Save Money And Eat Healthily: Cheap Foods That Last For A Long Time

Healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive. Many healthy foods are inexpensive, and if you store them correctly, they’ll stay fresh for weeks and months. Think about how much money that’ll save!

Some healthy foods can provide a side dish for eight years, while others supply protein for up to two years. Even fruits and vegetables can last for months if you store them properly. If you want to save money, check out these healthy, cheap foods that’ll last for a long time.

Potatoes Can Survive For A While, If You Store Them Correctly

Potatoes are in a brown paper bag.
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Nico Schimmelpfennig/picture alliance via Getty Images

Potatoes only cost a couple of bucks, and they last for months if you store them properly. Keep your potatoes in a mesh bag, box, or basket to give them some air. Store them at room temperature in a cool, dark place, such as a garage or a cabinet. They’ll last for two to three months that way.

To help them last longer, check on your potatoes regularly. If one has shriveled or sprouted, throw it out; otherwise, it’ll infect the rest of the potatoes. Cook them into a side dish, soup, or baked potato.

Garlic Remains Fresh For Half A Year

A person stacks garlic bulbs on a scale.
Sergei BobylevTASS via Getty Images
Sergei BobylevTASS via Getty Images

Although garlic powder lasts for a long time, you can buy whole garlic and keep it on hand for six months. It’ll taste fresher and provide more health benefits. However, you need to keep garlic away from the fridge. Cold and humidity cause whole garlic to sprout and mold earlier.

Keep the bulbs whole in mesh bags or woven baskets. Place them in a dim, dry, cool area. Chopped garlic will stay fresh in the fridge for a couple of weeks. At some stores, you can pick up whole garlic for $2 per pound.

Dried Lentils Are Cheap And Long-Lasting

A woman fills red lentils into a jar.
Jan Woitas/picture alliance via Getty Images
Jan Woitas/picture alliance via Getty Images

Lentils are a type of legume that’s smaller than a bean. A bag of dried lentils may cost anywhere from $3 to $10, but it lasts for up to three years. Unlike dried beans, lentils don’t need to be soaked or cleaned before you cook them. Simply rinse and sort them before tossing them in a pot.

Put dried lentils in an airtight container in your cabinet. After you cook them, they stay fresh in the fridge for up to a week. Lentils cook in about twenty to thirty minutes and make a filling soup or side dish.

Cabbage Will Stay Fresh For Two Months

Farmers sort through a box of cabbage.
Zucchi Uwe/picture alliance via Getty Images
Zucchi Uwe/picture alliance via Getty Images

Cabbage has one of the longest shelf lives of any leafy green. If you store it correctly, it’ll stay fresh for two months. Store your cabbage in the crisper, either alone or inside a loose plastic bag. Don’t wash the cabbage before storing it; that will create more moisture, which encourages more mold.

Once you cut a head of cabbage, it’ll go bad within a couple of days. Place the remainder in a plastic bag with a small amount of water. You’ll have plenty of leafy greens for less than a dollar.

Rice Has A Surprising Shelf Life

A man holds a handful of rice grains.
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Rice has an impressive shelf life. If you buy dried rice and store it properly, it can last for eight years. Even brown rice, the more expensive variety, only sells for a couple of bucks. Brown rice has healthier benefits for the heart and cholesterol levels.

Rice lasts the longest in oxygen-free containers at cool temperatures, around 40°F or below. To store it at room temperature, include oxygen absorbers that can keep rice fresh for up to ten years. After cooking, it’ll last for up to six days in the fridge.

Apples Last Longer If They Stay Cool

A boy eats an apple.
Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Unlike other fruits, apples can last up to two months if you store them correctly. Although many people keep apples on the counter, they last far longer in the fridge. If you toss them into the crisper, they can stay fresh for up to six weeks.

Some types of apples last longer than others. According to registered dietitian Maggie Michalcyzk, Ambrosia, Mutsu, and Granny Smith apples are perfect for long-term storage. Depending on the variety, you can buy a pound of apples for less than $2.

