By April Swiger, Contributing Writer
For the past few years our family has embraced eating seasonally. My husband is a pastor, I’m a stay-at-home-mom, and we’re always looking for creative ways to slim down our budget. Planning our meals around the God-created seasons has worked well for us.
There’s something really special about enjoying fresh berries in the summer, and hearty potato soup in the winter. I believe God created the growing seasons in a very intentional way for us and we ought to be mindful of what we consume, and when.
Just because we can purchase any variety of produce, any month of year, doesn’t mean we should.
Why eat seasonally?
All food that comes from the ground grows in cycles based on the seasons God created. Modern science and technology allows us to consume virtually any fruit or vegetable we want, any month of the year. This may seem like a great advantage, but if you’re looking to save money a seasonal diet may be an even better option.
1) Eating seasonally is less expensive.
The shorter the distance food has to travel, the less expensive it is for the consumer once it hits the store. Ever notice how expensive tomatoes and strawberries are during the winter? Grocery stores pay more to import produce from warmer climates during the winter, ultimately making the price you pay astronomically high. Ouch!
2) Eating seasonally is more nutritious.
The nutrient content of fruits and vegetables begin to diminish as soon as they’re harvested. Much food in our grocery stores have been kept “fresh” for multiple weeks, or sometimes longer! When you eat according to the natural ebb and flow of our God-given seasons it’s likely that you’re eating food more local to your area, or at the very least, your general region. This also means shorter truck rides for our food.
Shorter distance to the store = more fresh and nutrient dense food.
How to eat seasonally and save money
There are a number of ways to save money by eating seasonally. I’m a busy mom, so I know it’s not always realistic to integrate every suggestion out there. However, adding even one or two of these into your lifestyle may help shrink your food budget!
1) Pick your own produce from local farms.
Apple picking is one of my absolute favorite things to do each fall. Since apples stay fresh for quite a while I typically stock up each September and spend a few days making applesauce, apple butter, and more. Where I live in New England there are plenty of pick-you-own orchards, berry patches, and pumpkin patches available at a fraction of the cost compared to grocery stores.
In addition to that, it’s a really fun family bonding experience! After our foster son joined our family last summer we took him apple picking. I wore him on my back through the orchards and he ate whole apples for the first time. It’s such a sweet memory I have with him and my husband.
2) Resist the urge to buy tomatoes in January.
This one is tough for me, (and takes self-control), but it has proved to save us a lot of money. Tomatoes in January, apples in May, asparagus in October – the prices are going to be much higher than if you purchase them out of season. Instead, stick with what’s seasonal and try something new like parsnips, bok choy, kohlrabi, or maple ginger carrots!
3) Stock up on your favorites when they are in season (and possibly on sale).
If you can’t live without blueberries all year (I can’t), then be sure to stock up on them during the summer and freeze them. You could also make a large batch of tomato sauce in the summer and preserve it. During the winter I stock up on sale items like butternut squash, potatoes, or other hearty varieties of produce that will keep well in the cool pantry of my small home.
4) Plan your meals each week.
This one is so important and has saved me the most money. When I have a plan, and a very specific shopping list with recipes according to the season, I always save money. Remember, save the apple cinnamon oatmeal for October, and the cucumber kimchi for July!
5) Grow your own.
There’s nothing like a warm homegrown tomato in the summer, or curly green kale pushing up their final leaves in October. Consider starting your own garden next spring!