real food: eating seasonally

Welcome to week six of my 10 ways to eat real food on a budget series.  This weeks’ topic may seem like a no-brainer.  Eating food when it’s in season is cheaper.  Period. But, you and I both know it’s not that simple. If you live in the northern part of the United States or somewhere that is “blessed” with many, many long months of winter your choices are really slim. I know, I live there.  If I were to eat local, in season foods from October – April, I’d be eating potatoes, squash, and maybe some lettuces – maybe. My first choice is always to eat what’s in season, the closest geographical distance from me.  Meaning I’ll buy tomatoes from Florida before those from Central America.  Why? There’s a few reasons.  First, let’s talk about a few reasons why seasonal eating is best.

Seasonal Food Tastes Better

No matter how cheap something is, or how good it is for you, if it doesn’t taste good, who wants to eat it? Food that is in season is picked when it’s ripe and is the best it can be. Strawberries in November are going to be tasteless, they just are. Not to mention they’ve probably spent a week or more on a cargo ship being transported from their origin point, sat in a transit station, was shuffled around and put onto a truck, delivered to a produce wholesaler, put on another truck and delivered to your store where it was put on the shelf.  Do those strawberries still sound good? Don’t waste your money!

Seasonal Food is Better For You 

As soon as produce is picked it’s nutritional value begins to decrease.  The longer the transit time needed for the produce the more nutrition it loses. Some produce is even frozen, then shipped.  I’ve experienced this with the small oranges we love to eat in the winter months.  That’s just disgusting.

Seasonal Food is Cheaper

After the two previous points this probably isn’t much of a surprise. All of that transit time and shipping costs adds up.  Someone has to pay for it – you.  By buying locally (ideally) and in season you cut down on transit time, energy expenditure, and manpower needed, all leading to a smaller price tag for you the consumer.

So, what’s in season? 

How is a consumer to know what’s really in season when we can easily get any fruit or vegetable anytime we want?  I found a great list on Whole 9 Life. You can print it off and take it to the store with you, or keep it with your meal planning materials. I love that it also has designations for which foods you should really always buy organically and those that you can opt for the non-organic variety if budget is an issue.

Spring is almost here and I am really looking forward to shopping at our farmer’s market again. I love artichokes, asparagus, butter lettuce, and especially strawberries in late spring.  What are some of your favorite current seasonal fruits and vegetables?

You can find the other parts of this series by visiting the introductory post.