinking you're saving) it. My personal theory is that by going to a different store several days of the week, you can avoid doing your laundry. I'll do almost anything to avoid my laundry. Unfortunately, going to several grocery stores is no longer on the list. It was costing me too much money; it was costing me too much time; it was costing me too much life energy.  

Lately I've been doing one major shopping day. It's kind of painful (3 hours at Aldi and Walmart with two small kids), but it seems to be paying off because I have a fully stocked house most of the month, which leads to less last-minute running around. I've had more free time and it's made it a lot easier to enjoy spring, my house, and my children. But not my laundry. 

My laundry woes aside, however, you're probably wondering how I shop for produce only once a month. Well, I don't. I usually get it a few times a month. And I do a milk run to a cheap nearby store once a week. However, I have noticed that there is quite a bit of produce that lasts for quite some time, especially if refrigerated, but sometimes even if it's not. We'll start with the most obvious and move down the list. 

Produce That Will Last a Month or Longer

1. Potatoes. These can be left out and they'll last even longer in the fridge. 
2. Sweet potatoes. These do best when NOT refrigerated, but kept cool and dry. I often buy lots when they're cheap at Thanksgiving time and keep them most of the winter long in our cool basement. 
3. Onions. The bulb onions are a classic storage produce item, but even the green onions will have a very good run if you refrigerate them. Even when they start to look a little sketchy, you can peel off the outer layer and usually have a very good green onion underneath.
4. Winter squash. Pumpkins, acorn, butternut--all the stuff with a thick skin will last a very long time. I buy butternut when it's on sale and keep it all winter in our basement too. 
5. Carrots. Refrigerate and they'll last longer than a month.
6. Cauliflower. Refrigerate.
7. Broccoli if it's fresh. If not, it'll only keep a week or two. 
8. Celery. Keep it well-wrapped in your fridge. Even if it starts to get a little wilty, it's perfectly good in soups and with roasts.
9. Apples. Buy them when they're in season. If you're already eating last year's cold storage apples, they won't keep too long, but if you buy seasonal apples, they'll keep a month or much longer, especially if refrigerated. Be sure there are no rotten ones spoiling the proverbial barrel. 
10. Oranges and other citrus fruit. Again, if these are seasonal (winter is their season), they'll keep for a while on the counter and they'll give you an easy month if they're kept refrigerated. Do make sure there are none already rotten or broken open. These will rot and ruin the good fruit around them too. 
11. Cabbage. Keep it wrapped in the original packaging or some tightly wound saran wrap of your own and they're good to go for a long time. 
12. Beets. Wrap or seal in a bag and refrigerate.
13. Lettuce. Okay, it might not make it quite a month, but you'd be surprised how long a wrapped head of lettuce will last you. Iceberg probably does the best, but I haven't bought it for year. I usually buy romaine and I've had lots of success with it. Generally speaking, the tighter the head, the longer it will last. Loose or cut leaves will go quickly (though putting them in a bag or tupperware with a paper towel will keep them going over a week too). 

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