How to Store Seasonal Food Long-Term

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Shorter Version


Est. Reading Time: 4 Minutes

Imagine sipping on a watermelon slush while you chill out by the pool this summer. Or maybe you’re spooning a warm butternut squash soup to feel comforted on a cold winter night.

With every new season, our palate craves new foods. Thankfully, Mother Nature helps by offering us new fruits and vegetables with each season.

Benefits of Eating Seasonal Foods

When you eat seasonally, you benefit both the environment and your health. Seasonal foods are determined by your region. So, when you purchase foods harvested closest to you, you are choosing to decrease transportation of goods (emissions) and to support local farmers who often practice sustainable farming habits. And let’s not forget that this also leads to lower cost of goods (a.k.a. saving money!).

Seasonal foods are also at their peak of nutrient density. As soon as a fruit or vegetable is harvested, it begins to lose its nutrients.

Another awesome health benefit of eating in season food is that you tend to eat a larger variety of foods throughout the year. The more variety included in your diet means the greater variety of vitamins, minerals, types of fiber, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and flavor your body is receiving.

Seasons of Foods

Use this Seasonal Food Guide to find out which foods are available in your region. Here are some of the most common foods per season:

  • Winter – Apples, grapefruit, citrus fruits, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, pumpkin, potatoes, winter squash
  • Spring – Apricots, asparagus, kiwi, rhubarb, strawberries, broccoli, carrots, kale, spinach, mushrooms, peas
  • Summer – Avocados, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, watermelon, beets, corn, green beans, summer (yellow) squash, tomatoes, zucchini
  • Fall – Cranberries, grapes, mangoes, pears, raspberries, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collard greens, onions, potatoes, winter squash, turnips

We definitely don’t want these delicious and fresh goodies to go to waste, so let’s talk about what to do after you shop.

Keep reading for tips on how to store food long-term.

How to Store Food Long Term: A Guide

  1. Use it.
  2. Freeze it.
  3. Can it.

USE IT. Fresh produce has the best texture and flavor. Feel free to use your fruits and vegetables in any way you see fit for any meal or snack throughout the day. Cook it, bake it, chop it, eat it whole, the options are endless here. Check out our recipes page for more ideas from Cooking in Tuscany or follow me on Instagram

FREEZE IT.  Take a trip down memory lane to your middle school science class. Remember that water expands when it is frozen. When it expands, it ruptures the cell walls of your perfectly firm produce. When you go to thaw it from frozen, it will most likely be a tad mushy (but the nutrients are mostly still there!).

Because produce is a living thing, there are still active enzymes at work within the fruit or veggie. The longer these enzymes are active, the quicker your food changes in color, flavor, and nutritional value. This is where blanching before freezing comes in handy. Blanching is the process of quickly immersing food in boiling water then immediately in an ice bath to stop the enzymatic processes. Each fruit and vegetable will have a slightly different blanching time and method. Check out this chart for exact details. 

The majority of fruits and vegetables can be frozen, but frozen produce should be used in different ways than fresh. Frozen fruits work best for smoothies, frozen desserts, and baked goods such as pies, scones, and muffins. Also, add frozen fruit to hot oatmeal or overnight oats.

DIETITIAN TIP: Swap the store-bought flavored fruit yogurt for your own version. Thaw a portion of mixed berries in the refrigerator overnight. Add the thawed berries and all their juices into a serving of Greek yogurt the next day, stir, and voila! 

Frozen veggies are also best when added to cooked meals. I love using frozen broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, green peas, bell peppers, and onions in stir-fries. Add frozen cauliflower or zucchini to a smoothie (one of my clients was absolutely amazed and now consistently uses these veggies in her smoothies). Any frozen veggie can be added to a slow cooker soup.

DIETITIAN TIP: Are your leafy greens about to wilt? Remove any stems, add remains to a small blender with a touch of lemon juice and splash of water, puree, then portion into an ice cube tray. Add a cube to your smoothie, let thaw into a pasta sauce, or drop it in your next soup. Fresh herbs can also be frozen this way (think pesto sauce!).

CAN IT. Canning goes way back before industrial freezers could go to sub-zero temperatures. Canning is a safe method of preserving foods in glass jars by heating them to a temperature that destroys bacteria that causes food to spoil or causes a health hazard. Check out Clemson’s Home & Garden Information Center for a step-by-step process to canning.

Actionable Steps


Here are some more tips on how to store food long-term and save money:

1

Plan your meals and snacks.

It’s best to plan ahead in order to prevent food waste and meet your nutritional needs. Check this Seasonal Food Guide to see which foods are in season near you. Then consider which of those foods can fit into your meal plan this week. Write down your grocery list before leaving the house so that it’s easier to stick to your plan.

2

Shop seasonally.

Head to the grocery store or Farmer’s Market to find your seasonal goods. If an item is really inexpensive, buy extra to store for later. Try to choose a variety of colors and consider trying something new each season.

3

Freeze (or can) & save.

If you purchased an abundance of seasonal goodies, consider how much you will use within the next week. Also, if there is a surplus, aim to freeze or can the extras as soon as possible so that the item retains optimal nutrition.

4

Use what you saved.

Refer back to the freezing and canning sections in the above article.

5

Read more about this topic.

For more information on this topic, check out the following articles selected by our experts: Nutrition Stripped’s How to Eat Seasonally and Locally to Support Your Health and the Environment. The Penny Hoarder’s Try This No-Brainer Tip to Save a Fortune on Fresh Produce. Better Nutrition’s 6 Must-Know Benefits of Eating Seasonally.

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About the Author


shannon costello

Shannon Costello

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)

Shannon is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Health Coach, Certified Personal Trainer, and Group Fitness Instructor with over 5 years of experience working in Corporate Wellness specializing in overall health, nutrition, and fitness. Throughout her journey to becoming an RDN, she grew her passion for culinary nutrition by teaching and developing hands-on cooking classes for all ages in the community.
Full Bio | LinkedIn


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