How to Prevent Food Spoilage with Careful Meal Planning

By Kiersten | Last Updated: January 2, 2014

How Long Does It Last? A Printable Guide to Fresh Produce

You all know that I participate in Menu Plan Monday. Even before I started blogging, I always planned out my meals for the week. By planning meals ahead of time, we end up saving money because we’re wasting less food. Food spoilage is like throwing money away! But doing a weekly meal plan involves more than just putting together a few recipes and calling it a day. If you want to eat fresh produce throughout the week and do it with only one trip to the grocery store, you need to know which fruits and veggies go bad quickly and which ones will last longer.

How Long Does It Last? A Printable Guide to Fresh Produce
Click here for a printable version of this list here.

Below is the list I use to plan my meals each week. Right after you go grocery shopping, make meals with the fruits and vegetables that spoil most quickly. As you reach the end of your shopping cycle, make meals with cabbage, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and other produce that lasts longer. If you use this list and plan your meals accordingly, you can eat fresh produce all week long without having to go to the supermarket more than once.

Fruits and Vegetables That Spoil Quickly (1-2 days)

Artichokes
Asparagus
Avocados
Beans
Blackberries
Broccoli
Cherries
Corn
Mushrooms
Mustard Greens
Okra
Raspberries
Strawberries
Watercress

Fruits and Vegetables That Last Longer (3-5 days)

Arugula
Bananas (although it depends on what color they are when you buy them)
Bok Choy
Broccoli Rabe
Cantaloupe
Chard
Collard Greens
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Grapes
Honeydew Melon
Kohlrabi
Kumquats
Lettuce
Mango
Nectarines
Papaya
Peaches
Persimmons
Pineapple
Plantains
Radicchio
Yellow Squash
Zucchini

Fruits and Vegetables That Last All Week (6-7 days)

Apricots
Bell Peppers
Blueberries
Brussels Sprouts
Cauliflower
Clementines
Grapefruit
Green Onions
Jalapenos and other hot peppers
Kale
Kiwi
Leeks
Lemons
Limes
Lychees
Oranges
Pears
Plums
Spinach
Tangerines
Tomatoes
Watermelon

Fruits and Vegetables That Last More Than a Week

Acorn Squash
Apples
Beets
Butternut Squash
Cabbage
Carrots
Celeriac
Celery
Cranberries
Garlic
Onions (sweet onions have a shorter shelf-life than other varieties)
Parsnips
Pomegranates
Potatoes
Pumpkin
Radishes
Rutabagas
Shallots
Spaghetti Squash
Sunchokes
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatillos
Turnips

And, just a quick disclaimer: This list started as a small sidebar I cut from Vegetarian Times and over the years, I’ve added a lot to it and rearranged things based on my own experience, so your mileage may vary. Use common sense when you’re cooking–even if something is supposed to last a full week, if it doesn’t smell or look right, toss it!

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Comments

Awesome list! I used to be very diligent about meal planning; helped with grocery shopping, budget, everything. Sadly, it’s been lacking…My new CSA starts this week and I hope that helps things.

Thanks for the great info.

I’ve always been hesitant to sign up for a CSA just because I’m so regimented with the meal planning. If I get something I don’t know how to use or too many of the veggies that spoil in a day or two, it would just send me into a tailspin. So it’s the farmers market for me…

We used to do the same thing–I thought that your choice was to eat processed food (or take-out) at the end of the grocery cycle or make multiple trips to the grocery store each week. But no, it’s totally doable on one trip! As long as you like the veggies that last longer, of course. 🙂

Great list! I really need to get back into meal planning. I used to take inventory of all the food in my cupboards, fridge and freezers and plan meals/shopping lists around them. I have been a total slacker about it for the last year though and have found that we’ve been wasting more food than I’m comfortable with lately!

I do the same with the inventory–I try to do one stock up trip a month and then plan meals around what I have on hand from that trip. 90% of my grocery shopping on the non-stock up weeks is produce. I’ve had my times of slacking with it too, but I think once you get back into it, it will be easy! 🙂

Great list! I hate wasting food too and I often do unfortunately. Another food that I have to use within a day or two of buying it is cilantro, which I know is an herb but I buy it in the produce section and it just came to mind. Old cilantro is nasty!

I was debating whether or not to include herbs! I think the ones that come from perennial plants (mint, sage, rosemary) last longer and the ones that come from annual plants (basil, cilantro, parsley) don’t last more than a few days. I hate buying cilantro because most recipes only call for a little bit and then you waste the rest. I got one of those herb keepers where it keeps the stems in water & that helps a lot.

I need to get better about this too. Doing my Menu Plan Monday posts help, but I feel like there’s still spoilage and wasted food. I have basically cut back on buying fresh produce lately – I find that I’m ambitious at the grocery store, then discover it in the produce drawer at the end of the week and just toss it. Maybe I can do better by consulting your list 🙂

The list will definitely help you out. Even aside from the meal planning, I use it to plan out snacks & stuff like that in advance too. So if my husband and I each eat two pieces of fruit a day, I’ll get some berries and peaches for the first few days, bananas and kiwis for the next few, and citrus fruit and apples for the rest of the week. We have totally changed the way we eat by using this list. I totally sound like an evangelist here or something, but it’s true. 🙂

But if you plan in advance, you won’t have to throw things away! That’s why I do it this way, because I really can’t stand to waste food. My mom used to always tell me & my brothers that wasters go to hell and it’s completely warped my psyche.

Thanks for this list. Its very helpful. With certain things, I didn’t know how long they would last exactly and this will help a lot with preventing food waste.

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