How to Keep Bagged Salad Fresh Longer

Follow these smart tips and you’ll never face a bag of slime again.

If you've ever gone to the refrigerator to get a bag of greens to make your favorite salad recipe and found nothing but a slimy, spoiled mess, then you know how quickly good greens can go bad. While the fresh flavor of salad greens is a welcome addition to almost any meal, lettuce and other delicate greens tend to wilt quickly.

While whole heads of lettuce can last as long as two weeks if properly stored, bagged lettuce that has already been cut or torn is likely to deteriorate more quickly—usually in about three to five days. The good news is that it's entirely possible to keep bagged salad fresh and extend the life of your greens.

8 Ways to Keep Bagged Salad from Wilting

1. Keep it cool on the way home from the store.

If it's warm where you live, your mission to keep a bag of salad greens fresh longer starts before you leave for the grocery store. So begin by bringing along an insulated cooler bag to keep your greens at the right temperature all the way home.

2. Remove wilted leaves.

When you get home from the grocery store, the way you store your produce will make a big difference in how long you'll be able to enjoy this bounty in the days ahead. Before you store greens, open the packaging and spread the greens out on a dry paper towel or clean tea towel. Pick out any wilted leaves you find, which will help keep spoilage from spreading.

3. Keep the greens dry.

Even pre-packaged salad greens can still have excess moisture on the leaves. That moisture can host bacteria that promote decomposition, so you'll need to remove as much moisture as possible. If your greens are particularly damp, you might want to give them a quick spin with your salad spinner before storage, ensuring that they're as dry as possible. No salad spinner? Put the greens in a pillowcase or fold them in a large kitchen towel (like Ina Garten does with her greens) and give them a few spins to remove every last drop of water.

4. Add a towel to absorb moisture.

Giving greens a cozy absorbent bed will help them stay fresh and crisp. You can roll them loosely in a paper towel, or even slip a sheet of toweling right into the bag with them. If you want to make a more Earth-friendly choice, consider using a cotton tea towel instead. Seal the bag tightly with a chip clip. If keeping greens fresh is worth a little extra effort to you, swap out the towels every day.

a photo of an open bag of salad
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5. Consider transferring the greens to a new container.

You don't have to stick to the cellophane bag your greens came in, either. You might want to transfer them to a hard-sided airtight container that can protect the delicate produce. Start by lining the bottom of the container with towels, either paper or cloth, then place the leaves inside and add another towel on top.

6. Store greens in the crisper.

Be sure to store greens in your refrigerator's crisper drawer, which is the best possible environment for your salads-to-be, since those drawers are designed to release the gases and moisture that can accelerate spoilage. Speaking of the fridge, it's a great idea to check that it's set at 40℉ or below, which is the FDA's recommendation for safe food storage.

7. Put on the gas.

If you own a soda maker, such as a SodaStream, you might want to try this hack from Cook's Illustrated of reintroducing CO2 to your greens. Here's how it works: First, place your greens in a zip-top bag, then close it almost completely, leaving a 1/4-inch opening on one side. Press out as much air as possible without crushing the greens, then insert the nozzle into the opening and press the button gently until your bag is somewhat inflated. Remove the nozzle, seal the bag completely and transfer the greens to the fridge. Treated and stored this way, greens can remain fresh for as long as nine days, versus the typical five days for untreated greens.

8. Keep your options open.

You may have gotten into the habit of picking up a bag of greens whenever you make a trip to the grocery store, but you might want to reconsider your shopping habits to avoid food waste. If you prefer prepared greens, consider a clamshell package instead of a bag, since it can better protect tender greens. You can keep these sturdier containers for later greens purchases, too.

You can also consider purchasing whole heads of lettuce, which can be stored in similar ways to the bagged salad but tend to last longer. Also consider options like arugula, watercress, baby spinach and baby kale, which are sturdier options.

Bottom Line

Following these tips for how to keep a bag of salad greens fresh should help you save money, cut down on food waste and keep your fridge full of tempting, tasty greens that you can use in a variety of ways—for many more days than ever before.

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