Last week in our blog post, 7 Reasons for Eating Seasonably on the Farm, we talked about the reasons WHY to eat in season. How that benefits our health, the world that we live in, our pocket book and so on. If you missed out on that post please hop on over and read that one first. Today we are talking about the HOW of eating in season. I really think that the practice of eating in season brings the love of seasons to each person even if they only truly appreciate that vine ripe tomato in the hot days of summer. A tomato in any other season just isn't the same!
How to Find Seasonal Foods
When eating foods that are in season first we have to know where to find those foods. It can be as simple as shopping at the same grocery store that you currently shop at or as fun as hitting the farmer's market in your local city or visiting a local farm.
When searching out seasonal foods in your local grocery store you want to think about what season it is. Many of us know that watermelons grow in the summer as do tomatoes, we know that pumpkins and squash come the end of summer and into the fall ect. Many of traditions and our culture are based on these things so some of them will come naturally. You will want to look up online what is in season in your area and when. This great database by the Sustainable Table gives you a way to search your area and time of year for seasonable foods, just click here to check out their database. Usually the price of the produce in the grocery store will tell you how seasonal it is. Also many grocery stores are now placing the details of where the item was grown or placing a local sign near the price tag. If it was grown in Mexico it is probably not seasonal for our area. Look for those locally grown signs and stick with things you know tend to be eaten in the season you are in.
A great way to get an education, without searching online for what is in season, is to visit your local farmer's market or a small local farm. When you visit a farmer's market they will only have farmers there that are local and have grown all their fruits and veggies (even meats) on their farm. This means that they are not imported and they are only growing what is in season. This is probably the best and easiest way to switch to foods that are in season. To find a local farmer's market near you check out the USDA Local Food Directories Listing found here. You can also Google or look on Facebook by typing in a city near you and the words 'farmers market'.
How to Plan and Prepare Seasonal Foods
Now that we know WHERE we find seasonal foods what do we do with them? Many of us are use to eating what ever the recipe we are making calls for no matter what the season is. Hamburgers in the middle of winter with tomatoes and lettuce, no problem! Oh wait there is snow out on the ground... maybe those things are not in season right now.
Some of eating in season requires an adjustment to our mind frame and our eating habits. While it is natural to want a juicy watermelon in summer to cool you off, we are just very habitual people that we have to make a mental effort to change our habits. Which is why the prior post was about reasons for changing to seasonal foods.
Adjusting Foods you Already Love
Here are a few ways to adjust the foods you love to our current season:
#1 Make Your Favorites Seasonal
It is always easiest to start with those foods that are familiar to you and your family and just tweak them a bit to fit the season. Lets take a few examples and tweak them a bit:
Hamburgers- Keep the bun (make sure its whole foods!), keep the cheese, keep the meat (both local and grass fed of course) but lets change out those veggies for the season. In the summer lettuce and tomatoes are fantastic or maybe change it up and add some fresh basil pesto to your burger. How about the fall? In the fall use sautéed mushrooms and cheese. In the winter how about some fried onions from storage and some homemade BBQ sauce, preserved pickles or go for a veggie burger made from beans and rice. In the spring what about trying a cauliflower 'chicken' burger or adding grilled spring onions and herbed mayo to your beefy burger.
Tacos - In the spring, fried cauliflower tacos are wonderful and taste like cod fish. Add some in-season cabbage slaw and your good to go! In the summer some grilled chicken with zucchini and tomato salsa with fresh fruit on the side would be perfect. In the fall how about these Chipotle Quinoa Sweet Potato Tacos with Cranberry Salsa? They look great! Last but not least, the winter taco, how about a potato and chorizo taco? Or ground beef and lentils with preserved tomatillo salsa?
Lasagana- In the spring use a white sauce and fill it with chicken and spring veggies such as asparagus, spinach etc. In the summer its time for the tomatoes and basil to shine! In the fall a good butternut squash lasagna would be perfect and in the winter hopefully you preserved some of those lovely tomatoes into sauce, dehydrated some mushrooms and have fresh spinach growing in your greenhouse or cold frame, or even from the store.
Spaghetti- Springtime spaghetti could be a white sauce with lot of spinach and asparagus, in the summer again the tomatoes and basil will shine through and some grilled chicken or ground beef. In the fall its time to turn those zucchini into noodles or find a spaghetti squash and add to your sauce what ever veggies you have on hand. The winter is always about featuring your preserved foods or cold, hearty winter veggies such as squashes, hearty greens and root veggies. Mix it up a bit with a white sauce, use veggies as noodles, your stored or dehydrated spices and veggies. Get creative!
