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4 Great Reasons to Enjoy Seasonal, Local Produce

It's not a new issue.

In fact, it was a non-issue until access to the global market became so common place.

Eating seasonal, fresh and locally grown produce was, until not that long ago, THE ONLY way. But thanks to the advent of speedy, refrigerated food transport, it became all to easy to access any 'fresh' produce, at any time of the year.

And then we all became aware of our carbon footprint, or how many 'food miles' our produce had traveled. So, whether you grow your own, buy from your local fruit and vege shop, visit your local farmer's market, or purchase from your local supermarket, being aware of what is in season and what is local has some really cool benefits for you.

So, what's in season this month in Victoria? Well, thanks to the Victorian Farmers' Markets Association, it's really easy to find out! In February, we have: 

fruit: apples, blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, grapes, gooseberries, loganberries, mulberries, raspberries, strawberries, youngberries, figs, grapes, kiwifruit, lemons, limes, honeydew melon, oranges, rockmelon, watermelon, nashi, nectarines, passionfruit, peach, pears, plums, rhubarb.

vegetables: Beans, cabbages, capsicums, carrots, celery, chillies, cucumber, daikon, eggplants, kohlrabi (green), leek, lettuces, okra, garlic, onions, peas, potatoes, pumpkins, radishes, spring onions, squash, sweet corn, tomatoes, zucchini.

herbs: bay leaf, parsley, mint, rosemary, thyme, chives, oregano, marjoram, sage, bronze fennel, dill, basil, watercress.

But, why seaasonal? What's in it for you?

1. It's a whole lot cheaper!

Local, seasonal produce hasn't had to be transported, or stored, for any significant time, so understandably the costs don't have to be passed  onto the consumer. So, it's far better for your hip pocket and family budget to stick to what's in season. You'll know when something's in season - the price per kilo will start to drop significantly. Remember that time that buying bananas required a personal loan? Well, it's the same for produce out of season!

2. It's a whole lot fresher!

For the same reasons as listed above, really. Local, seasonal produce is harvested and sold at the peak of the season, giving you access to the freshest available. It hasn't had to travel far, so it hasn't had time to spoil. It hasn't been picked before it's ripe (and allowed to ripen during transport) - it has been picked when it's ready. The flavours are better and the nutritional value is intact when you consume seasonal produce.

3. There's a whole lot more variety!

If you make an effort to consume local, seasonal produce, over the course of the year, you'll get a wider variety of fruits and vegetables. One of my favourite things about Winter are the beautifully sweet mandarins. I really look forward to the stone fruits of summer (particularly peaches). And it's hard to go past a good, fresh potato and leek soup in the cooler months!

4. There's a whole lot more nutrition!

Isn't it amazing, that in the cooler months, we have access to all the beautiful citrus fruits, full of their Vitamin C to help ward off Winter lurgies?! And in the warmer months, we have beautiful stone fruits, jam packed full of beta-carotenes, ready to support your skin as it is exposed to more sunlight?! And if the produce is local and in season, it hasn't traveled or been stored, so it hasn't had a chance to lose it's nutritional value.

My final thoughts...

My final words are to ENJOY what's in season. Enjoy the variety. But don't go crazy - if you really like bananas, but it's not a banana month, but they're available where you shop, get them! Be creative with your meal planning. I've written about meal planning before here. But in a nutshell, if you plan your meals around what's in season, you can enjoy a wider variety of food throughout the year.

So, how are YOU going to get more variety in your diet?!





Menu Planning

As you all know, I plan our family menu four weeks in advance. No, I'm not running a military mess hall. But, yes, I do need to be organised. And being organised with your menu planning helps keep the family meals nourishing and healthy. It also negates the trap of relying on take away or frozen, convenience meals.

By planning for four weeks, I can repeat the same menu plan three times. We have one menu for each season. I use seasonal recipes. This helps keep everything fresh, full of flavour and most importantly, budget friendly!

So, how do I do it? How can you do it? What things do you need to consider?

  1. What nights do you have time to cook? Make these nights your fresh food nights (think stir-fry, good old 'meat and three vege', salad, etc).
  2. What nights don't you have time to cook? Make these your homemade frozen meal nights. I batch cook on a Monday for the week ahead. I make soup for Wednesday night and bolognese or meatballs for Thursday night.
  3. What lunches can you pre-prepare? This goes a long way to including more vege and good protein into your diet and helps prevent sandwich boredom!
  4. How will you vary your protein source? I keep Mondays for chicken, Tuesdays for red meat, Wednesdays are meat free, Thursdays for mince and Fridays for fish. Saturday and Sunday are a mixed bag.
  5. When will you shop? Ideally, this would only be one or two days before your first fresh food night. And close to your batch cooking day.

As they say, prior planning prevents p!$$ poor performance. It might sound boring to plan ahead. But trust me on this one. You'll save money in the long run and will go a long way to improving your nutrition.