Here's When You Should Throw Away That Bagged Salad

Lettuce is a key ingredient in many salads, and thanks to modern conveniences, grocery stores have a variety of options to help you make yours. From whole heads of lettuce and pre-washed, chopped salad kits to bags of salad  and plastic box-like containers of triple washed greens — depending on what you need, how you're feeling, and how much time you want to spend on your green creation — there's a variety of lettuce products to choose from. However, as health writer Jo Robinson pointed out during an NPR radio appearance, "Many of these prepackaged greens might be two weeks old. They're not going to taste as good, and many of their health benefits are going to be lost before we eat them."

That's right. Unless you are going out to your farm to pick your own lettuce, chances are the lettuce you are chowing down on from a bag of lettuce is weeks old before you take it home to store in your refrigerator. It begs the question: When are you suppose to toss a bag of prewash down the garbage disposal? According to the blog Still Tasty, there are several things to consider when determining the freshness of your bagged lettuce.

Don't leave it at room temperature for too long

Per Still Tasty, if you are trying to determine if your unopened bag of pre-washed salad is no longer edible, the first thing to look at is whether or not the color has changed and if the leaves of lettuce have become "slimy" and "mushy." If they have, then don't eat them. You may also want to do the smell test. If your bagged lettuce doesn't pass these tests, then it's time to toss it. Daily Dish also recommends looking at the "use by" date. If this date has passed, they strongly caution that you should not eat your bag of expired lettuce.

Additionally, you want to make certain you do not leave a bag of salad out on the countertop to use at a later time or date. The food site explains that when your bagged salad starts warming up, it creates the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. Yuck! Which is why, if you leave your unopened packaged salad sitting out at room temperature for two hours or longer, you will want to throw it away. 

How long can you keep an unopened bag in the fridge? Still Tasty says 7-10 days or up to the expiration date. If you've opened your bag of lettuce, plan on eating it up within 3-5 days after opening it.