Home Food 101 Saving Money On Groceries: Buy It In Season

Saving Money On Groceries: Buy It In Season

by Erika Nicole Kendall

There’s nothing worse than knowing that once that winter frost hits, tomatoes are going to go through the roof. I mean, I love the bright sun, the warm days and the late nights that come with the summertime, but I’ma keep it real. The best thing that summer can do for me is bring the price of tomatoes down to $1.29 per pound.

I get so used to enjoying a tomato every day, that I tend to shed a tear when the price goes up. Just one.

Let’s look at produce practically. In short, someone has to grow it.

Certain fruits and vegetables can only be grown in certain climates… that’s why certain locations are “known” for certain types of produce – Florida Oranges, Georgia Peaches… some places just do what they do relatively well. You won’t find Minnesota bragging about their winter strawberries.

Let’s say that you live in… some place that gets snow. Snowville, USA. Provided you don’t have some awesome locavore or CSA network that you’re affiliated with (more on those later), you’re probably getting your produce from a grocery. That grocery knows that its patrons complain when they can’t have their beloved strawberries in the winter, so what does the grocery store do? They call up their folks in Florida, and ask them to ship some strawberries up north!

Florida then puts on its cape and tights, and says “I’m on my way!” Before you know it, a giant truck is on it’s way from Florida to Snowville to make sure that this grocery store has its strawberries for their patrons to enjoy. Remember, we’re Capitalists – the grocery store doesn’t want you to go elsewhere to get your strawberries, because they know that out of convenience, you’ll just keep shopping at your strawberry place for everything else.

When you pay for strawberries out of season, you’re paying for labor – it takes effort to get strawberries from Florida to Snowville – as well as the fuel used to drive them to you. Yes, you’re paying for the gas. That cost has to be passed on to someone, and why not the customer who insists on having strawberries out of season?

Remember the great gas hike of 2008? Remember how the news kept saying that it affected food prices, but no one understood why? We were paying for the extra cost of the food being shipped to the store. The grocery store for darn sure wasn’t going to pay for that. Interestingly enough, those people who were buying their produce locally and in-season were relatively unaffected by the hike. They weren’t paying for produce shipped a thousand miles away from where it was grown… or the gas bill that comes with it.

Buying in season means that the spring time brings you lots of lemons, spinach, turnips, strawberries, kale, lettuce, celery, peppers, peas and onions. The summer gives us artichokes, broccoli, cherries, peaches, sweet corn, cucumbers, honeydew melons, raspberries, tomatoes and watermelon. We can look forward to the fall for pears, plums, pumpkins, garlic, carrots, apples, squash and zucchini. The winter might not offer too much, but as for new veggies? I’ve grown to appreciate my collard greens, brussel sprouts, radishes and cabbage.

Buying your produce while it’s in season means that you’re most likely to purchase the product when it’s plentiful in your area.. which means sales! I mean, let’s keep it real – nothing made me happier today than to see this beautiful sight below:

Fifty cents a pound for green beans? Please believe the family will be having green beans in stir fry, breaded green beans as a side, baked green beans, whatever. I’ll get two pounds, freeze 75% of them and store them away… bringing them out when I feel like green beans for dinner. I won’t even tell you what I did when sweet potatoes got down to $0.29 per pound. Yes. Twenty-nine cents per pound. Yum.

To help you on your journey toward in-season shopping, I’ve pasted a relatively exhaustive list of what you should be able to find during each month of the year for cheaper. Good luck, and gimme a dollar! You should have plenty left over. 🙂


Belgian Endive
Butter Lettuce
Chayote Squash
Collard Greens
English Peas
Fava Beans
Fiddlehead Ferns
Green Beans
Morel Mushrooms
Mustard Greens
Pea Pods
Snow Peas
Spring Baby Lettuce
Sugar Snap Peas
Swiss Chard
Vidalia Onions


Bell Peppers
Butter Lettuce
Casaba Melon
Chayote Squash
Cherries, Sour
Crenshaw Melon
Green Beans
Honeydew Melons
Jalapeno Peppers
Lima Beans
Passion Fruit
Persian Melons
Summer Squash


Acorn Squash
Belgian Endive
Brussels Sprouts
Butter Lettuce
Butternut Squash
Cape Gooseberries
Celery Root
Chayote Squash
Diakon Radish
Jalapeno Peppers
Passion Fruit
Sweet Potatoes
Swiss Chard
Winter Squash


Belgian Endive
Brussels Sprouts
Collard Greens
Passion Fruit
Red Currants
Sweet Potatoes
Winter Squash


Other posts in the series:

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victoria May 19, 2010 - 11:53 AM

i feel the same way ive started the clean eating and im getting used to it i found a vegetable vendor that sells bell peppers 2lb for a dollar i bought 6 lbs me and the freezer are good friends. but i cried when i saw cherries 5.00 a lb

Erika May 19, 2010 - 5:28 PM

See? Why are you buying cherries in the springtime? Wait! Get something else instead! LOL!

cjbrownsc May 19, 2010 - 2:55 PM

Your blog is now my favorite blog!

