Choosing seasonal produce has many advantages, saving money is just one of them!
Get the most out of your budget by choosing seasonal produce when possible. Some other advantages of eating seasonal produce include: your fruits and veggies tasting amazing, being higher in nutrients, supporting local farms and choosing foods that are better for the environment!
Eating produce that is in season is not just about going to the farmers market and seeing what is for sale. You will notice that when produce is in season, even when shopping at traditional grocery stores, there is a drastic change in the price of fruits and vegetables when they are in season vs. out of season. This is because there is a cost involved with transportation and storage of those out of season veggies that get passed on to you as the customer.
For example, you will see strawberries in the grocery store year-round, even though they are traditionally only cultivated in the spring/early summer. Grocery stores go to great lengths to ensure that no matter what you are looking for, they have it on hand.
That convenience often comes at a price! These foods rarely ever taste as good as when they are in season and they can cost so much more because of the shipping and storage costs! Those strawberries may have made a journey across the world on an airplane to be available in January and that is why they cost $5.99 for a small container.
What are the benefits of eating seasonal produce
Fresh, highest quality, best tasting fruits and veggies
When produce is in season, it is often allowed to ripen on the vine/plant and is picked at the peak of maturity. This allows the fruit or vegetable to have the best possible flavor, color and the most nutrients! Did you ever notice how different strawberries taste in May or tomatoes taste in August/September? That is because they could grow in their ideal environment and picked at the exact moment for maximum flavor.
When produce has to be transported, it can be a few days to a few months before it reaches your grocery store. This often means that the produce must be picked before it’s ripe and placed in carefully controlled environments so that it can arrive to you without being rotten or spoiled. Because of this, chemicals, refrigeration, and other processes are used to make an ideal environment for these fruits and vegetables to ripen slowly over time or to stall from ripening any further.
The time between when a fruit or vegetable is picked and when they arrive on your plate will impact the nutrients available to you. When produce is in season, it likely does not have to travel as far to the store, reducing the amount of time it takes to make it to your table. There are studies that show that the vitamins and minerals in fruits and veggie declines over time. A study showed that green peas stored at 4°C for 7 days lost up to 15% of their vitamin C content. Green beans stored in the same temperature lost up to 77% of vitamin C in those same 7 days.
The higher the supply, the less the cost! When in season, these fruits and vegetables are much more abundant and the hike in supply will help to drive down the cost. Part of this has to do with the fact that when these foods are in season, they often come from nearby farms and therefore don’t have to incur such a high transportation cost.
Planning your meals around foods that are in season can be a great way to save money all year long! Know what fruits and vegetables are in season at your local stores before planning out your week can save you a ton of money. Also be flexible with your side dishes, have an idea of what can be substituted if you see something surprising on sale!
When you are trying to decide what to spend your money on, it can be important to consider the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen list from the EWG. Many times, when you are shopping at local farmers markets, the farmers may practice organic farming but choose not to pay for organic certification. This is a great reason to get to know your local farmers! Check out the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen list (2021 list).
Better for the environment
This may not impact you personally but it’s really important to think about the trip that mango had to make to you. Some foods have to be shipped in trucks or trains while others require air transportation because they are highly perishable (think berries, etc.). These transportation costs get passed on to you the consumer, which is why produce that is out of season is often so expensive. It’s worth mentioning again, these foods are kept under careful conditions to preserve the quality as long as possible, usually meaning that they were picked early and are not going to taste the best.
A great way to contribute to your community
When you buy seasonal produce, especially from Farmers Markets or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) you are investing money directly into your community! You can ask the farmers how these crops were grown and can tell from the taste and color of these fruits and veggies they are at their peak of maturity and are perfectly ripe!
What produce is in season right now?
Depending on what part of the country or the world you live in, what is in season will vary based on where you live! To get the best information on what is in season, you can check this great resource!
Meals to enjoy in each season
- Mediterranean Eggplant Dip (Baba Ganoush)
- Mushroom Walnut Stuffed Zucchini
- 5 Minute Blistered Tomatoes
- Cherry Kale Salad
- Healthy Sliced Apples
- Cinnamon Apple Cauliflower Oats
- Dijon Chicken and Vegetables
- Cajun Parsnip Fries
Get more budget tips
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Thursday 7th of October 2021
Thank you for this article and tips. Eating seasonal products is good for your health, your budget and the environment. Not to mention that fresh fruits and veggies taste better and have more nutrients.
Interesting perspective with the "Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen list from the EWG". It's not the fruits or veggies themselves, but the quality of the soil and the amount of pesticides. So indeed, get to know your local farmers! Because strawberries, cherries, peaches and nectarines taste too good to skip them from your meals!