Whey Protein Is Worth The Price

Canisters of whey protein are on display.
EMPICS Sport – PA Images via Getty Images
EMPICS Sport – PA Images via Getty Images

When some people see a $20 container of whey protein, they may think that it’s expensive. But every two-pound container provides 20 to 25 servings, making it cheaper than meat. Whey is a protein byproduct that can flavor shakes, oatmeal, smoothies, and yogurt.

Most whey proteins can last for up to two years. If they contain no additives, they’ll stay fresh for 19 months. Keep your whey powder away from heat and cold; store it in a dry, cool place. Many already come in airtight containers that work perfectly in the pantry.

Nuts Require Proper Storage

Shelled pistachios lie on a wooden table.
Rosario Scalia/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Rosario Scalia/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Nuts will supply an easy source of protein for several months. However, they can spoil earlier if you don’t store them properly. Keep nuts away from high-odor foods. Also, seal them in an airtight bag or container; they’ll stay fresh if you keep the shell on. You can also freeze nuts for a year or more.

Although nuts are a bit more expensive than other foods on the list, they’re worth the investment. Nuts will stay fresh for three months in the pantry and six months in the refrigerator. If they go stale, bake them for ten minutes at 350 degrees.

Onions Should Not Go In The Fridge

Two women store purple onions in a basket.
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If you spend a couple of bucks on onions, you’ll have fresh vegetables for up to two months. For the longest shelf life, don’t place onions in the fridge. They easily absorb moisture, and then they sprout. Store onions in a dry, dark place with plenty of ventilation.

Don’t seal onions in plastic bags. Instead, pack them in an open basket or mesh bag. After you peel or chop an onion, keep in the fridge for up to ten days. Cooked onions only last three to five days.

Eggs Last Longer Than Their Expiration Date

A customer checks eggs at a supermarket.
Artyom GeodakyanTASS via Getty Images
Artyom GeodakyanTASS via Getty Images

If you throw away your eggs after the expiration date has passed, you may be wasting perfectly good food. Cartons can last four to five weeks after the expiration date if they’re stored correctly. You can also freeze your eggs for a year. Push the carton to the back of the fridge so that the temperature won’t fluctuate whenever you open the door.

For three dollars, you can buy a dozen sources of healthy protein. If you worry whether your eggs are fresh, test them. Fill a bowl with water. If the eggs sink, they’re safe to eat. If they float, they’ve gone bad.

Carrots Stay Fresh With This Hack

Carrots and parsnips sit in a row over a black texture background.
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

For less than a dollar, you can buy raw carrots that keep for up to four weeks. But you’ll have to store them correctly. Before you throw them in the fridge, cut off the green tops. Those absorb most of the water, which causes the carrots to wilt prematurely.

Next, store your carrots in an open container or bag with a small amount of water. This will keep them hydrated, and they’ll last longer. Don’t lock your carrots in an airtight bag, since it may spread mold.

Canned And Dried Beans Last For Years

A plastic fork digs into a can of kidney beans.
Fairfax Media via Getty Images via Getty Images
Getty Images

Canned beans will maintain their quality for up to five years. At a dollar a can, that’s a solid deal. Just ensure that the can doesn’t get damaged in the pantry. If you use half a can, rinse the rest and store those in an airtight container. They’ll last for up to four days.

Dried beans will stay fresh for up to three years, but they must be prepared in a certain way. You’ll have to soak the beans overnight or boil them for around four hours. Buying canned beans saves time and money.

Oatmeal Stays Fresh For Longer Than Other Grains

A woman enjoys a bowl of oatmeal.
Vince Talotta/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Vince Talotta/Toronto Star via Getty Images

As long as oatmeal is sealed correctly, it’ll stay fresh for up to two years. Like all grains, oatmeal should be kept in an airtight container without moisture. If you have bran, it can go in the fridge. Otherwise, raw oats will stay fresh in the pantry for years.

