Long Lasting Produce to Stock Up On During Isolation

by Beth - Budget Bytes
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One of my main goals when I started Budget Bytes 11 years ago was to be able to maintain a well rounded diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, despite working with a very limited budget. Today we’re facing a new challenge—limited grocery access. The world-wide pandemic is making it difficult to stay stocked with perishable grocery items, like fresh produce, and once again I’m focusing on creative ways to keep vegetables in my diet, despite the current challenges.

So today I’m rounding up some fruits and vegetables that you can buy and keep on hand for weeks (or even months) to make sure your diet isn’t void of vegetation. Below you’ll see some of my favorite long lasting produce options, along with links for ways to use them. I hope this round up inspires you to make the most of what’s available, and enables you to make many delicious and inexpensive meals in the weeks ahead!

Close up image of tri-colored baby potatoes with the article title text on top

Stock Your Pantry and Freezer with These Fruit and Vegetables 

This list is divided into three sections: fresh, frozen, and canned. Each section will include my favorite items, storage tips, and links to recipes where the ingredient can be used. The list is not all-inclusive, so if you have some favorites that aren’t listed below, feel free to share with the rest of us in the comments below!

Fresh Vegetables:

Braised Red Cabbage is an easy, cost efficient, and healthful side for your comforting winter meals. BudgetBytes.com

Fresh Fruit:

Slice Apples

Frozen Vegetables:

I lean heavily on frozen vegetables all year long. Not only are they convenient (usually pre-washed and pre-chopped), but I don’t have to worry about using them before they go limp. I can use any amount that I need, and stash the leftovers in the freezer for later. Here are my favorite picks: 

Thawed Bacon for Crustless Quiche

Frozen Fruit:

  • Pineapple – Chopping fresh pineapple can be quite a task, so I like to buy it frozen (pre-chopped, yay!). Frozen pineapple can be added to stir fries (Sweet Chili Chicken Stir Fry Bowls), Smoothies (Pineapple Protein Smoothie), or even used to make salsa (Easy Pineapple Salsa).
  • Melon – I like to eat frozen melon just as a snack (it’s like natural popsicle bites!), but it’s also great to thaw and add to a bowl of cottage cheese, or mix with feta and mint for a quick refreshing salad.
  • Blueberries – Frozen blueberries are my favorite way to get a little dose of antioxidants. I add them to my oatmeal and yogurt on a regular basis (Blueberry Almond Overnight Oats), but they’re also great for baking (Blueberry Buttermilk Coffee Cake).
  • Strawberries – Strawberries are great for adding to your homemade smoothie packs, adding to yogurt or oatmeal, or making a homemade frozen cocktail (Strawberry Rosé Slush). ;)
  • Avocado – I’m seeing peeled and cubed frozen avocados more and more in the stores these days. While I haven’t tried them yet, I think they would make a great alternative when fresh are out of season and prices are sky high. Frozen avocado would be great for adding to smoothies, topping tacos, adding to salads, making guacamole, or filling enchiladas (Black Bean and Avocado Enchiladas).
  • Mango – Mango is another fruit that can be kind of a pain to peel and chop, so frozen mangoes are super convenient. Frozen mangoes are great for smoothies, adding to stir fry (Mango Coconut Tofu Stir Fry Bowls), puréeing into sauces, or making mango salsas. 

These Blueberry Almond Overnight Oats are naturally sweet without any added sugar, and provide plenty of flavor and texture to keep you happy and full all morning. BudgetBytes.com

Canned Fruit and Vegetables:

While canned fruit and vegetables are my last resort option, I still consider them to be far better than no fruit or vegetables at all. Canned fruit and vegetables do sacrifice a little on the flavor and texture side in exchange for a nearly indefinite shelf life, which can be extremely valuable, especially in times like these. 

For those worried about the nutritional content of canned fruits and vegetables, I’ve asked our consulting Registered Dietitian, Tori Watters, to weigh in on the subject. This is what Tori has to say:

Although canned produce has a bad reputation, it can be an affordable, accessible, and convenient option. When shopping for canned vegetables, look for “no salt added” varieties. When shopping for canned fruits, look for those packed in 100% juice or water. Most canned goods can be drained and rinsed to further remove excess salt or sugar. When preparing meals for those with particular tastes and texture preferences, all servings of vegetables count in meeting micronutrient needs. Finally, as with any type of food, preparation is key; therefore, the fats, seasonings, and sugars you add to your produce can be even more important than how it is purchased!” – Tori Watters, RD

Here is a quick nutritional comparison of fresh, frozen, and canned items so you can see how they generally compare:

Comparison chart of green beans and peaches in their fresh, frozen, and canned forms.

For more information on how and where we get our nutritional data, please visit our nutrition disclaimer

Here are some of my favorite items to buy canned, even when supplies of other forms are not limited:

  • Tomatoes (diced, crushed, paste, sauce)
  • Artichoke Hearts
  • Water Chestnuts
  • Beets
  • Olives
  • Pineapple

What about you? What are your favorite long lasting fruits and vegetables, and your favorite ways to use them? Share yours in the comments below!

