Learning how to eat seasonally and locally is a great way to incorporate homegrown or locally grown foods into your meal planning. I’ve found over the years that eating seasonally can save money on our grocery budget since foods that are in season tend to be lower cost than when they are not in season.
How I Learned to Eat Seasonally and Locally
Growing up in farm country, it was natural for us to eat foods that were in season and fresh from the garden or the local farmer’s market. We also preserved the majority of the vegetables and fruits we ate year round so always had an abundance of produce to choose from for meal planning throughout the year.
When I joined the volunteer service after high school and then ventured to college a couple years later, I didn’t have huge stores of home preserved produce to choose from to eat throughout the year. I was limited by space to grow and store produce.
Plus I was trying to save money on my college tuition by going to school year round and bulking up my course load to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in three years. I was also working to pay for school so I didn’t have a lot of extra time to can and preserve food.
I first started learning how to eat seasonally when my mom gifted me the cookbook “Simply in Season” when I was in college. I started using the Simply in Season cookbook as a guide for how to cook foods from the local farmer’s market that were in season.
Even though I grew up in farm country, there were some vegetables that weren’t common there so I had never heard of them. When I was in my early twenties, I had no idea what a kohlrabi was let alone how to make a delicious soup out of kohlrabi.
Even kale, which seems so common now, was a vegetable I had only ever seen used as greenery decoration on a plate or around the salad bar at the local country style restaurant. Eat kale?! No way I thought!
But kale was always in abundance at the local farmer’s market so I started seeking out kale recipes in my endeavors to eat seasonally and locally. I started learning how to cook kale and now it’s one of our family’s favorites, especially crispy kale chips!
The Benefits of Seasonal Eating
Here are a few benefits of seasonal eating:
-Money Savings: Eating seasonally saves money on our grocery bill which is always a win with me! With the huge spike in food prices over the last several years, I’m always on the look out for ways to save money on groceries. Seasonal foods are less expensive and often on sale at the grocery store when in season.
-Taste: In season foods taste so much more delicious and flavorful than out of season foods. Have you ever eaten a fresh, homegrown or locally grown strawberry? It’s a burst of sweet flavor in your mouth. Compare that to eating a strawberry bought from the grocery store in winter, shipped in from a warmer climate. It has a little flavor but nothing even remotely close to the sweet pop of flavor from a local, in-season strawberry!
–Fresher Produce: Seasonal fruits and vegetables are fresher because they are harvested right from your garden or from the local farm and sold at a farmer’s market or grocery store. There’s no shipping long distances to reduce the freshness.
–Supports local growers: If you buy locally grown produce through a CSA, farmer’s market or farm stand, your money is staying in the community and supporting local agriculture. I love knowing that the money we spend at the local farmer’s market or farm stand goes directly to support our farmer friends in our small community.
Seasonal Eating Cookbooks and Recipes
Over the years I’ve been collecting cookbooks that have recipes that are organized seasonally or organized by vegetable. The ones organized by vegetable are especially helpful since I can just flip to the section correlating to any vegetable that is in season and I have an abundance of.
We have some favorite family recipes for cooking homemade meals, some of which you can find in our recipes category. But sometimes I get in a cooking rut and need some new inspiration. This is why I love my eating seasonally cookbooks!
Here are my favorite cookbooks for inspiring how to eat seasonally and locally:
-Simply in Season: Recipes that Celebrate Fresh, Local Foods. This is the first seasonal eating cookbook I ever owned and probably my most used cookbook over the years. The cookbook is organized by season and is bursting with from-scratch, healthy recipes.
Eating Well Vegetables: The Essential Reference. This cookbook is another one of my top favorites and well loved! This cookbook was created by the Editors of the Eating Well Magazine, a wonderful magazine that is sadly no longer in print.
My mom used to subscribe to the magazine and pass the old copies on to me. I loved that each magazine edition focused on seasonal foods and how to prepare them. I found so many recipes in their magazines over the years that have become family favorites.
This cookbook is organized by vegetable instead of season. It’s a great resource to use for cooking inspiration when eating seasonally. Each vegetable has it’s own dedicated section full of delicious, from-scratch, healthy recipes.
Serving up the Harvest: Celebrating the Goodness of Fresh Vegetables 175 Simple Recipes. I found this treasture at a yard sale last year and it’s quickly become another one of my favorite cookbooks!
This cookbook is organized seasonally and focuses specifically on recipes to prepare a wide variety of fresh produce. This cookbook even breaks the seasonal sections down into more refined sections like “Early to Mid Summer” and “Mid to Late Summer”.
–Brassicas: Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables Kale, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts and More! This cookbook is very specific to vegetables in the brassica family and another one of my favorite cookbooks.
Brassicas tend to grow better in cooler temperatures which means they grow well in cool weather Montana. Warm season produce like tomatoes and cucumbers are done for the season as soon as the first frosts hit in late August. But brassicas continue on growing and offer us an abundance of seasonal produce late into the fall and winter months.
Brassicas are one of the first plants we seed in our garden each spring. Because they are more cold hardy, we also have brassicas last longer in our gardens in the fall once the early season frosts start in late August and September.
Some local farmers have even figured out ways to grow these cold season crops in hoop houses throughout the cold Montana winters which offers us access to seasonal brassicas when there is little else growing.
Finding delicious, healthy recipes to prepare brassicas helps us to continue eating seasonal, local foods even in the winter!
How do you eat seasonally in winter?
Eating seasonally in winter is definitely a little trickier than eating seasonally in the summer when gardens and farmer’s markets are bursting with an abundance of fresh produce.
There are many ways you can eat seasonally in winter:
-Sign up for a winter CSA so you can pick up a weekly box of farm fresh produce throughout the winter.
-Shop at a Winter Farmer’s Market where venders sell locally grown foods they’re able to grow in the winter. In cold weather Montana, we don’t see locally grown tomatoes at winter markets but cold season vegetables, winter greens and storage crops are available.
-Shop at an online farmer’s market with a local pick up. We have this option in our community and it’s a wonderful way to access locally grown foods year round. You shop the local marketplace website each week, place your order for local foods and pick your order up at the set location and time each week.
-Buy in-season produce at the local grocery store. Often in-season foods are a lower cost at the grocery store since they are in abundance. I regularly check the produce available at our local farm store since they sometimes have bulk sales for locally grown produce which is another great way to save money while eating seasonally and locally.
-Create a cold storage area in your home, garage or insulated shed to store cold season crops like onions, garlic, pumpkins, carrots, cabbage and potatoes to eat all winter long. Here are the 15 best vegetables to grow for cold winter storage. We even store apples all winter long without refrigeration.
-Learn how to can and preserve food when it’s in season so you can eat it throughout the year. There are many ways to preserve food: canning, dehydrating, fermenting, freezing, and cold storage. Check out our category of canning and preserving for more tips and recipes to try!