Let’s face it-real food ain’t cheap!
Have you heard the quote: “Maybe we should stop asking why real food is so expensive and start asking why processed food is so cheap.” Real food costs more because it isn’t subsidized by the government. It comes from farmers and ranchers that have decided to buck the system and grow/raise food that is healthier for us.
But that doesn’t excuse the fact that when you switch to a real food diet, your food bill will rise-maybe 20%, maybe more.
How do you keep your real food budget down so that it doesn’t keep you from making this very important lifestyle change?
There are several ways to decrease your real food budget. Today we are going to talk about one big factor: Seasonal Eating.
What is Eating Seasonally?
Eating seasonally means eating foods when they are harvested. So depending on the season, different foods are harvested at different times of the year.
What’s the Difference Between Eating Locally and Eating Seasonally?
Eating locally is an important principle of the real food movement. Eating locally means eating only food that you can get with a certain mile radius (usually 100 miles or less). This includes local meats and produce from your homestead or farmers market. You can also join a local CSA (community supported agriculture) where you buy straight from the farmer. Either way, the food hasn’t traveled a long distance to get to your table.
Eating locally is part of eating seasonally, but there is a difference. I live in Colorado. If I only eat locally, I would never eat citrus, pineapples or avocados ever again because they just don’t grow here. That would be a shame, wouldn’t it?
What are the Benefits of Eating Seasonally?
- It is cheaper because just after harvest there is a surplus of a certain food. That will drive down the price.
- It tastes better because it is fresher and riper than the rest of the year.
- It travels less to get to your plate and isn’t stored somewhere in order to sell later.
- Less energy is spent growing food in its natural season than engineering systems to grow all food year round.
How do we know what is in season?
In the chart below, it shows the seasons for the most popular fruits and vegetables. As you can tell, there aren’t as many seasonal fruits and vegetables in the early part of the year. This is where you can use your canned and frozen food that you have preserved to add healthy choices to your plate.
Infographic by www.eatseasonably.co.uk
Where do we find seasonal foods?
- Farmers Market (my small town has a big summer farmers market and a smaller winter farmers market where you can find local produce all year long).
- CSA (as mentioned above) allows you to become a member of a farm and then get whatever kinds of food the farm is producing each season.
- Your homestead can produce food year round with a 3 (or 4 depending on where you live) season garden and your own livestock.
- Grocery stores are picking up on the local/seasonal food trend. You might be able to find some good deals if you know what to look for.
Don’t you miss eating certain foods all year long?
According to the graphic above, all I can eat seasonally in January, February and March are brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, kale and leeks. How am I going to survive?
This is where food storage and preservation comes into play. By preserving and storing food that is in season and at the peak of freshness, you can eat them in the long months of winter without losing important vitamins and minerals.
Instead of buying a tomato in January at the grocery store that has been picked early, sprayed to ripen and traveled 1000s of miles to get to the store, you can open a home canned jar of stewed tomatoes or spaghetti sauce that is much healthier and safer than its grocery store counterpart.
When switching to a real food diet, there is a big learning curve. Some people give up too fast because it costs too much. By eating seasonally, we can decrease some of these costs and keep our budget under control.
Do you have any tips to share about eating seasonally? Please leave them in the comments below. Thanks!