How to Store Leafy Greens

Are you tired of your lettuce turning soggy before you can eat it all? Find out how to store leafy greens so you can avoid waste and keep your greens fresh longer!

“‘Eat your vegetables.’ Mothers everywhere have been repeating this mantra for generations. Mom may have been wrong about a lot of things, but she was right about this one.”
- Conquering Your Kitchen, p. 127

Vegetables are central to a healthy diet. Leafy greens are among the most beneficial vegetables, full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. They can help protect against heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses, and their high water content helps with hydration.

But leafy greens aren’t the easiest vegetables to keep fresh in your fridge.

Lettuce and other greens can wilt quickly if they’re not handled correctly when you bring them home from the market or farm. If you wash and store them properly, lettuce can stay fresh for up to a week, and herbs can last for up to two weeks.

Follow these instructions to give your greens the best chance of making it into your meal plan rather than your compost bin.

How to Store Leafy Greens! Stop throwing away spoiled food and have a healthier diet and a healthier wallet too!

How to Store Leafy Greens

Wash

To wash leafy greens and fresh herbs:

- place their full leaves in the strainer section of a salad spinner. Put the strainer in the outer bowl of the salad spinner and place it in the sink.

- Run water over the greens until the water fills the salad spinner above the level of the greens.

- Move the greens around in the water with your hands, then lift the strainer out of the bowl.

- After this first rinse, the bowl will be filled with dirty water and the strainer will have the wet greens in it. Dump the dirty water, and repeat the process.

You’ll need to do this a few times, and you’re done when the water in the bowl is no longer dirty. At this point, you can dry the greens in the salad spinner.

How to Store Leafy Greens! Stop throwing away spoiled food and have a healthier diet and a healthier wallet too!

Store

- Line a large storage container or zipper bag with a paper towel. I like to keep a few large storage containers on hand just for this purpose, with a strict “Don’t put anything else in here!” rule for my family.
- After washing your greens, transfer the dried greens from the salad spinner to the storage container. Then place another paper towel on top of the greens.

Cover the container and refrigerate.

How to Store Leafy Greens! Stop throwing away spoiled food and have a healthier diet and a healthier wallet too!

Salvage

Even with clean, well-stored greens, you won’t be able to enjoy them unless you move them out of the refrigerator and onto your plate.
Go through your refrigerator twice a week and see if you have greens that need a home soon. If you do, make a plan so they don’t go to waste.

You can always throw them in a soup or salad. {This Lentil Dish is kid-friendly and is a great dish to add extra greens to at any time.}

How to Store Leafy Greens! Stop throwing away spoiled food and have a healthier diet and a healthier wallet too!

Freeze

Many types of greens, including kale, spinach, and arugula, can be frozen for another day.

To freeze greens:

- Wash them thoroughly as detailed above.

- Then place them in a large pot of boiling water for about 2 minutes. This blanching process seals in their color, flavor, and nutrients.

- After blanching, transfer the greens to a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.

- Leave them in the ice water for 2 minutes, then drain the greens.

- Transfer them to small zipper bags and remove as much air as possible before sealing. I like to store frozen greens in quarter cup portions to use in green smoothies.

They can also be added to soups or defrosted for a quick side dish.

By properly washing and storing greens when you bring them home from the farm or market, you’ll keep them fresh until you’re ready to use them.

collage of lettuce in a colander and in plastic containers in a fridge for a post about how to store leafy greens

Another Great Storage Option

Following is another option that eliminates the paper towel. This product was recommended to Adrienne by a big-time gardener.

This is a great product to store leafy greens in so they don't spoil.

They work so well!

Drying greens is one more great way to store many greens.  

These Dehydrator Kale Chips are one of our favorite recipes and can be applied to many other greens with varying results.  We tried Chard Chips once - not quite the same but still better than throwing out your greens!}

What have YOU done to store greens or avoid throwing other food away?

Annemarie Rossi Bio - Real Food Real Deals at Whole New Mom

Annemarie Rossi is the author of Conquering Your Kitchen and the creator of Real Food Real Deals. Her website provides recipes and tips to help families eat real food on a budget. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and two children.

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48 Comments

  1. I'm loving learning so much more about food storage. I'm with you on being frugal with food, yet at 72 years old I'm still learning new tricks. Just seeing your storage helps me understand that not everything can go in one large crisper drawer. The containers you've displayed show the ease of food prep, and keeping my lettuces and herbs fresher longer. Thank you, Phyllis Straus

  2. When my greens are starting to wilt but not yet slime, I dehydrate them and grind them into a powder. I keep it in a canning jar and add it to soups, sauces, eggs, veggies, you name it. I even dry broccoli leaves, beet greens, radish greens and add it all to the same jar. That way, I can sneak greens into something every day.

  3. Do you think this method would work to help keep the fresh spinach fresher for longer??
    You know those huge boxes.... I hate to see it ruin..
    Thanks!!

    1. YES! I agree with you! Hate wasting food! The plastic container in the post works great by the way! I have 2 of them now!

  4. I keep my greens in glass jars. Just put a paper towel in the bottom of the jar and pack in the greens. Put the lid on and they keep for up to a couple of weeks.

    Laurie

    1. WOW !!! I use glass jars for everything from storing leftovers in the fridge to - well - I love using my mason jars. They save so much room in the refrigerator. Thanks for the great tip. Phyllis Straus

  5. To store fresh parsley & cilantro, after washing & a little air drying on a paper towel, I put each bunch in a piece of WAXED PAPER wrapped around each bunch to form a cone, with stems at the bottom of the cone, then insert into a Ziplock bag, leaving it unzipped, so condensation doesn't form. Stays fresh for weeks!