Salads- We eat these year around because our kale seems to want to grow year around. Our lettuce is totally another story. We always start with a base of greens, what ever is fresh, local, seasonal. We add what we have and there have been some combinations that looked strange but tasted great. Our travels abroad to Russia, Bulgaria and Rome have taught us a few things about salads! Like that citrus in them is better than tomatoes and fruit of any kind for that matter. Our favorite winter salads have apples, dried cranberries or raisins and nuts with an apple cider vinaigrette. Sometimes we eat that through the spring if our spinach is abundant and apple storage lasts that long. Eventually in the spring we welcome radishes, carrots, cabbage, strawberries, sugar snap peas. In the summer its tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, peaches, blueberries, cucumbers. In the fall apples start coming back and we tend to cook more veggies during this time when the weather is cooling off.
#2 Switch Out Ingredients for Seasonal Veggies
Necessity is the mother of invention right? Later this spring I found myself totally forgetting to buy celery. Well it wasn't at the farmer's market so what is a girl to do?! I found that using fennel in place of celery in many dishes didn't affect the taste much and sometimes made it more exciting. It is very similar to celery in its texture and form but has a bit of a licorice bite. I must say, in our curried chicken sandwiches it brought more life to it.
Another example could be onions. In the spring, 'spring onions' are ready to use, sub them in place of your typical storage onion (or what we might consider a regular onion). Chives come on a bit after spring onions so those could be used next in season. You could pull your onions from the garden early and use them as 'new onions' and later on use your storage onions.
Potatoes also do not grow year around but are typically stored for long periods. In the spring new potatoes or fingerlings will be more affordable than your typical baking potato. Start with the new potatoes and wait for the fall for your baking potatoes.
Take a look at the veggies in your recipe, are they what is in season now? Could you trade out something else instead?
#3 Try Something New!
Its ok to change up your eating habits and try something new. Many ethnic recipes tend to use whole foods that are in season because for most of them that is all they have avialable to them. A blessing in disguise if you ask me, they do not have to learn what is in season as we who are reading (and writing this post) have to work to learn.
Resources, Data Bases and More
A lot of eating in season is just eating what is available to us. The best way to know what that is to shop the local farmers market (or purchase a CSA), see and purchase what is available and then learn to make do with those options. That could be related to learning a language by full emersion such as when a student partakes in an exchange program. There is nothing like learning by diving in. Though even those students do their due diligence before they fly off to their country of choice.
Below we are excited to share with you some of the resources we use to learn to eat in season! Our favorite place to find seasonal recipes is on Pinterest! It is probably the main reason we use this social media website. Its just full of too many good ideas. We have a board of recipes for each season. Feel free to click on them and check them out!
Make sure you also check out the Sustainable Table's Seasonal Food Guide online! Its super easy to just enter the area you live in and then the season you are searching and up come a list of your seasonal foods! How awesome is that?!
Another great place to find seasonal recipes at the Sustainable Table
Download our Seasonal Eats Pack here for free which includes a menu planner for local, in season and whole foods as well as a list of seasonal foods and free recipe cards! Don't miss out on this great resource!
A busy mother gathers her children in the store like a mama hen with her chicks. The grocery bill at the cash register is higher this time and continues to go up. Emails, snail mail and social media are clogging up with food recalls every month and sometimes every day. The fuel budget shrinks with every trip to the store. Tomatoes in the winter, or any time of the year, never taste like a vine ripened tomato from a home garden. Meat is shipped from countries far off combining several cows from different counties into one burger. Meat and dairy products come from obscure farms where animals never see pasture but only the inside of a small cage. The decline of the dollar and whole countries' economies are breaking across the world which threaten food security. These and many more reasons are just the start of why people are looking for alternative means the grocery store.
Have you ever contemplated the idea of a life without a grocery store? What would your family do if for some reason there was no longer food on grocery store shelves such as happened in many stores during the January 2016 storms? Are you prepared for emergency food issues, power outages? Its said that “Growing your own food is like printing your own money.” It brings families freedoms beyond just that of the fresh food to their own kitchen. The movement for local, small farm and home grown food is growing (no pun intended).