For the healthiest choice, buy unflavored raw oats. These are gluten-friendly, lower cholesterol, and are anti-cancer, according to the Journal of Food Science and Technology. A large package of raw oats costs less than $10.

Canned Tuna Is $1 And Lasts For Five Years

A grocery store employee stacks tuna cans.
Valery SharifulinTASS via Getty Images
Valery SharifulinTASS via Getty Images

For an easy dose of omega-3 fatty acids, buy some canned tuna. While properly stored, a $1 can of tuna will stay fresh for up to five years. Canned tuna is easy to store; simply stick it into a cool, dry cupboard.

Before you buy, check the can for any damage. Don’t stack heavy containers on top of the tuna, or else it may break open the can. If you don’t want rust, keep the cans dry. Other than that, you have a convenient source of healthy protein, even if it is a bit high in salt.

Cheese Stays Fresh For Months, Depending On The Type

Cheese is stacked.
Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Cheese can remain fresh for a long time, depending on the type you get. Hard cheeses last for up to four months in the fridge, while soft and semisoft cheeses only keep for two weeks or so. You can maximize its shelf life by storing them properly.

Never use plastic wrap. Instead, wrap the cheese loosely in cheese paper, parchment, or wax paper. If you can, keep soft cheeses in their original container. Store the cheese in a vegetable drawer, and replace the wrapping every time you use it.

Dried Seaweed Packs Give You 50 Long-Lasting Sheets

Roasted seaweed is served on a wooden board with chopsticks.
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Anjelika Gretskaia/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Since dried seaweed naturally contains salt, it will stay fresh for two years. A packet only costs around $2, and it’s a nutritious source of vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. Seal it in its original container or a ziplock bag for the longest shelf life.

Dried seaweed is an easy flavor component. Crumble it onto salad, rice, and popcorn as a healthy spice. If you want to rehydrate it, simply soak it in warm water until it expands. Some packets will hold up to 50 sheets, which will feed you for a long time.

Frozen Vegetables Can Be Forgotten About

A variety of vegetables, such as cauliflower and carrots, are seen frozen.
FRED TANNEAU/AFP via Getty Images
FRED TANNEAU/AFP via Getty Images

Frozen vegetables could save your meals if you run out of fresh veggies. If they’re kept at a consistent temperature, they’ll last up to ten months in the freezer. To keep them fresh, transfer the veggies to a ziplock bag and squeeze the air out of it.

Contrary to popular belief, frozen vegetables may have more nutrients than fresh ones. Since they’re frozen at peak ripeness, they are perfectly healthy to eat. Plus, a one-pound bag may only cost $2 at some grocery stores.

Pickled Vegetables Can Be Ignored, Too

Jars contain pickles.
Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

In the pantry or fridge, pickled vegetables can be eaten for up to two years beyond their expiration date. Pickled vegetables are the same as fresh vegetables with added antioxidants and probiotics. As long as the jar isn’t damaged, it’ll maintain the same shelf life after you open it.

Pickles only cost around $5, but if you want to save money, you can pickle foods yourself. Combine one cup of distilled white vinegar with two tablespoons of salt, sugar, and spices. Pour the mixture over your vegetable of choice and seal it in a jar.

Dried Fruit Lasts Longer Than Fresh Ones

Boxes of various dried fruits are stacked in rows.
Reza/Getty Images
Reza/Getty Images

If you want a healthy, sweet dessert, buy dried fruit. A $4 bag will remain fresh for up to six months in the pantry. Place the fruit in a plastic bag in a cool, dry place. Metal jars and rims will react with sulfur and discolor the fruit.

Although dried fruit contains some added sugar, it provides more fiber and antioxidants than fresh fruit. If you don’t over-consume dried fruit, it’s perfectly healthy. Toss some into a nut mix, yogurt, or cereal for better taste and nutrients.

