Until the very recently in our history, eating seasonally was pretty much the only way to eat. Today, eating seasonally is seen as trendy and something that is talked about more than actually practiced. However, planning your meals around fruits and vegetables in season is a great way to save money, support your local community, and improve your health.

image of basket with okra, tomatoes, and basil

Save money by eating seasonally

Even though we can purchase most fruits and vegetables year round, they cost less when they’re in season. In our area out of season fruits and vegetables can easily cost a dollar or more per pound than those that are in season. That’s quite a difference.

One way of knowing if something is in season in your area is to keep track of prices. When you do this you’ll begin to notice that strawberries are less expensive in the summer and more expensive in the winter. You’ll notice that apples cost less per pound in the fall and winter than they do in the summer. Each season has wonderful fruits and vegetables to enjoy.

If there’s something that your family enjoys year round then consider preserving it to eat off season. It may not be the same as eating it fresh but it will certainly help save you money. Our family forages wild blackberries every spring and freeze enough to last the entire year. We’ll use the wild blackberries in smoothies, mixed in yogurt, and to bake with. We rarely eat fresh blackberries during the year, which makes the spring even more special to us since we can eat all the fresh blackberries we want while they’re in season.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t eat apples during the summer or berries during the winter, but to make the most of your grocery budget it’s best to eat fruits and vegetables in season.

Support your local farms and community by eating seasonally

Not everything grows in every climate so even though something is “in season” doesn’t mean its actually in season in your area. For instance, apples aren’t grown in my area because we have very few chill hours each winter. But we do grow pears. So instead of making apple sauce and apple butter each year, I make pear sauce and pear butter.

Many people in our community have pear trees that are old and produce too much for their family. It helps them when we offer to help them pick their pears instead of the pears rotting on the ground. We rarely eat pears from the store and choose to just enjoy them fresh when they’re in season and growing on our neighbor’s trees.

Many of our grocery stores carry locally grown produce when it’s available so eating in season, and buying extra to preserve, encourages them to buy locally and support our local farmers. When corn is in season we’ll buy it directly from a local farmer or from the grocery store that purchases from a local farmer. We’ll eat it fresh for several weeks and preserve enough for the rest of the year. There’s no reason for us to buy corn when it’s out of season. If we run out before it’s in season again, we just choose to not eat it.

image of cabbage growing

Seasonal eating helps protect the environment

Growing fruits and vegetables out of season requires more work than growing in season – it might require greenhouses, more pesticides, herbicides, and other things that drive up the price for the farmer.

In order to have a variety of produce year round at the grocery store, they have to purchase from all over the world. There’s a shipping and packaging cost with out of season produce that it’s there for in season produce. These drive up your cost and have a negative impact on the environment.

When you eat seasonally by growing your own food, you reduce your negative impact even further. Start small and each year add something new. In just a few years you’ll be growing much of what your family eats.

In season produce tastes better

Many fruits and vegetables are picked before they are actually ripe because they are often traveling thousands of miles to get from farm to market. Produce that’s picked when it’s fully ripe is more flavorful and nutritious than produce that’s picked early. Also, many fruits and vegetables lose vitamins and minerals the longer they’re off the vine.

We’re always amazed when we eat blackberries in the winter –  their flavor is so bland compared to the wild blackberries we pick right off the vine and have stored in our freezer. There are other great tasting winter fruits and vegetables so we don’t mind not eating blackberries during the winter.

Seasonal eating meal plans

The hardest part of eating seasonally is changing your mindset. If you’re accustomed to planning your meals based upon what you want to eat instead of what’s in season, it takes a bit of a shift to begin planning your meals by what’s in season. Eating seasonally might mean that you rotate two or three green vegetables during the week, instead of eating a different green vegetable each night.

I’ve found that that by the end of a season we get tired of the fruits and vegetables from that season and are excited for the fruits and vegetables in the new season. I’ve also found that sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder when it comes to food. Where I live, cabbage grows over the winter months and very early spring so we don’t eat it during the summer and fall. It’s such a treat to harvest that first head of cabbage after not having it for many months.

In the Ultimate Healthy Meal Planning bundle you can get pre-made seasonal eating meal plans – along with many other meal planning resources. These meal plans are based on the recipes included in the bundle and were compiled by Rootsy co-founder, Kathie Lapcevic. The beauty of these meal plans is that each one is 4 weeks long with a focus on the evening meal. All the recipes use real food, so you won’t find any boxed or prepared foods in the list of ingredients. You can get more information and order your bundle here.

image of kale and basket of vegetables

Eating seasonally through the year

Over time you’ll develop your own sense of what’s in season in your area during the year. Different climates will have different fruits and vegetables in season so be open to whatever your climate offers.

If you’re just starting your seasonal eating journey try keeping a price book of all the fruits and vegetable you buy for a year. You’ll be able to see the highs and lows for year and that will help you figure out what’s in season. There are some fruits and vegetables, such as bananas and lettuce, that don’t follow price trends. These items are shipped from other countries year round (bananas) or are grown in green houses for year round availability (lettuce). I don’t worry too much about these item, we buy them each week because we like bananas in our smoothies and lettuce for our salads.

Which brings me to my last point, don’t worry about perfectly eating in season – just do the best you can. If you like eating an apple every day, then enjoy an apple every day. As you become more mindful of what fruits and vegetables are in season you’ll naturally begin to eat more of them and less out of season produce.

Do you enjoy eating seasonally? What tips can you share with us?

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Amanda and her husband are working hard to turn their little acre and a half into a self-sufficient homestead in south central Alaska. They raise chickens, both egg layers and meat chickens, have a large garden and very large greenhouse. They hope to eventually adds goats to the homestead and maybe even a cow!

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