Useful Skills Delivered
In the next six weeks here on our blog we will be sharing our personal movement towards being grocery store free. Its time to break the ball and chain with a little 6 week plan. We hope you will join us along the way as we share our journey with you! Each week we will share a new step to help you along the path to growing your own food along with our challenges and a printable and/or recipe or two. We will focus on 4 Steps for Ditching the Grocery Store:
Week #1 - Focus on Whole Foods
Our 6 week challenge starts with eating whole foods. Whole foods are those foods have been refined as little as possible without any additives or other artificial substances. Take for example potatoes vs. instant potato flakes in a box, butter vs. margarine, root beer made from sassafras and raw cane sugar vs root beer from corn syrup and flavorings. Prior to the Industrial Revolution storage options were fairly limited and so most food had to be eaten when it was fresh and in season, there were no chemical preservatives. The only food preservation done was by way of fermentation, dehydration or the the root cellar. Chemicals were not part of the mix and large factories didn't commonly handle the foodstuffs. Around World War I food started being preserved in tin cans and then when World War II came around more convenience food was sought after. From there on out we see convenience food increase to our modern day to the point that schools no longer teach home ec. or require students to learn to cook food and as such many have no clue how to prepare a simple healthful meal.
Starting to change ones diet using real whole foods is the first step to saying goodbye to the grocery store and saying hello to better health. In an excellent lecture on the Fundamentals of Nutrition for Physicians and Dentists, Dr. N. Philip Norman says that "Proper nutrition and the role that it plays in the maintenance of good health involve twelve factors:
"1. The ecologic equilibrium of the fauna and flora of the soil.
2. Fertility of the soil.
3. The vigor of the germ plasm of the seed.
4. Climatic factors - temperature, moisture, and sunshine.
5. The proper culture of the flora and fauna which supply man with food.
6. The harvesting and storage of food.
7. The handling of food during transportation and distribution.
8. The methods of processing through which food has gone - milling, canning, brining, salting, dehydration, freezing, sun-drying, curing and smoking, sulfuring, drying, etc.
9. The intelligent selection of food at the market.
10. The proper preparation of the food either for immediate consumption in the raw state or for cooking.
11. Proper methods of cooking different kinds of food.
12. The proper care of left-over food to be used at subsequent meals."
Eating whole foods in their original form (a hamburger made from fresh ground beef vs McDonalds Hamburger, homemade raw milk ice cream vs Dairy Queen.) corresponds directly to number eight of Dr. Norman's list. The way which our food is processed directly relates to our health. The old saying "You are what you eat" is still rather true.
In Chapter Four of To-Morrows Food, is given a summary of Dr. Weston A. Price's pleaded work Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, from which we take the following passage: "The best diets of primitive peoples are in fact higher in essential vitamins and minerals than the average civilized diet: and so long as the primitives adhere to their diets their teeth are almost free from cavities, their dental arches are perfect, and their health extraordinary when measured by modern scientific standards. As soon, however, as they begin to use white flour, granulated sugar, and canned goods of our civilization, their teeth begin to decay with astonishing rapidity. Tuberculosis and arthritis make their appearance, and in a hundred ways the resistance to disease declines. Within a generation the pregnancies of their workmen become difficult and the dental arches of their children are malformed." Dr. Price, accompanied by his wife, made a study of primitive peoples all over the world.
Information continues to stream out about how our processed diets are causing multiple health issues from heart disease to cancer. The studies from the past are still informative in our times. Read more about the 12 Factors to Good Health in our previous post, along with Wheat the Broken Staff and Processed Foods = More Hospitals.
Reduce Grocery Budget Bottomline
Another benefit to cutting out processed foods and eating a diet rich in whole foods is that it will save you on your grocery budget. Buying prepackaged foods, even if they are made with whole foods and no chemicals and/or additives will save you money every time. Whether you are making a loaf of bread, home made tortillas, chocolate chip cookies or a pot of soup those will save you money over buying a loaf of bread, the package of tortillas or purchasing factory made cookies and factory canned soup.
Take for instance a can of soup. We had not purchased a can of soup in a looooong time. I was shocked when I considered it for convince purposes, only to find that one small can which would have probably served one person in our family was around $3. Given that wasn't a can of Campbells, but I'm willing to bet even Campbells is rather expensive compared to home made soup. Some chicken stock made from the bones of a left over roasted chicken along with meat bits, a few home grown carrots, a couple ribs of celery and some home made noodles will make a hungry family of 6 a large pot of soup for near the same price as that one little can of soup.
