When you’re grocery shopping, have you ever looked at the items in your cart to consider where they’re from? Our global food system gives us convenience and abundance. It’s quite amazing we can try things grown from around the world, any day of the week, all year long.
However, what are the costs and is there a better alternative? You may have heard of seasonal eating. In this post, we’ll explain what seasonal eating is and how it can benefit you. We’ll also discuss local eating, and how sourcing food that’s closer to home can be beneficial. Not only are seasonal and local eating good for your waistline, they’re also great for your wallet! In addition, eating this way can be great for the planet. Keep reading to learn more.
What is seasonal eating?
Seasonal eating is about consuming foods grown during a specific season: spring, summer, fall, and winter. Depending on what month it is, you can eat whatever food is harvested at that time of the year. Local food is usually cheapest when it’s in season – a plus for anyone looking to save money, but eat well at the same time.
What is local eating?
Eating local means sourcing food that’s grown and produced close to where you live. There’s no magic number for how close local food has to be. Generally speaking, food that’s within 100 km of your home would be considered local. Think of it this way: if you’re able to drive there in a day, you can probably consider it local!
Why should I consider seasonal and local eating?
It can help support local farmers
Here is how seasonal eating helps your community: By buying food that’s in season and close to home, you’re helping local farmers, local growers, and local markets. You’re helping all the people and other businesses working for and with those local farmers and markets. By keeping money within the community instead of purchasing fruit grown south of the border, you’re supporting your community’s business and people.
It’s better for the planet
The longer your food has to travel to get to you, the larger the carbon footprint. By eating food that’s grown closer to home, we’re choosing products that have less of an impact on the environment. Seasonal, local eating is a great way to make things a little easier on planet earth!
Seasonal and local food tastes better, stays fresh longer, and is more nutritious
All fresh fruit lovers rejoice - if you eat with the season you’ll be eating food that’s fresher and more nutrient dense. It will also be more in sync with your body’s seasonal cravings. Your strawberries will be that much sweeter too, as seasonal food has more flavour than food grown out of season. Most fruits and vegetables are best when they’re purchased shortly after harvest.
If you’re buying local, you know you’re getting produce nearly fresh off the vine and picked at just the right time! Your food will have a longer shelf life on your kitchen counter and fridge compared to out of season food that’s picked well before its peak. (This is how out-of-season food is picked so it doesn’t go bad before reaching grocery stores.) The process of harvesting earlier than locally pricked produce also means the fruit and vegetables have less time to develop so they’re less nutrient dense, and in the end - less tasty.
Buying food out-of-season also means you’re buying food that took a long trip from another country to make its way to the grocery store chains in your city. These long periods of transport can damage fresh produce and diminish its nutritional value. The only way to guarantee you’re purchasing food that was harvested not long ago is by buying from your local market or grower.
Tips for seasonal eating
- Make google your friend, and research your local growing seasons
- Create a seasonal food list
- Prepare for the seasons ahead of time
- Buy in bulk
- Learn good food storage habits
Ways to store seasonal food
- Drying & dehydration
- Use of chemicals
Seasonal and local eating are doable (even in the winter)
You might be wondering, how is seasonal eating possible in the coldest months of the year? While most people depend on the global food system when temperatures drop cold enough for snow, we’ve actually forgotten people lived for centuries in cold places, before globalization.
Our grandparents and great-grandparents prepared and planned their food in advance of colder months through preservation and storage practices. Your local farmers still practice these habits! At winter farm shares you can buy things like winter kale and cabbage, and make dishes with root vegetables and whole grains. Frozen berries are a great substitute for fresh berries.
Seasonal eating with flexibility
We’re not saying you need to live like our great-grand parents did and seasonally eat all year long. However, when it comes to your health, your community, and the planet, it’s worth considering where you put your dollar, and asking yourself where your food is grown. You can then supplement your locally purchased items with global food items, without making global food the star of the show.
Consider buying and eating locally produced food!
Check out your local market, or grower and buy fresh and preserved food. And don’t forget to protect your kitchen and food storage by protecting your home with home insurance.
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Seasonal and local eating FAQs
What kitchen ingredients can preserve food?
Vinegar, salt, and lemon juice are great ingredients for natural preservation.
What are some tips that will help store foods for long periods of time?
Use packaging that keeps out oxygen, light, insects, and rodents.
What foods can be stored for a long time?
- Nuts & seeds
- Winter squash
- Tea & coffee
- Powdered milk
- Cured and dried meat
- Frozen fruit
- Cheese wheels