The concept of shopping seasonally might seem intimidating. I know that was my take when I first started learning about the benefits of shopping for in-season foods. Realtalk: it wasn’t hard after all!
To “shop seasonally” I simply mean buying foods that are available right now, in season, in your area/climate. Different food grows in varying climates. What might be in-season where you live differs from what might be considered in-season for your friend up north. You can check out the USDA’s general food chart for seasonal foods here.
HOW TO FIND IN SEASON FOOD WHERE YOU LIVE
Finding seasonal food doesn’t have to be intimidating! Here are some tips to figuring out which foods are in season where you live:
CHECK YOUR LOCAL FARMERS MARKET.
Heading to your local farmers market is a great way to find local seasonal produce and also build a closer connection with farmers and members of your community. Local farmers can answer questions about the growing process, nutritional facts, and might even have some recipes to suggest using the food you buy. Not to mention, if you can’t find a specific item there, you could always ask them for additional resources or suggestions. Buying from local farmers directly can be a very enlightening experience.
HIT UP THE PRODUCE SECTION OF THE GROCERY STORE.
At the grocery store, seasonal fruits and vegetables are usually in abundance. There’s also usually a sign indicating where it was grown. This may go without saying but if you’re unsure of where to find seasonal foods, you can always ask an employee to point you in the right direction.
DO A QUICK ONLINE SEARCH.
I personally like using online resources, like this one, to specifics location and time of year so I can see what I might find in the store this season. You can always just type in “What foods are in season in [your area]”. It never hurts to reference a book, I can’t deny the convenience of using the internet.
Now that you know where to look to find seasonal foods grown in your area, let’s talk about the benefits. Because why would you go through any trouble at all when you could just find the same foods in the store year-round?
BENEFITS OF SHOPPING SEASONALLY
There are a number of benefits to shopping in season, including the following:
IT’S MORE NUTRITIOUS.
In-season foods are picked closer to peak freshness, meaning they have more time to ripen on the plant. There is less time between the time they’re harvested and when they wind up on your plate. Not only is the out of season food picked while unripened, but can spend days, even weeks, in transit from other states or countries. During travel time, nutritional components may get depleted. There are things done to the food to make them appear ripened and more appetizing on the shelves.
Take tomatoes for example…
During winter, tomatoes on the vine are green and unripened, but when you see them in the supermarket, they’re red. Well, during transit tomatoes get sprayed with ethylene gas, which makes them blush. Ethylene is a gaseous plant hormone that regulates plant growth. When it is applied to fruits during the processing and shipping process, it triggers the ripening process. This is what causes the fruit to turn red. The chemical also affects the flavor by increasing sugar compounds and decreasing acidity. By buying tomatoes in season, the fruit has been given the chance to more naturally ripen, making it tastier and more nutritious.
IT TASTES BETTER.
The longer food is able to grow on the plant and the less time spent in shipping and processing, the tastier the food. Seasonal food tastes SO much better than non-seasonal food. Using another example of tomatoes, there’s a huge difference between the taste of unripe tomatoes compared to a ripe tomato. Think about strawberries. I LOVE a juicy strawberry, but out of season, the taste dulls in comparison to in-season.
IT CAN SAVE YOU MONEY!
Buying food in season is cheaper than out of season food. There is a larger supply that needs to be sold. Seasonal, local food hasn’t had to travel as far, meaning there’s less cost involved in getting it onto the shelf. By shopping seasonally, you definitely get the best bang for your buck!
You can save even more by using the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists if you’re shopping. I talk about these resources in this post and explain how I use them to prioritize which food items I buy organic.
IT ENCOURAGES DIVERSITY IN YOUR DIET.
Eating seasonally encourages more diversity in your diet, which is extremely beneficial for your health. When you’re aware of shopping for the different foods in season, you’ll naturally eat more diverse foods throughout the year.
OVERALL… DO YOU, BOO
As with any decision you can make, this isn’t about a right or wrong way to shop. It’s about making a more informed decision either way! Shopping seasonally has helped my family get more for our money for sure! The foods we choose in-season taste SO much better, they’re easy to find because there’s plenty of it, and eating seasonally helps keep our dishes diverse. It’s easy to get stuck in the same routine. Learning which foods are in season helps me get creative and expand my pallet instead of eating the same things all year.
Side note: The way real food was created to nourish us is so beautiful. I’m not just talking about how berries are high in antioxidants or the fact that whole foods contain powerful properties that support and fuel our bodies.
Different foods in their peak season benefit our bodies in even more intricate ways. Take tomatoes and watermelon for example. Both fruits contain lycopene which absorbs both UVA and UVB radiation and can help provide some more protection from harsh sun rays. When are these fruits in season? There’s abundant in the summer when we are more likely to be out in the sun more.
During the summer season, other foods like peaches, oranges, cantaloupe all contain a lot of water. They can help promote hydration during the hot season!
Real talk: Sometimes, I will crave certain foods and pick them up out of season, but learning to shop in-season has helped me save money and consume more nutritious foods (that taste better!).
Whether it’s saving money, getting tastier foods, supporting local farmers, or increase diversity in your diet, eating seasonally can be super beneficial for you and your family!