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Cold Storage: Fruits and Veggies

That bag of green beans was pretty wrinkled, and the container of kale started turning brown at the edges and had a strong smell. I forgot about these sitting in my refrigerator. Whoops! I certainly did not eat these in the state they were in (decomposing).

As the season of bounty in gardens and farmer's markets slows, take a moment to reflect on fresh fruit and vegetable storage.  Planning your meals around the shelf-life of fruits and veggies can save you from throwing out inedible produce.

Some tips:

  • Store fresh fruits and veggies unwashed. Washing before produce is stored can speed up spoilage.
  • Your refrigerator should be less than 41°F. Some fruits and veggies are sensitive to this temperature and do better in a little warmer storage (45-50°F). Do not raise the temperature of your refrigerator for the safety of other foods in there. Instead check on your produce often to see if the quality is still okay.
  • Some foods are better (in terms of quality, taste, or both) when stored at room temperature rather than refrigerated. Banana skins blacken, potatoes produce more sugars, and tomatoes get mushy.

Fruits and Vegetables

Refrigerator Shelf-Life*


2 days

Corn (on the cob)

2 days


3 days


4 days


4 days

Peaches, nectarines

4 days


4 days

Bell peppers

5 days


5 days

Brussels sprouts

5 days


5 days


5 days

Summer squash (yellow squash, zucchini)

5 days


1 week

Green beans

1 week

Leaf lettuce (unwashed)

1 week


2 weeks

Citrus fruit

2 weeks


3 weeks


1 month

*Shelf-life and quality of fruits and veggies may be shorter or longer than shown based on food quality at harvest, refrigeration temperatures, and other factors.

For storage recommendations of other fruits, vegetables, and common household foods:

Easy Chicken and Veggies (Serves 4)

Throw this recipe together in the morning. Serve with crackers or crusty bread.

1 (10 oz.) package frozen peas
1 lb. baby carrots, washed
1 medium onion, diced
4 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or 2 large chicken breast, cut in half)
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tsp dried basil

1. Put peas, carrots, and onion in bottom of a large slow cooker; add chicken breasts.
2. Top with pepper and broth. Sprinkle with basil.
3. Cover with lid. Cook on High for 4-5 hours or on Low for 8-10 hours.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 250 calories, 2g fat, 350mg sodium, 24g carbohydrate, 6g fiber, 32g protein

Recipe from:  Illinois Nutrition Education Programs, Let's Eat for Health, Illinois!

Today's post was written by Caitlin Huth. Caitlin Huth, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt Counties. She teaches nutrition- and food-based lessons around heart health, food safety, diabetes, and others. In all classes, she encourages trying new foods, gaining confidence in healthy eating, and getting back into our kitchens.

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