Easy Seasonal Eating Guide for Families

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I’m always looking for easy ways to improve my family’s health and seasonal eating is one of the best. We don’t drive ourselves crazy over it but try to enjoy dreaming up recipes based on what’s at the farmer’s market or in the garden. And it’s not as hard as it seems! Seasonal eating comes naturally when you simply change your mindset and get in touch with where your food comes from.

Why Eat Seasonally?

Eating seasonally has many benefits:

  • Taste – In-season produce is often much tastier than out of season produce because it doesn’t have to be shipped as far (or at all) and can ripen for longer on the plant.
  • Health – For the same reason that in-season produce tastes better, it’s also generally higher in nutrients.
  • Support Local Economy – Eating in-season means you can support the local economy and your local food growers by buying from local farmers instead of the grocery store.
  • Cost – Eating seasonally also means you’re buying food when it’s least expensive, saving on your grocery bill.

Because I keep a garden, seasonal eating is a necessity. But it’s also a lot of fun to find what’s coming into season in the grocery store or farmer’s market and figure out how to use those items.

How to Eat Seasonally (& Have Fun Doing It)

Moms are often already stretched thin, so adding one more thing to the to-do list can be very overwhelming. Luckily seasonal eating doesn’t have to be another to-do list item. It can be a fun addition to a healthy lifestyle.

Here’s how:

Have a Plan

Having a plan for using seasonal produce is important. If you don’t normally meal plan, now might be a good time to start. I use Real Plans to plan out my family’s weekly meals. It’s much simpler than doing it myself and Real Plans automatically serves up seasonal recipes!

Think Differently

To start eating seasonally you’ll have to change your mindset a bit. Instead of eating blueberries every other week throughout the year you’ll have to find interesting ways to use them in the summer when they’re in season (or frozen ones at other times).

Don’t Overcomplicate

When it comes to finding seasonal recipes for the produce you’re growing or buying locally, keep it simple. Don’t try to cook complicated dishes before you’re comfortable with using certain ingredients together. Stick with simple recipes and build your skills and knowledge base slowly.

What to Do With Seasonal Produce

Once you start to buy produce seasonally, you’ll realize that you end up with a lot of one thing at a time.

Here are some ideas for dealing with large amounts of seasonal produce:

  • Learn to preserve – If you can buy or grow lots of tomatoes in the summer, learn to can or freeze them for the winter. Do the same for other produce you find in-season. If canning isn’t your jam (pun intended), try pickling, freezing, drying, or fermenting to extend the life of in-season foods.
  • Adjust to eating more when it’s fresh – We tend to eat the foods we like at regular intervals all year. But seasonal eating asks us to eat a lot of one item when it’s fresh (and little or none at other times of the year). That means we might eat lots of berries in the summer, but stick with citrus fruits in the winter.
  • Bake with the extra – Another option is to make sweet breads, muffins, casseroles, and quiches with whatever you have a lot of and freeze those for later.

When I get a large harvest from my garden or the farmer’s market I do all three of these things! It gives the kids something to look forward to (all the strawberries you can eat in June!) and adds routine to the year.

What’s in Season Now?

What produce is in season depends on where you live in the world. The easiest way to know what’s in season is to go to your local farm or farmer’s market and see what they are producing. You can also check a state-by-state seasonal food guide.

But local foods are not the only in-season foods. Foods that travel from other climates also have a season.

For example, most Americans can’t buy local citrus fruits, but the winter is the best time to get them at their freshest and lowest price. Here’s what to look for at the grocery store or farmer’s market for the freshest produce year-round:

January

For most people, January is a time of rest and reflection. The garden has long been put to bed and the season calls for warm soups and stews as well as lots of starchy vegetables. Here’s what’s in season in January:

  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Grapefruit
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Parsnips
  • Pomegranates
  • Potatoes
  • Rutabagas
  • Tangelos
  • Tangerines
  • Turnips
  • Winter Squash

January Seasonal Recipes:

February

For many climates, February is cold and dark, so warm and bright foods are welcome! Root veggies, cruciferous veggies, and citrus fruit are abundant:

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Grapefruit
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Parsnip
  • Radishes
  • Rutabagas
  • Spinach
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Tangelos
  • Turnips

February Seasonal Recipes:

March

March is the official start of spring. Spring brings back the more fragile vegetables like greens and reminds us that more fresh produce is coming!