Another instance, take our Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread. To purchase a loaf of sourdough bread it takes some time and research to find a bakery who makes similar bread. There is one health food store and a couple of bakeries that carry sourdough in town, 30 minutes from us. They sell a sandwich loaf for any where between $5 at best to $7. Prior to our own baking we bought Dave's Killer Bread which has little processed flour and processed ingredients in it aside from the gluten flour. Costco was carrying two loafs for around $6-$7 but it also took twice the bread to fill us up since it wasn't sourdough. Not to mention the inconvenience of that half hour into town. A home baked loaf of sourdough bread costs us about $1.07 for organic wheat flour and maybe 50 cents more for a bit of sea salt, tablespoon of honey and water. At the most $1.57 a loaf. Pair that with the lack of nutrition and home made bread will be better on the pocketbook every time as well as better for digestion. Have you read our Wheat- The Broken Staff post yet? If not check it out, you won't look at bread the same again.
Lisa Leake of 100 Days of Real Food shows here in her post 5 Home Cooked Meals Cheaper than McDonald's that it is possible to save money by eating real whole foods vs. processed pre-made foods. Keep in mind too that the more we the consumer do the work (as in make the crackers, make the bread, bake the cookies) we are paying ourselves. Instead of paying someone else to make those items for us we save money by putting in the labor.
Another factor in saving on your grocery budget is that by the increase in your health from eating healthful whole foods you save on doctors visits, time off from work and medications. More money in the pocket to keep adding healthful food!
Gain Practical and Useful Skills
Eating whole foods will not only save on your budget and improve your health but it will also give you a useful skill base. Farm to table education has been going on in this country for some time. There is an effort being made to educate children in the United States about where our food comes from and what our food is made out of in order to promote better health and economy. Take for example the Salem Saturday Market's Power of Produce (POP's) Program where they give children POP currency to spend on produce at the market. Children learn many scientific facts in school but little is taught about our food economy, which is one of our most basic needs (food, shelter, safety...). By cooking and eating whole foods children (and adults) learn what the ingredients look like. Things such as different cuts of meat, different types of meat, different vegetables and if they come from the root, stem, leaf or flower of a plant, what cookies and cakes are made of (butter, flour, sugar etc.) just as a few examples. Later on in our series we will discuss how being able to identify whole foods in their natural state is the first tool to learning how to grow your own food. When one grows their own food they learn so much about nature, plants and permaculture giving us skills that are most valuable.
What Eating Whole Foods Looks Like
Eating whole foods can be very simple and include many of your current favorite recipes. That is why it is Step #1 on our list to ditching the grocery store, because its simple and easy and anyone can make these little adjustments.
The meal above fits in many of our 'steps' to ditching the grocery store but most of all its made from real whole foods. The main course is whole wheat pasta, all the pasta contains is whole durum wheat and its organic. It cooks the same as white refined noodles and if you cook it a little longer than instructed it even tastes similar and has texture. The price of the pasta is a bit more and may be harder to find but remember, not only are we gaining quality calories instead of empty calories but we are saving money on healthcare by eating more healthful foods. Next up is our choice of ground beef, its a locally grown, grass-fed beef that does not contain any 'pink slime' and was grown here in Oregon rather than being from another country or perhaps many different countries of origin. That cuts down on contamination issues and supports our local economy. Along with our local grass-fed beef is a jar of organic pasta sauce free of any additives or chemicals. Its also easy to pronounce each of the ingredients and see that they are a whole food source. There is no corn syrup, MSG or other hidden ingredients. Along with our sauce is some chopped whole garlic and onions from our local farmers market as well as herbs straight from our garden; thyme, oregano and rosemary. Finished off with with some pepper and Redmond's Real Salt. Our veggie is sautéed zucchini (insert Italian accent for authenticity) in organic butter (not margarine) with some farmer's market garlic. If one wanted they could even throw in some of our Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread and a glass of kombucha for probiotic health.
The simplest way to switch your meals from processed to whole meals is to read the labels on what you buy and even easier to just avoid anything that has an ingredient list on it or make it yourself at home. We would love to walk you through a week of whole food dinners, give you a whole foods menu planning sheet to call your own and a whole foods pantry staple list.
Thanks for stopping by the farm and we hope you will join us for Part II in our Simple and Easy Skills to Make You Grocery Store Free series: Eat Seasonably; A Flavorful, Free and Valuable How-To. Where we share simple steps for learning to eat in God's seasons.
My name is CeAnne, wife to my Farmer and mama to 4 adopted kiddos. I help farm lov'n mama's (and grandmas) turn common herbs into powerful medicines without being overwhelmed. Here you will find all sorts of nourishing goodness on natural medicine, herb gardening and wholesome real foods. Read more about our farm HERE.