You must publish a cookbook! You can name it “The Black Girl’s Guide to Cooking – everything you wanted to know, but were afraid to ask”. I’d definitely purchase it! LOL

Sure I see the seasonal veggies on sale for wonderful prices, but can you believe, and I’m ashamed to say, that I have no idea how to cook them?!

I did borrow the “How to Cook everything – Vegetarian” and “How to Cook Basics” cookbooks from the library and I’m hoping I can learn something from them. I tried steamed artichoke last night for the first time and it was delicious! I will be steaming another one tonight.

Erika May 19, 2010 - 5:29 PM

Do some digging! I didn’t always know how to bread my green beans, but please believe I’m glad I did!

I went through my fair share of grits-burning sessions before I figured out just how I like ’em. No matter what recipe we pick up, we’ll always need to modify it for ourselves… but at least we can appreciate the recipe for giving us an idea. You’ll just have to do some buying, and that’ll force you to do some digging. I’ve got a bag of radishes in my fridge – they were a dollar – that I’m dying to use in a salad, now that I know what to use ’em in! 🙂

toyalise July 6, 2010 - 9:47 PM

i freakin LOVE you for this post!! i’m always in the produce section trying to save my pennies, at least i have more of an idea now! i should print your list out lol

arieswym July 23, 2010 - 12:30 PM

This is a great list…it gave me some ideas for new vegetables to try when they are in season

Takya Browning August 10, 2010 - 3:44 PM

Thank you for all the great advice… I’m digging through it now..love what youre doing.

RW September 13, 2010 - 2:22 PM

I must have my favorite fruit year round, but I refuse to buy out of season, so I stick with frozen during the fall and winter. It is picked and frozen while it’s in season. It goes straight from the farm and then through the IQF (individually quick frozen) process, which is a process that keeps frozen foods from sticking together. The fruit they freeze is actually picked when it’s ripe instead of before it’s ripe and we all know that fruits and veggies that are ripened when attached to the plant taste far better than those that aren’t. Since I’ve moved from a place that yields most fruits and veggies year round to one that doesn’t, I’ve switched to frozen for most things during the winter. It took a bit of trial and error, but I’ve found Dole and Whole Foods store brand to be the best across the board. Trader Joe’s is my personal favorite for berries of all types.

Mia October 20, 2010 - 6:57 PM

This was very informative

Arnita April 24, 2011 - 12:32 PM

This is a great post and very helpful. Thanks for posting! 🙂

Serenity May 24, 2011 - 4:16 PM

Buy in season food is not just a good idea because it’s cheaper, it’s a good idea because it gives you what you need to survive the season your in. It’s not a coincidence that winter food is denser or summer produce has a lot of water in it. It’s what your body needs in that season.

Gisele January 9, 2012 - 1:08 PM

I found your site through your front page feature on AOL today this morning while checking emails. Long story short, I can not stop reading your information. Thank you so much for sharing your story and knowledge here.

Aisha August 23, 2012 - 1:09 PM

Another tip: Grow some stuff in a plot or pots. You don’t have to do it all but just a few things will help the budget. We have a herb garden and it pretty much takes care of it self. That alone will save you tons of money and make your dishes herbalicioius.

If you don’t have room to grow stuff, offer to pay for the seeds and supplies for a friend who does. They can tend it, you can water it when they go on vacation. Everyone wins.

Brownie de Paris August 23, 2012 - 1:47 PM

Like and sharing!

Steve Levine August 6, 2014 - 1:38 PM

I’m neither black, nor a girl, nor particularly interested in losing weight. (I did lose 80 pounds, but I’m done losing.) However, I do have to live off an EBT card for all my groceries, and I try to eat quality food. I also avoid GMOs and products with palm oil, more for environmental reasons than health reasons. I am quite impressed with your website, and appreciate this list of in-season produce. I’m hoping to find a good Facebook group for eating well while paying very little (Current living situation does not allow me to grow vegetables, and I have limited use of a stove, unfortunately), but so far, nothing particularly useful found on Facebook.

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