Peanut Butter Survives In Warm And Cold Temperatures

A glob of peanut butter is on a table.
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

If left unopened, peanut butter can last up to two years. After you open the jar, it’ll stay fresh for three months. Peanut butter provides a healthy dose of protein for less than $5. In most circumstances, it’ll remain fresh in a cabinet at room temperature.

If your peanut butter jar needs to last for more than three months, or if your home is humid, you may want to keep it in the fridge. It’ll last longer. Also, place your jar upside-down to mix the oil with the butter.

Dried Pasta Never Goes Bad

An employee holds containers of dried, boxed pasta at a pasta retail shop.
Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Did you know that dried pasta never really expires? Over time, it decreases in quality and its taste and texture might not be the same. But it is safe to eat pasta after its expiration date.

So how long does a box last before it goes bad? An unopened box will stay fresh for two years, while an opened one will last for one year. You don’t have to refrigerate dried pasta, as that will not extend the shelf life. Just keep it in a cool, dry area in an airtight container.

Spinach Lasts Longer With Paper Towels

A bag of spinach includes a paper towel to soak up moisture.
Shana OMara/Pinterest
Shana OMara/Pinterest

Generally, a bag of spinach stays fresh for one week in the fridge. But it can last longer if you store it correctly. Transfer your spinach to an airtight container lined with a paper towel, on the top and bottom. This will soak up the excess moisture, keeping your spinach fresh for longer.

With this method, spinach can survive for around ten days. Swap out the paper towels when they look too moist. Keep the container in the crisper and don’t let the spinach get crushed; it’ll go bad more quickly that way.

Canned Tomatoes Last Far Longer Than Fresh Ones

A pantry is filled with shelves of canned tomatoes.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

If your tomatoes are going bad before you can eat them, try canned tomatoes. An unopened can of tomatoes will stay fresh for 18 months. Because they are highly acidic, tomatoes technically have a shorter shelf life than other canned foods, according to the USDA.

Even so, 18 months of tomatoes will be useful. Once you open the can, it will survive for one week in the refrigerator. Don’t worry about the nutrients, either. Canned tomatoes have three times the amount of calcium and iron as fresh ones.

Raw Honey Can Stay In Your Pantry For Years

Bear-shaped containers hold local raw honey.
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Raw honey is well-known for its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits. The best part? It can last for decades if you store it properly. Most honey products have an expiration date of around two years, but many can stay fresh for longer than that.

Store honey in an airtight container, preferably in the one it comes it. Keep it away from heat and sunlight. If your honey develops a cloudy yellow color or becomes grainy, then you might want to replace it. It’s not “bad,” per se, but its quality has decreased.

Winter Squash Is One Of The Most Durable Vegetables

A stack of butternut and delicata squash rings is in a dark room.
Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Winter squash, which includes spaghetti squash and butternut squash, is one of the most durable vegetables out there. Whether you place them on the counter or in the refrigerator, they will stay fresh for up to three months.

To maximize its shelf life, keep squash at around 50°F. A cool, dark area such as a pantry will suffice. After cutting it, you can keep squash for up to six days in the fridge. Winter squash provides high levels of vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber for a low price.

Dried Herbs Give You Years Of Nutrition

A person pours dried anise into a glass.
ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images
ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

Never underestimate the power of dried herbs. They give you nutrients while flavoring your food without excess salt. If you buy them ground, they should last for two to three years. Whole dried herbs, such as whole cloves, stay fresh for three to four years.

Dried herbs will retain their quality if you keep them away from light, heat, and moisture. Do not store your herb containers near the oven or stove. While cooking, scoop out the herbs with a spoon to prevent contact with steam.

Raw Cocoa Powder Can Curb Chocolate Cravings

A baker filters cocoa powder through a strainer.
Sorin Gheorghita/Unsplash
Sorin Gheorghita/Unsplash

If you’re a chocolate fan, you might benefit from owning raw cocoa powder. Cocoa is the root of chocolate and where all the antioxidants are contained. You can add it to oatmeal, smoothies, baked goods, or yogurt, and it stays fresh for years.

