Living a healthier, happier life doesn’t always require drastic changes. In fact, it’s really those small changes that incrementally improve your life. That’s why we like to encourage you to start with simple practices that have a huge effect on your well-being: things like getting enough sleep and eating better. That’s why, when it comes to diet, we’re especially big fans of eating seasonally.
It’s one of the easiest ways to incorporate healthier eating habits into your diet—without requiring a huge time commitment or an entirely re-stocked pantry. Even if you already follow a specific diet, say paleo or vegan, you can still incorporate seasonal foods into it since it’s all just good stuff from the ground.
Best of all, it doesn’t take a ton of work. Even if you try one new seasonal food item per shopping trip, you’re still taking an intentional step, and that’s what matters most. But how do you start? Here, we’ve broken down our simple step-by-step guide to help you start eating seasonally. But first, let’s talk about why you should.
The Big Benefits of Eating Seasonally
Eating seasonally isn’t a practice reserved for the most enlightened. The everyday person benefits in all sorts of ways, from a richer diet to a reduced grocery bill. Much of it has to do with the way our food is grown and transported to us, as well as how we choose to consume it. If you need some convincing, here are four reasons you should start eating seasonally ASAP.
- The flavor is better. Out of season food doesn’t taste as good because it’s usually harvested before it’s at its peak (so that it can survive the long journey to your local grocery store). If there are fruits or veggies you’ve decided you hate, you might actually just hate them because they don’t taste the way they really should.
- It saves money. For people with a tight budget, eating seasonally might be mandatory. Produce is more expensive when it’s out of season (due to transport and limited supply). When there’s a bountiful harvest, there’s more supply. Thus, it’s cheaper.
- Food is more nutritious. Eating seasonally isn’t just about flavor; it’s also healthier for you. The closer your fruits and veggies are to peak ripeness, the more nutritious they are.
- You can expand your palate. Variety is the spice of life as they say. By default, eating seasonally diversifies your diet. That means you get to try new flavors (which, again, are more nutritious), and you expand the type of nutrients you get through different foods.
If you’re inspired to eat seasonally but don’t know where to start, don’t worry. It’s easier than you think.
5 Steps to Start Eating Seasonally
You don’t have to start with a cornucopia of seasonal items and turn into a full Martha Stewart. Just start small and expand from there. (Remember: The goal is to nourish your body, not stress yourself out.) That said, here are a few ways to make it easier.
1) Learn What’s in Season
You don’t need to become a full farmer to know what’s in season. There are plenty of ways to find out. You can ask people at your grocery store, check online, or use something like The Bountiful Year poster, a handy chart that shows you when different fruits and veggies are in season.
2) Write Your List/Meal Plan
Whether you’re a regular shopper or major meal prepper, think about what recipes you’ll make that can incorporate seasonal items. Go through your existing recipes, or pull some new ones. (We like Eating Well’s archive of seasonal recipes.)
3) Get Your Shop On
There are many places to get seasonal produce. Depending on your location, schedule, and budget, here are a few ways to shop seasonally.
- Join a CSA. A CSA ensures that you’re eating both seasonally and locally. You can often curate your box, or let them select it for you.
- Check out the farmer’s market. Your local farmer’s market is a great place to find local, seasonal produce—often at great prices. Best of all, you can sample, talk to growers, find out about their planting practices, and get their recommendations.
- Go to your local store. The nice thing about eating seasonally is that you’ll always find what you need in store. Your local markets are great, as are ethnic markets where you might find some of the more unfamiliar produce.
- Grow your own. There’s nothing better than garden-to-table cooking. Growing your food is both healthy and empowering.
A note: No matter where you get your food, it’s always nice to shop organic. That said, we know that your grocery bill is greatly influenced by your budget, so take it one step at a time. Sometimes experimenting with just one new item is enough to help expand your palate.
4) Stock Up
Like we said, eating seasonally is awesome because it’s so budget-friendly. Not only can you get the goods but they’re at lower prices than any other time. That means you can stock up and eat more of the good stuff, or incorporate extra fruits and veggies into other meals (e.g., turn bananas into smoothies, banana bread, etc).
5) Preserve Your Seasonal Goods
You can actually turn seasonal eating into year-round eating if you know how to preserve and repurpose your fruits and veggies. This saves you money and satiates those cravings if you do find yourself dying for something strawberry in the middle of winter. A few easy ways to preserve:
- Freeze fruits and veggies
- Use veggies for stock broth
- Make jam
- Can your fruits
- Make pickles
Your body and budget will thank you.
Above All, Don’t Stress
We like to think of eating seasonally as eating intentionally. If you're just starting out, you don’t have to get it perfect. Just take it one shopping trip at a time and make the most of what you have.