I tend to buy a lot of produce, and if I bought all the fruit I normally like during the summer, my winter grocery bills would be insane. I’ve adopted a few measures to keep my weekly grocery bill in check without giving myself scurvy. Actually, winter is a great time to avoid scurvy because all those delicious citrus fruits are in season. I also shop for meats and other products that are seasonal to keep costs down.
When I’m shopping in the produce section, I look for the fruits and vegetables piled in big bins. That’s the first clue that something’s in season. Then I look at the label. If it says it’s from Chile or anywhere else in South America, I don’t usually buy it. Even though I’m in Southern California, Chile isn’t exactly next door. I worry that the taste won’t be as good as local seasonal fruits, and of course the price is atrocious. Sometimes I’ll spring for Mexican fruits, because at least they’re in this hemisphere and it is right next door. But I can’t imagine how those imported fruits must look and taste by the time they’ve reached Maine. If you don’t know which fruits and vegetables are seasonal, visit a farmer’s market a few times a year or check out this seasonal produce chart at the Food Network.
Some foods, like lettuce, carrots, onions, and potatoes are available all year round where I live, so I buy those all year round, but I seem to want to eat more potatoes in the winter than in the summer. They are a cold weather vegetable, so that’s probably why. You’ll notice that the price drops a little around this time of year, which is great because heavy soups and stews are delicious on cold winter nights. This weekend I made homemade pot pies with potatoes, peas, and chicken. They were delicious and so satisfying.
The second trick to reducing winter grocery bills is buying seasonal meats. Obviously, lamp is a spring meat. I will occasionally eat it during the winter for variety, but it costs a fortune because it’s usually imported from Australia or New Zealand. I’d much rather wait until spring when it’s local and cheaper. The prices of some cuts of beef also vary throughout the year. Good grilling meats are cheaper in the winter when fewer people grill, while good stewing meats are cheaper in the summer because who wants a heavy stew in the middle of the summer? You can save money on your grocery bills by picking up an indoor grill and using it in the winter. Then you can enjoy a freshly grilled steak and a baked potato. How’s that for a winter treat?
I try to eat fish at least twice a week, but some species are seasonal. Ask your local fishmonger to tell you what’s fresh and in season because there are some regional variations to this.
Winter Breads and Pasta
Bread and pastas are also more popular in the winter because we like crusty bread with our stews and heavier foods seem to warm us up. Fortunately, this is a place where the grocery store is your friend. When you see a sale on bread, stock up. It keeps well in the freezer as long as you slice it first so you can remove it a few slices at a time. Pasta is equally cheap in the winter. I’ve seen numerous 4 for $5 pasta sales. Pasta is easy to store and keeps a long time, so stock up on that, too.
Yes, there’s less variety of foods in winter, but you can still eat well and keep your grocery bills low by sticking to seasonal produce and meat. You might even find that seasonal food tastes better when it’s in season. If you’ve ever had a bland orange in the middle of summer, you know what I’m talking about.