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  1. Hi, Beth,

    Thanks for all the work you do to maintain a very good site. I’m looking for “fresh” foods that can survive without refrigeration. These are the ones with which I have had the most success

    About one week without refrigeration, maybe longer, definitely uncut and unbruised-

    ROMA tomatoes
    baby cucumbers
    “live” lettuce (Still has rootball, kept in water)

    About 3 days or more
    lettuce, cabbage, celery: Keep the bottom end in water.
    The water might need to be changed

    Many berries last longer if given a “bath” in vinegar-water, then fully dried before stored in the refrigerator.

    Pickles and olives can last a week, maybe longer, on the counter if they are completely under their brine. Hot conditions might make them deteriorate faster.

    Sprouts are very nutritious and a great source of enzymes, as well as vitamins, etc. They can be surprisingly easy to grow. I like them anyway, but if I am eating mostly cooked food, I’m not getting enzymes. These are killed by high temperatures. Add sprouts to salads and sandwiches.

  2. Hi Beth,

    Natalie here from the UK.

    Firstly, your posts and insights are soooo refreshing!!

    I absolutely love tinned pears.. Very reasonably priced in the UK!


  3. If your budget has more flex than your time, dried vegetables from North Bay Trading Company are awesome. I keep dried spinach, mushrooms, and onions in the pantry, and can always throw them into soup or spaghetti sauce. You’ll say, “I paid WHAT for a pound of spinach?” But when you’re still dipping into that same pound 18 months later and it still tastes like spinach, you’ll thank me. My favorite pantry meal is pasta with jarred spaghetti sauce enhanced with dried spinach/mushrooms/onions, garlic powder, oregano, basil, and frozen meatballs. (Note: I have no links or affiliation with North Bay. I just love their products.)

    1. I need to try that out! I’ve never experimented with dried vegetables!

  4. I made a homemade spice rub for ribs in a baggie. I put the ribs in the baggie and coated the ribs leaving a lot of the rub remaining. Can I save and reuse the rub at a later date?

  5. I didn’t know a lot of this storage info; really useful, will save me £. I buy tinned sardines in tomato sauce in budget supermarkets. Cheap & nutritious. I eat on toast, in baked potatoes, pizza  & even w pasta. Thnx for gt post. 

  6. Something I recently discovered is sprouting lentils!  It is easy, crazy cheap, and gives you something fresh and growing.  I like them in a grain bowl or on a salad, though my family prefers them in stir fry.  My son, who is on a poor man’s PhD teaching salary, eats a ton of lentils already.  He is back at university and called about sprouting them at school. They are pretty terrific.

  7. You could buy tinned beets but fresh ones last a very long time too.  I have a home on an island and we have very little access to fresh food there.  I always stock up on loads of veg before I go and eat the more perishable ones first (lettuces, fresh herbs, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes). then go to the longer shelf life ones, then the frozen and canned.  Then rice, beans, pasta.  

  8. I freeze wild blueberries in 2 lb containers (actually 1 kg as I am in Canada) and then use them in my Buckwheat pancakes:

    2 and 2/3 cups milk with large egg and 2 teaspoons of REAL Vanilla extract (I actually use/make my own from vanilla bean pods in 1 oz of good dark navy rum for a year) and three table spoons of canola oil, that all gets beaten together then added to a well mixed 2 cups of white flour with 2/3rd cup of buckwheat, 2 tablespoons of cinnamon sugar and 4 teaspoons of baking powder. Once all mixed and smooth, I add 2 cups of my Frozen blueberries to make a great set of buckwheat pancakes. I tried varying amounts of other wheat and they didn’t work out but if I used 2 and 1/4 cups of Gluten Free Flour, they were fine. We have a daughter in law who is Celiac. Add my son and we have to double the ingredients. Now add some fine butter and real maple syrup, some orange juice, hot coffee and a sunny morning….ah life can be so good.

  9. Love this article! Is there any way you can make the hyperlinks on the downloadable PDF link back to the recipes on your website?

  10. Some excellent tips. We are in isolation in the UK and I stocked up with lots of dried goods to get us through. I have been experimenting with lots of dishes made with pulses and rice- about 6 different versions of lentil dahl so far! We have also started growing our own fruit and vegetables. We had been talking about doing this for a while, but the COVID-19 situation has given us a push in that direction.

  11. Another trick for celery that I recently learned – even when it gets soft and droopy, it can be revived by cutting off the end and sticking the stalks in a glass with a few inches of water! I use reusable mesh produce bags, so my celery was getting droopy and sad FAST with so much more exposure to air/gas in the crisper. But i put it in water and it hardened back up and gave me another week to eat it!

  12. My mom buys a bunch of avocados when they go on sale and cuts and freezes them herself. Not sure quite how the texture changes, but she’s usually adding it to something or using it as a spread, so it’s not as big of an issue!

  13. Re celery in foil suggestion:
    I wrap celery hearts in paper towel then roll it in foil wrap and put in fridge,
    Leave both ends open and it lasts a few weeks.
    If celery stalk are cut, put them in a container with cold water and they will stay crispy.
    Change water regularly.
    The refrigerated cold water container will also crisp wilted stalks.
    Works for limpy carrots as well.