The Ultimate Produce Guide to Cooking Seasonally
Let me run through a scenario that might sound all to familiar. “I have to run to the grocery store, I just need a few things.” You walk through the store with razor-sharp focus only picking up the things on your list (ok, maybe you stray on a couple of items, but still), you get to the register ..beep, beep, beep, beep…and your total is $148.72! You exclaim (internally or externally, whatever floats your boat) “what the heck did I buy!?!” If this is you at least 3 times a month I have some sound advice and awesome information that will help you hold down the cost of your weekly grocery bill. The ultimate produce guide to cooking seasonally has arrived!
There is no doubt that the cost of groceries continue to rise. It seems like every month there is another bump in prices in every corner of the grocery stores you frequent. If you do most of your food shopping around the perimeter of the store like I do, kudos to you!! The perimeter of the store boasts the freshest meats, dairy and produce. While you can clip some pretty great coupons, manufacturer and store brand alike for meats and dairy, the produce department leaves a lot to be desired on the coupon front. Do not despair though! There are ways to save and in pretty grand fashion I might add.
I know the organic craze has taken over in an abundance of markets across the country, but buying organic isn’t always the wisest thing to do for your wallet. Here is a no-brainer tip when shopping in the produce department. Fruits and vegetables that have a skin or outer layer that you remove before consuming is prime for buying non-organic. Some great examples that might be on your weekly shopping list are fruits like bananas, kiwis, oranges and tangerines. Many vegetables are green and leafy with no outer casing, but many types of squash like butternut and acorn, even zucchini or yellow squash, if you peel them, are perfect non-organic buying examples. Even veggies that you peel like carrots, celery or even asparagus would fall into this non-organic buying group. Purchasing the non-organic brand of some of these items can save you upwards of $0.60 per lb. You would be amazed at how fast that all can add up because whether you realize it or not, a good 1/3 of your grocery purchases every trip come from the produce department. This is just one little tidbit of information that can help you save…but wait….there’s more!
The BEST way to save money and still feed your family healthy and nutritious foods is (drumroll please)…..buy in season! Buying in season fruits and vegetables will save you money up front and on the back end. Let me explain. Lets take the good ‘ol super food kale as an example. In its peak season you can find a healthy-sized bunch of kale as low as $0.99 per lb. Take the same vegetable in its off season… the bunches are sizably smaller and the price can be upward of $1.99 per lb. That is a huge price difference! Plus off season fruits and vegetables tend to go bad faster. So, if you don’t consume the item within 1 or 2 days it will start to turn and you wind up throwing it away. Buying in season not only assures you the freshest and best tasting fruits and veggies (the front end) but also has a way longer shelf-life (the back end). This is fantastic news for you who like to go to the grocery store once a week and buy everything you need. You don’t have to worry about spoilage two days into the week.
You might be thinking, ok this is great info! I want to start cooking in season. I really would like to be eating veggies and fruits at their peak time. I want to start saving money on my grocery bill every week! One problem though, how do I know what fruits and vegetables are in season? Look no further! I have spent countless hours researching and compiling the ultimate seasonal produce guide so you don’t have to. Just consider this your little produce “cheat sheet.” You will find some very common fruits and vegetables on this list as well as some that are not so common. I tried to include as many different types of produce on this list to make it the most comprehensive for you!
As you will see below on our little “cheat sheet” there are a few produce items that appear multiple times across the seasons like garlic, onions, avocados, papayas, carrots, lemons and a few others. These fruits and vegetables are widely available throughout the year, but the freshest at its peak seasons listed below.
The above table is a great guide to shopping your way through the grocery store seasonally. You are sure to get the freshest produce that will not only taste the best, but will last the longest too!
There is just one more morsel of information I need to share with you. Many people are under the misconception that all fruits and vegetables continue to ripen after they have been harvested. This could not be further from the truth. While some fruits and vegetables do continue to ripen after picking, there are quite a few that don’t. This is another handy produce shopping tip to keep in mind as you make your way about the isles.
Below you will find a list of fruits and vegetables that continue to ripen after being harvested and a list of those who don’t. Be wary of the ones that do not continue to ripen because the truth of the matter is that some of them stop ripening the moment they are picked and will rot, mold or dry up from the inside out.
Spring has sprung and Summer is on its way. There are so many in season fruits and veggies to choose from. Get out there and pick the ones you love the most and make something seasonally sensational!