Summer months are for cookouts where you get to eat great food while spending time with family and friends. Incorporating produce at your summer cookout can support a well-balanced diet that will provide a wide variety of nutrients and ultimately support your health. However, produce can be very expensive. Do you ever find yourself passing up your favorite produce because you are worried about going over budget? If yes, then these shopping tips are for you!
Why Should You Eat and Buy Local?
Eating locally has the potential to save you money and time, as well as support your local economy. You may ask, does eating locally have other benefits? The answer is yes! Eating locally means buying produce that is grown close to where you live and will be in season. In-season produce is more nutrient dense because it is harvested at its peak ripeness.
Ways to eat and buy local include:
Shopping at farmers markets or produce stands
Community-supported agriculture (CSA) boxes
Growing your own produce by starting your own garden
Purchasing local is more affordable because stores are able to get the food at a lower cost. This is because there is a shorter distance between where the food is grown and being sold. If food needs to be shipped from different areas of the country (or world) it will cost more for stores and consumers. Additionally, the large supply of produce available when in-season helps to decrease its cost and the cost of growing produce is lower than when produce is grown out of season because it takes less resources to grow. For these reasons the typical grocery store can offer better prices on produce that is locally grown and in-season.
In-Season Summer Produce
Here are some of the in-season foods during summer months according to the USDA Seasonal Produce Guide:
Potatoes, sweet Potatoes & yams
Different herbs like basil, rosemary, and thyme
For a larger list of produce items that are in season in your area check out this seasonal guide, which is user-friendly and provides great information.
Buy Larger Quantities When Possible
At some local Farmers Markets, venders may offer lower prices when you purchase more than one item. If you buy more than you need there is always the option of splitting the cost of the purchase with a relative or friend that needs the same thing. Another great option is preserving the produce to save for a later date. Typical preservation techniques include freezing or dehydrating produce.
Incorporating Produce Into Your Cookout and Other Helpful Resources
Get creative with your produce by preparing it in different ways! Ways to prepare produce at a cookout include grilling your vegetables and fruits or making tasty salads. Some popular vegetables to grill include peppers, mushrooms, onions, cherry tomatoes, eggplant, corn on the cob, and even carrots. Some of these vegetables can be included in vegetable kabobs or as a side along with your lean meat of choice. My favorite cookout staple is chicken kabobs with red and green bell peppers and onions, all of which are in season—which is a double plus! Fruits, like pineapple, can also be grilled to add more flavor and be served as a side dish at your cookout. People might also enjoy fruit added to one of the favorite desserts, such as strawberries on top of shortcake or chocolate covered fruit.
Some additional tips for a healthy cookout can be found by visiting the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics where they also have great recipes ideas as well.
Learn more about eating in season and other wellness programs offered by Wellness Workdays.
Written by: Lillian Esley, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern