Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Conscious Shopper Challenge: Eat Seasonally

The next few weeks of the Conscious Shopper Challenge will focus on greening our groceries. Here's the next challenge:


In this day and age of instant gratification, when you can find any type of food any time you want it at your corner grocery store, one might ask, "Why should I eat in season? Why I should I deprive myself?"

My family does not eat completely seasonally: we keep carrots, celery, onions, potatoes, avocadoes, and bananas in our fridge year round, I buy tropical fruits as a treat when they're on sale (and have no clue when they're actually in season), and in the winter I branch out to add some diversity to our dinner plates. But the majority of the produce we eat is fresh and in season, purchased directly from the farmer. And I rarely ever feel deprived. In fact, I love eating seasonally. Here's why:

  • Seasonal food tastes better, hands down. Sure you can buy a tomato in January, but it could never compare to the one freshly plucked off the vine in July. Produce picked at the peak of ripeness also has more nutritional value than produce shipped halfway across the world.
  • When I eat in season, I feel more gratitude for the food I have. I relish every bite of every strawberry (or peach or watermelon) because I know the season is short and it will be another year before they appear at the farmers' market again. And after a long winter of sweet potatoes and cabbage, I dance with glee at the sight of tomatoes and cucumbers.
  • Seasonal eating keeps me in tune with the seasons in general. It's one more way to keep us connected to nature and our beautiful world.
  • Eating in season has forced us to branch out of our comfort zones and try vegetables that might otherwise never make an appearance at our dinner table. Some of those have been a total FAIL (turnips!), but others have become some of our favorites (kale and collards).

This month as you Green Your Groceries, challenge yourself to eat more seasonally.


  • Educate yourself on when food is in season. Google "in season produce" and your state.


  • Set a goal to make a certain percentage of your produce seasonal. What that percentage is can be up to you and may depend on the season. For example, from late spring to early fall, my family eats about 80% seasonally, but in the winter, it drops to about 60%.


  • Join a CSA. I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, I know. You might be thinking, "Erin keeps telling me to join a CSA. I don't want to join a CSA!" Well, here's the thing: We've been part of three CSAs now, and honestly, we probably won't join another - I do prefer being able to plan ahead with my groceries. But I can't stress enough how valuable an experience it is when you're first experimenting with sustainable eating. CSAs force you to eat in season (just like they force you to learn to cook). You've already paid for it, there's no backing out, so you learn how to do it. And once your CSA season is through, you'll be an expert. (And I'm probably going to repeat this same thing next week for the Eat Local challenge. I'm serious - join a CSA!)

Have you tried eating seasonally?


Robbie @ Going Green Mama said...

Excellent post as always! I'm finding that people are "into" eating seasonably, as long as it's convenient. We had an editorial planning session the other day for a winter publication, and I brought up the idea of eating seasonably. "But you can't in the winter," I was argued. Never mind that there are now THREE winter markets I know of in driving distance!

Sense of Home said...

Terrific post! Although we don't completely eat seasonally we do preserve a lot of food while it is in season and then enjoy it throughout the year. Not much grows in our area in the winter (even cold frames don't work when the temps dip below zero).

I have made a real effort to eat from all the food that grows here, thus I have tried several "new" vegetables in the last couple of years.


Billie said...

Other than tropical fruit, I eat pretty seasonally from May to October - when our farmer's market is open. In the winter, it gets reduced dramatically as there aren't too many options here in the winter.

Green Bean said...

Ha! I knew there was a reason to live in California despite the crappy schools and the overpriced real estate! We eat seasonally year round. It is readily available - at 2 year round farmers' markets in driving distance, through my CSA which offers a winter box, and even at the local market and Whole Foods which carry, at least some degree, of locally grown produce and locally sourced dairy products. Sure, we do occasionally eat bananas and there have been a few times that apples from Washington (and once from Chile - it was a realllly bad week!) jumped into my cart but, see, there are some advantages to living in California.

Daisy said...

The jogging stride could also include farmers' markets. It's not as serious an endeavor as joining a CSA, but getting the seasonal foods from the producers themselves is -- well, priceless.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

@Green Bean - On this very grey rainy day in North Carolina, you make California sound very appealing!

Melissa @ HerGreenLife said...

As we've moved to eating ever more local food, I really enjoy making some of our favorite meals and realizing that they are almost all local.

The big challenge is getting beyond local fruit and vegetables to things like grain and beans. We have a local source for black beans now, as well as whole wheat flour from locally grown and milled wheat. We can buy semi-locally grown rice. But there are lots of other beans and grains that we enjoy. I guess the upside is that at least dried goods don't require as many resources per serving to ship as fruit and veggies, since the water weight is removed.


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