Use This Guide to Buy Produce in Season and Save on Fresh Food
Eating fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season isn’t just good for your health. It’s good for your wallet.
You may have noticed the price of strawberries is cheaper in the summer than in the winter or that butternut squash is a better deal in autumn months. That’s because produce typically costs less when it’s in season.
Targeting your grocery picks on produce in season will help you stretch your food budget.
What Does It Mean for Produce To Be In Season?
Fruits and vegetables are “in season” during the time of the year they are naturally harvested.
Plants have different growing cycles. Some thrive best when temperatures are warm, while others grow better in cooler weather.
In any given season, a new crop of fruits and veggies will be ready to be picked, plucked, gathered or dug up. When a certain type of produce is being harvested in abundance, grocers usually lower prices due to the increased local supply.
On the other hand, fruits and veggies cost more when they aren’t in season because they have to be shipped from distant farms where growing conditions are more ideal. The cost to transport out-of-season produce is passed onto the consumer.
What Produce Is In Season Year-Round?
Some fruits and vegetables don’t have a particular season and can be harvested throughout the entire year. You’ll find prices are fairly stable no matter when you buy them.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s SNAP-Ed program, this includes:
Know What’s in Peak Season and When
Many fruits and vegetables peak at a certain time of year. Others are harvested over a stretch of several months. You’ll see prices drop when they’re in season and rise when they’re not. It may also be more difficult to find out-of-season produce on grocery store shelves.
The USDA’s guidance on produce in season will help you save money when you shop.
Produce in Season During the Summer
Summer brings thoughts of fresh berries and juicy watermelon. Along with those favorites, try something different at your next summer barbecue and grill some zucchini or corn on the cob for side dishes.
This list includes the fruits and vegetables you’ll find in season during the summer months:
Produce in Season During the Fall
As the leaves change colors, root vegetables and gourds will be affordable grocery store picks.
Seasonal produce in autumn includes:
Sweet potatoes and yams
Produce in Season During the Winter
Eating fresh fruits and vegetables in the winter will help you balance out all the sugary holiday treats. Consider a vitamin C boost from citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit as the cold and flu season settles in.
This list includes produce picks that are in season during the winter:
Sweet potatoes and yams
Produce in Season During the Spring
Enjoy leafy greens as the weather warms up and the flowers begin to bloom. The fruits and vegetables you’ll find in season this time of year include:
What to Know When Shopping for Produce in Season
While the lists above focus on what’s in season in the United States as a whole, supplies may vary based on where you live. For example, berries grown in Florida tend to peak in the spring rather than in the summer.
For more specific guidance on seasonality, refer to your state’s department of agriculture or your local extension program. This Seasonal Food Guide shows people what’s in season in each state.
Having a relationship with local farmers can also help you buy produce in season. Consider shopping at farmers markets or joining a Community Supported Agriculture program to save money on seasonal fruits and veggies.
Meal prepping and cooking all edible parts of the plant are other measures to get the most out of your produce. If you want to preserve your seasonal produce to enjoy months later, freeze or can the fruits and veggies that you bought during peak season.
If you plan to eat the produce you buy soon, learn to properly store everything so it won’t go bad quickly. But don’t be dismayed if your fruits and veggies get a little too ripe. There are plenty of ways to use overripe avocados, browning bananas, mushy pears and wilting spinach leaves rather than tossing them in the trash.
Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.