      1. Maybe! Perhaps the wax keeps moisture out that causes the leaves to deteriorate & get slimey. After a week or so, I change the wax paper, because it does get limp; I wouldn't use it again, but it sure keeps it fresh for a long time!

    1. Regarding the tip about preserving the cilantro by using wax paper and then the zip lock bag, can anyone tell me if it is then put in the fridge or not in the fridge.
      Rita

  6. My daughter-in-law shared this info with me not long ago ..... wash your head of lettuce, cut and place in a large strainer to strain the water - rather than using a strainer, I slice lettuce and pat dry with a paper towel, chop lettuce, place chopped lettuce in a plastic container and place a paper towel on top, cover and refrigerate. Amazing as the greens last about a week in refrigerator without turning brown, etc..

  7. I don't bother to blanch the greens in order to put them in the freezer. They retain their color. I also dehydrate my greens to use in dishes.

      1. Some blanch because they say it makes the kale less bitter. It stops the enzymes. I simply throw mine in the freezer asap. I grow Russian kale which is not bitter. Plus, I don't mind it bitter.

        I just haven't found that much difference in color to fire up the stove.

  8. I break up 3-4 heads of green leaf in a huge bowl with a few drops GSE, swish around, dump in huge colander, wash once more in plain water, back to colander. THEN I put all the leaves in a "lettuce only" lingerie bag, then place that inside a "lettuce only"pillowcase tied off with a rubber band. Into the washing machine it goes on spin only medium setting for just 2-3 minutes. I do that twice. Then I keep the lettuce as is, in the pillowcase in the refrigerator. It stays damp but not wet, the lettuce crisp and fresh for days.

    1. Thanks - nice tip. I have heard some not so great things about GSE - have you? I've heard the spin cycle tip before. Like a giant salad spinner :).

  9. One thing I find that helps ours is I will take them out of the bag and put them in the containers the berries come in, I bet if I put paper towel on the bottom they may last longer.

  10. I have a different way to freeze greens after they have been blanched. However, you need some space and time. After they drain from the blancing, I lay them single row on towels to air dry out some of the water on them. Then I put them on cookie sheets and in the freezer. Once they are frozen I put them in Ziploc bags. My favorite way to use these is on pizza. So easy to take just-enough and lay on the pizza. Also, when they are frozen, you can crunch the bag, so the leaves aren't as large.

  11. I have a funny tip that helps my greens stay good for so, so long! I blow into a ziploc bag containing my greens, and the C02 helps keep them full of life for probably a week. It's slightly weird (yeah, I know) but it works, so I'm all about it! I've been known to accidentally zip my lip in the ziploc, though, in an effort to keep AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE carbon dioxide in the bag.. yeah, I'm elegant 🙂

    1. So funny - I love the image! Now I want to try an experiment comparing a baggie filled with lettuce and extra CO2 vs. a bag with just the lettuce. Intriguing. . .

  12. Hi Annemarie,

    I came across your blog at the Gluten free Wednesday link up. Thanks for sharing. I hate seeing my greens go to waste. I will definitely be trying this.

  13. Placing paper towels is a new concept to me. I think I'll try it th next time I store greens!

  14. I hate wasting food SO MUCH. Thanks for sharing. Hello from the Fat Tuesday Forager Festival!

  15. I don't like to waste water in general and with the west in the midst of severe drought, this method does not hold water. 🙂 Seriously, I have had greens last for weeks with one washing and a spin in the spinner. I use a freezer storage bag (they are heartier than the regular storage bags) and lay the greens gently on paper towel and loosely roll them prior to storing in the fridge. The freezer bags can be rinsed out and reused. Dry them inside out. The paper towel can be reused to clean around the sink. I gave up on dish cloths for wiping around the sink years ago. They get yukky. I also use paper towel from wrapping greens for spills on the floor and other such jobs.

    1. Thanks for the tips, Debbie! It sounds like you have a good system. I love to hear all the ways you're reusing the paper towels.

  16. You will be amazed at how long your greens can last in a vacuum sealed jar or canister. I tried this with some cut lettuce for salads and it lasted more than twice as long as the cut lettuce not vacuum sealed. This method is great for preparing salads ahead of time to save time during the work week.

    1. What kind of sealer are you using? I've been thinking about a food saver - not sure what model I would get - thanks in advance!

      1. i have a foodsaver that i got from costco. i use it all the time! mine has the hose attachment which i highly recommend so you can seal canisters, jars, and marinate in special containers. i use the bags most of the time, but i also have the regular and wide mouth jar attachment for the hose (about $10 each on amazon) which i use to 'seal' my canning jars for longer fridge storage or pantry storage of non-perishable dry goods. *NOTE: the vacuum seal jar attachment is NOT a substitute for pressure canning or a water bath!* i highly recommend it. i don't do the marinate option often because i freeze my meats with marinade in vacuum seal bags. the cold cut vacuum seal containers are also handy. hope this helps!

        1. That's great to know! I have a small Food Saver that I got for nearly free at Target a while back, and I haven't tried it yet. I'll give it a go with lettuce.

  17. I pretty much do my greens this way but am concerned about how the paper towels are processed. I've read that formaldehyde is used in making them. Hmm! Not too healthy! I at least try to keep printed ink away from my foods. Just food for thought.

    1. Ack! I am sure Annemarie will be over to respond. I hadn't heard about that. I rarely use paper towels. I think we had 2 rolls when we moved into this home and we've been here for about 11 years and I still have some left :)!

    2. Thanks for your feedback, Gail. I hadn't heard that either about formaldehyde. Clean, thin rags are a great alternative for households that don't use paper towels.