Season’s Eatings

Surely you have heard the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but have you heard the phrase, “An apple bought in-season keeps more money in your pocket.”? As a college student, the thought of saving money immediately catches my attention. It might also catch yours.

Whether I’m treating myself to an ice cream sundae after a big exam or laughing with friends at Culver’s, food is a necessity, but it’s also a source of comfort and enjoyment. However, as a college student on a budget, I flinch a little when I have to pull out my wallet. Is it just me or does everything seem so expensive these days? While searching for answers to this why-is-my-grocery-bill-so-high mystery, I have found many factors at play, from the soaring costs of labor to the increase in fuel prices to the number of job openings in the trucking industry, and other supply chain disruptions because of the pandemic. Research from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) tells us that the 20-year historical rate of retail food price inflation is 2.0 percent per year. The 2021 price rise was 75 percent higher than average. So how can we save money while still purchasing nutritious and affordable food as consumers?

I’ve learned that buying your fresh produce while it’s in season is a great way to save money. You have probably noticed that sweet corn and tomatoes are cheaper in the summer months, particularly as they come into season across Illinois and in our neighboring states. As in-season produce is able to be sourced more locally, transportation costs and the costs of keeping fresh produce in condition between field and grocery store are reduced. That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate having fresh salad mix and other produce available at the store during the chilly winter months—we just have to keep in mind that we are paying for the costs to transport it from warmer states.

You may be thinking, “Sure, I will save money in the summer, but what happens in the brutal winter?” Consider buying your fresh produce in bulk, then freezing, canning, or drying it to keep it fresh all winter long and save money when this produce isn’t in-season anymore. By following these steps, you will keep affordable, nutrient-dense produce for a longer period of time. For more about food preservation, check out some amazing tips and tricks from Illinois Extension. Whether you’re freezing your award-winning green beans or preserving tomatoes that shout summer, these techniques will allow you to save money and enjoy summer all year round.

Not only will your wallet thank you, but so will your tastebuds. When buying in-season produce, you will find that it has a sweet, ripe sensation like no other. Use the chart below to learn when to buy some of your favorite seasonal crops grown right here in Illinois and keep following along with Illinois Farm Families to hear from farmers about how our food is grown and raised.

Click image to view.

Authored by Shelby Basham