  • Artichokes
  • Arugula
  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Collard greens
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Lemons
  • Lettuce
  • Mushrooms
  • Oranges
  • Parsnip
  • Pineapples
  • Radishes
  • Rutabagas
  • Spring peas
  • Swiss chard
  • Turnips

March Seasonal Recipes:

April

As April enters we start to see more spring vegetables and some fruits start popping into the stores.

  • Artichokes
  • Arugula
  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Collard greens
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Mushrooms
  • Pineapples
  • Radishes
  • Rhubarb
  • Spring peas
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet onions

April Seasonal Recipes:

May

May ushers in the end of school for some and the beginning of the unofficial summer (Memorial Day). Berries start showing their faces as well as other fruits.

  • Apricots
  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cherries
  • Collard greens
  • Cucumber
  • Grapes
  • Lettuce
  • Mangoes
  • Okra (a favorite of mine)
  • Pineapples
  • Radishes (my kids will eat them in this dip recipe)
  • Rhubarb
  • Spinach
  • Spring peas
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet onions
  • Swiss chard
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini

May Seasonal Recipes:

June

The official start of summer begins at the end of June and the wealth of fresh fruits and veggies is growing every day.

  • Apricots
  • Avocados
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cherries
  • Corn
  • Garlic
  • Kiwi
  • Lettuce
  • Mangoes
  • Peaches
  • Pineapple
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Swiss chard
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon
  • Zucchini

June Seasonal Recipes:

July

Summer is in full swing and BBQs and backyard grilling are favorite ways to prepare meals. Here’s what to look out for this month:

  • Apricots
  • Avocados
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Garlic
  • Green beans
  • Kiwi
  • Kohlrabi
  • Lettuce
  • Mangoes
  • Okra
  • Peaches
  • Peppers
  • Pineapple
  • Plums
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Summer squash
  • Swiss chard
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon
  • Zucchini

July Seasonal Recipes:

August

For many places August is the hottest month of the year which means lots of picnics at the beach! Luckily there are lots of easy to pack fruits and veggies available this month:

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Figs
  • Green beans
  • Kiwi
  • Kohlrabi
  • Lettuce
  • Mangoes
  • Okra
  • Peaches
  • Peppers
  • Plums
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Summer squash
  • Swiss chard
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon
  • Zucchini

August Seasonal Recipes:

September

As school resumes and summer vacation ends families are looking for packable lunch items and simple recipes. But September is still technically summer for a few more weeks so there are lots to choose from:

  • Apples
  • Beets
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Eggplant
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Green beans
  • Lettuce
  • Mangoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Okra
  • Peppers
  • Persimmons
  • Pomegranates
  • Pumpkins
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Swiss chard
  • Tomatoes

September Seasonal Recipes:

October

Many areas are cooling down and crisp or brisk weather is a welcome change for the hot days of summer. October is when heartier veggies begin to come into season. Many of these veggies store well long term:

  • Apples
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Cranberries
  • Grapes
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Mushrooms
  • Parsnips
  • Persimmons
  • Pomegranates
  • Pumpkins
  • Rutabagas
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Swiss chard
  • Turnips
  • Winter squash

October Seasonal Recipes:

November

Thanksgiving is just around the corner so flavors reminiscent of this American tradition are on many people’s minds. Find root vegetables and cruciferous veggies in abundance this month as well as a few choice fruits:

  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Cranberries
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms
  • Oranges
  • Parsnips
  • Pears
  • Persimmons
  • Pomegranates
  • Pumpkins
  • Rutabagas
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tangerines
  • Turnips
  • Winter squash

November Seasonal Recipes:

December

The holiday season is in full swing and Christmas is just a few weeks away. December brings more of those hearty vegetables that are great with roasts or in soups.

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Grapefruit
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms
  • Oranges
  • Papayas
  • Parsnips
  • Pears
  • Pomegranates
  • Rutabagas
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tangelos
  • Turnips
  • Winter Squash

December Seasonal Recipes:

Seasonal Eating Made Easy

It might be overwhelming to start eating more seasonally but it’s not as difficult as it seems. You don’t need to go all-in and only eat local or in-season produce. Simply add more seasonal produce to your meal plan as you can. This is a great way to  get you thinking seasonally. Soon you’ll be eating and serving as much seasonal produce as you want!

How do you eat seasonally? What are your tips?