There is something about buying seasonal food that creates an idyllic image of long country walks followed by cooking in a farmhouse kitchen, complete with a range cooker and a Collie dog asleep in the corner.
Despite the fact that living in a city flat with no pets means that no matter how much seasonal food I buy this idealised image will not become a reality, there are still many benefits of purchasing and cooking seasonal food.
For starters it is usually cheaper, helping to reduce the ever increasing weekly shopping costs. Secondly, seasonal food is fresher, meaning that it is not only tastier but also retains more of its nutrients. Plus it is better for the environment and helps local farmers and economy.
Even with all these benefits I still don’t buy and cook as much seasonal food as I could. This is mainly because, unless it is obvious like strawberries in June, I have no idea what fruit and veg is in season. As well as this, finding places to get regional, seasonal food seems like a chore when I can just pop to the local supermarket and get whatever I want.
But there are ways that can simplify seasonal shopping and cooking.
Use the Web
If like me, you have no idea of what is in season and when, all it takes is a quick search online to find out. There are plenty of website that offer tips and advice on buying seasonal produce, as well as recipes that use ingredients available that month.
Once you’ve done this research, planning your family meals will enable you to make the most out of what you’ve bought during your weekly shop.
Many of your family favourite recipes can be easily adapted to whatever is available that season. It is usually just the case of thinking creatively about what ingredients can be replaced. Soups, for example, can be eaten all year round and are a great way of using up leftover veg – just make sure they are lighter in summer and more filling in winter.
We already know that the best way of not wasting food is to freeze leftovers. What many don’t know, however, is that a lot of fruit and veg can also be frozen. Blueberries, grapes, apples, beans, asparagus, and cauliflower are just some of the fruit and veg that it is alright to freeze (sometimes they need to be plunged into boiling water then cold water before freezing).
Alternatively, if you have the time you can follow in the footsteps of our ancestors and learn to make jams and preservatives. In the past this was done to stop food going to waste and help families to get through the winter months when food was scarce.
Farm Shops and Markets
If you are lucky enough to live close to a farm shop or a market that sells locally produced goods, take advantage of it. Usually local farmers will use these to sell their excess produce, providing you with food that is fresher than those bought in supermarkets.
Although it might take a bit of an effort to get out to a farm shop or up earlier enough to make visiting a market worthwhile, but once there you will find that it is a great place to get good quality, nutritious food, usually at reasonable prices.
Fruit and Veg Boxes
Fruit and veg boxes can sometimes be a slightly more expensive option, but they are the best choice if convenience is all important. Fruit and veg boxes are usually arranged by local companies who will ensure a food box is delivered to your doorstep full of seasonal produce every week.
In short with a bit of planning and research seasonal shopping and cooking doesn’t have to be chore, instead it can be a great way of getting your family to eat fresh, healthy and nutritious meals.
Written by Derin Clark, a writer, editor and blogger