5 Off-Season Foods That Are Destroying Your Grocery Budget

By Amanda Meadows on 26 February 2016 0 comments

Maybe you get a craving for strawberries in the dead of winter, or fresh tomatoes in early spring. While you can most likely find these items at your grocery store year-round, prices (and not to mention taste) will fluctuate greatly based on the season. In particular, these five off-season fruits and veggies can really destroy your grocery budget.

1. Tomatoes

In season: June through November. Want those delicious, deep red tomatoes on the vine? You’ll need to buy them in season. What you’ll get otherwise are sickly-looking tomatoes that have travelled from afar to get you. They are also upwards of triple the cost of a local, in-season tomato. Cut into one of these to find pale flesh, bland flavor, and a watery, mealy consistency that is definitely not worth the price. In addition, tomatoes coming from Mexico and Florida tend to have more fungicide and pesticides than the California variety we tend to eat in-season.

Instead: Buy crushed or whole tomatoes in cans for your soups, stews, chilis, and sauces. February's not a great time for Caprese salad.

2. Berries

In season: late spring through summer. While tomatoes are also technically berries, we’re focusing on blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries here. There’s nothing better than sinking your teeth into a fresh berry pie, or eating them whole with a pile of fresh whipped cream — but that’s gonna cost you outside of their growing season. Blueberries in particular have gone up in price even when in-season. Also, strawberries and blueberries get flown in from countries that may not have the same labor and growing regulations as the U.S., which can pose environmental and health risks when buying out of season.

Instead: Use frozen berries for your desserts and breakfast smoothies to avoid the extra cost and negative impact on the planet.

3. Peaches

In season: May through October. Like berries, peaches are beloved for being juicy and sweet with an almost creamy texture when ripe. You’ll lose of a lot those qualities when buying out of season, and pay a lot more — at least double the price. Again, those out of season peaches are coming from South American countries with fewer growing and labor regulations than the U.S. — noticing a pattern?

Instead: Buy canned and frozen peaches for cooking. If a recipe calls for fresh peaches, save it for the summer.

4. Asparagus

In Season: February through June. Except, this year’s rainy season has led to a delay in the asparagus growing season, sending the prices past $40 a box. You’ll definitely see that cost brought to the customer in grocery chains, with prices above $1.20 per pound. And after June, almost all asparagus you find in your local shops will be coming from — you guessed it — Mexico. You won’t only be paying double or more, but the asparagus will likely be lacking in that firm, snappy texture you get in asparagus grown during the right season.

Instead: Buy frozen or wait until late March or early April to load up on asparagus.

5. Grapes

In season: July through November. America loves grapes, and American grape growers are fully aware of it! There are more varieties being developed all time time, but the most popular varieties such as Cotton Candy, Thompson, Princess, and Holiday seedless grapes keep going up in price. This especially true out of season, where grapes can cost as much as $4 per pound, depending on the region. And some speculate that prices will only increase due to demand.

Instead: After November, try switching to citrus fruits as snacks — like oranges, blood oranges, and grapefruits.

General Tips

  • Buy frozen! Most frozen produce is not only as nutritious as fresh produce, but it can also be more nutritious than off-season produce.
  • Learn when which foods are in season with this handy chart.
  • Buy in-season from your local farmers market and you won’t fall for grocery chain trickery with off-season goods again.

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