Cocoa powder never goes bad, but it loses its taste over time. If left unopened, it will stay fresh for three years. Once you open it, you can use it for half a year. Raw cocoa is not as sweet as milk chocolate, but it will satisfy a chocolate craving.

Dehydrated Milk Still Gives You Vitamins

A woman gets a scoop of powdered milk from a container.
Giulia Marchi/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Giulia Marchi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

If you’re tired of constantly replacing your milk carton, try dehydrated milk. This powder still provides the calcium and vitamin B12 that your body needs. According to the “best by” date, powdered milk stays fresh for 18 months. But it can be stored indefinitely and last two to ten years after this date, says the USDA.

Store your powdered milk in a cool, dry place. Do not keep the container open, or it will become lumpy. There are many varieties of dehydrated milk for your diet preferences, from nonfat to low-fat to whole.

Cook With Coconut Oil For Years

A spoon digs into a jar of coconut oil.
mcstewartt/Pixabay
mcstewartt/Pixabay

Several studies have linked coconut oil to higher immunity, a curbed appetite, and healthier cholesterol levels. This cooking oil also lasts for a long time in your cupboard and is well worth the price. A single jar can stay fresh for two years.

Some jars can survive beyond the “best by” date, but you’ll have to watch it for signs of decay. If your coconut oil turns yellow and smells rotten, throw it away. Until then, store coconut oil at room temperature, away from light and heat.

Lemons Can Survive For Three Weeks In The Fridge

Three lemons pour out of a paper bag.
Debby Hudson/Unsplash
Debby Hudson/Unsplash

Like many citrus fruits, lemons have a long shelf life. At room temperature, they only last for one week; but if you keep them in the fridge, they will stay fresh for two to three weeks. The refrigerator is better because it helps lemons retain their moisture.

When a lemon goes bad, it will become soft and develop white or green spots due to mold. But until that happens, you can add lemon juice to water, salads, or cooking. Along with vitamin C, lemons provide digestive benefits and fiber.

Dark Chocolate Also Offers Some Cheap Sweetness

A close-up picture shows squares of a dark chocolate bar.
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Another sweet food that you can keep for a long time is dark chocolate. Why dark? Because the high percentage of cocoa powder offers antioxidants, aids the heart, and reduces inflammation. Plus, it can stay fresh for two years.

In general, dark chocolate survives for two years from the day it was made. Follow the “best by” date on the package. Once you open the package, transfer the rest into an airtight container. Don’t refrigerate it! This will crystallize the sugar and ruin the texture.

Instant Coffee Lasts Longer Than Beans

Containers of Maxwell House instant coffee is on display on supermarket shelves.
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Instant coffee has a much longer shelf life than ground coffee or even whole beans. Although instant coffee has slightly less caffeine, it supplies the same amount of antioxidants. Because of this and its cheaper cost, you might get more bang for your buck going instant.

Technically, instant coffee has an indefinite shelf life. It can stay fresh for two to 12 years, depending on how you store it. Keep it in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place. If it becomes stale or smells rancid, replace it.

Dried Quinoa Might Be Healthier Than Rice

A heart-shaped cookie cutter holds dried quinoa.
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Quinoa is, essentially, a healthier version of rice. This seed, which acts like a grain, has far more fiber and nutrients than brown rice. Raw, dried quinoa stays fresh for two to three years from its production date.

You can store quinoa just like rice, in a dark, cool area in an airtight container. Once you cook it, you can keep it in the fridge for about a week, or you can stick it in the future for eight to 12 months. Perhaps you’ll end up liking quinoa better than rice.

Beets Are One Of The Longest-Lasting Vegetables

A cut beetroot lies on top of a pile of whole beets.
Couleur/Pixabay
Couleur/Pixabay

If you store beets properly, they will last for two to three weeks! They are some of the longest-lasting refrigerated vegetables on the market. Beets are highly nutritious, with impressive amounts of vitamin C, vitamin B9, potassium, and iron. They can also improve exercise performance and lower blood pressure, according to several studies.

When you get beets, chop the leaves off. Put the rest in an airtight plastic bag and place it in the crisper drawer. You can also freeze beets through the same method, and they will last for eight to 12 months.

Almond Milk Is The Longest-Lasting Plant Milk

Shelves of almond milk cartons are seen on shelves at a Trader Joe's.
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Almond milk is the most shelf-stable, long-lasting milk alternative. You can keep it in the pantry until you open it, and after that, it will last for ten days in the fridge. If the smell, color, odor, or texture changes, then it has gone bad.

Almond milk is low-sugar, low in calories, and high in vitamin E. Most containers are also enriched with calcium and vitamin D. You can use it in the same way as dairy milk, even while baking; substitute it for 2% or whole milk in recipes.

Beef Jerky Remains Edible For Years

Beef jerky lies on its side in this close-up photograph.
Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images
Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

As a dried meat, beef jerky lasts far longer than regular meat. But it does go bad. You can keep beef jerky for two years as long as you store it in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. If it smells rancid, then it has gone bad.

But is beef jerky healthy? This snack offers a high amount of protein, zinc, and vitamin B12. However, it does have a high amount of sodium, so eat it in moderation. But with how long it lasts, beef jerky is well worth the price.

Unflavored Popcorn Makes A Healthy, Long-Lasting Snack

A bowl of popcorn is seen next to a TV remote in front of the TV.
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If you purchase unflavored, unsweetened popcorn, then it can make a healthy snack. Popcorn is whole grain and has high fiber, making it filling and heart-healthy. Plus, popcorn kernels can last indefinitely, but their quality is highest within six months to a year.

When making popcorn, air-pop it and do not add cheese flavoring. Instead, flavor it with garlic powder, lemon zest, curry powder, or a big of dark chocolate. This will make a healthy movie snack that will keep you fuller for longer than microwave popcorn.

Pure Maple Syrup Has More Nutrients Than Sugar

Containers of Maine Maple Syrup are seen on a grocery store shelf.
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Believe it or not, maple syrup is not all sugar. Pure maple syrup supplies antioxidants, zinc, magnesium, and calcium. Before opening, pure maple syrup can stay in the pantry for one year. After you open it, store it in the refrigerator for another year.

With this in mind, a single container of pure maple syrup can stay fresh for two years. Do not get pancake syrup; it does not offer the same benefits that pure maple syrup does. Beyond pancakes, you can use pure maple syrup in baking, oatmeal, or cocktails.

Olive Oil’s Price Is Worth Its Years Of Use

A bottle of olive oil is seen next to Mediterranean food.
Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Food Network Magazine
Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Food Network Magazine

Olive oil is one of the healthiest foods out there. Studies have linked it to lower blood pressure, reduced inflammation, increased heart health, and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Although it is a bit more expensive than other items on this list, a bottle of olive oil will last for two years.

Extra virgin olive oil–a purer variety–does not last as long, only around 18 months. Follow the “best by” date on the bottle, and you should be fine. Keep it in a cool, dark place, and replace it when the oil smells rancid.

Greek Yogurt Stays Fresh Longer Than Other Yogurts

Containers of Greek yogurt are displayed on supermarket shelves.
Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

If you want a long-lasting yogurt, buy Greek yogurt. A single container can stay fresh for up to two weeks in the fridge. Plus, Greek yogurt is the healthiest type because it provides more protein and less sugar. A non-flavored Greek yogurt is your best bet.

When you eat Greek yogurt, flavor it yourself with fresh berries, honey, jam, or cocoa powder. And if you want it to last longer, stick it in the freezer. A container of Greek yogurt will survive for one to two months in the freezer.