One of my favorite places to eat out with my family is at our local farmers’ market. The market has several large shopping areas, as well as a commercial building that features year-round businesses. One of those businesses happens to be a locavore restaurant, which capitalizes on locally-grown, in-season, responsibly-grown foods. I’ve found that by examining the menu at this restaurant – and learning about fruits and vegetables in season – I can lower my restaurant tab at other establishments.

What The Locavore Movement Is All About

Maybe you’ve heard about carnivores (who eat meat) and herbivores (who eat plants) – well, now add locavores to that list. A locavore is a person or business that focuses on foods that are grown or raised by local farmers; we’re talking about an environmentally-responsible orchard down the road or a family that raises its own chickens. The idea behind the locavore movement is that it reduces the distance these foods travel to reach your dinner table. In theory, this should make the meals less expensive, since you aren’t paying for the transportation costs, but this isn’t always the case.

But eating like a locavore can help you in other ways. Because locavores eat what is readily available in their immediate area, you won’t see them shipping in strawberries from Mexico or blueberries from Central America. Instead, locavores rely on seasonal fruits and vegetables. In this way, being a locavore can help you save money, as it’s usually cheaper to eat what’s in season than to pay additional for out-of-season foods that have to be shipped to you from around the country – or even from around the world.

Want to find out more about locavores and where you can find locavore-friendly restaurants? Well, there’s an app for that, so check it out.

Finding Seasonal Vegetables and Fruits

I was walking through my local farmers’ market this weekend when I spotted a new addition to the information placards stationed out in front of the main building: a seasonal food chart. The chart highlighted which fruits and veggies are currently in season, and which will be heading to the farmers’ market as we transition into the fall.

For example, right now in my area (I’m in the Carolinas), the berry season – strawberries, blueberries, etc. – is largely coming to a close, while in season fruits now include grapes, apples, and soon traditional fall harvest items like pumpkins. (The growing and harvest season varies depending on where you live; for resources to view seasonal fruits and vegetables in your area, visit the Field to Plate website.)

How Buying Seasonal Helps Your Budget

Even if you’re not a locavore, you’ve probably noticed that it’s common to find a good peach cobbler in the late summer, but you’ll rarely find one listed on your favorite restaurant’s dessert menu come February. That’s because it’s cost-prohibitive for restaurants to order out-of-season produce; they’d have to ship in those fresh peaches from out of the country (or use canned – and trust me, you don’t want them using canned!), and would likely charge you far more in return.

Instead, look for these favorites of the fall harvest season in restaurants over the coming months:

  • Apples – New York has one of the nation’s biggest apple crops; the Empire State typically starts its fall harvest around Labor Day, so you’ll see apple dishes in restaurants shortly thereafter
  • Pumpkins – It’s the staple of your Thanksgiving table for a reason. Fresh pumpkin is harvest all fall long, peaking in mid-to-late October in most regions of the country
  • Root vegetables – This family includes turnips, parsnips, beets, and radishes, which flourish as the weather turns colder
  • Sweet potatoes and winter squash – Just thinking of these seasonal vegetables, which thrive as the temperatures drop, makes me crave comfort foods
  • Pears – Whereas most fruits are in season during the warmer months, pears actually come into season in the fall and early winter

Purchasing dishes with these fall season ingredients in them should become less expensive as the days shorten and the air gets cooler. Of course, you’re also less likely to see summer staples, like a berry remoulade, but rest assured that they’ll be back in season – and affordable once again – come spring.

Libby Balke

Libby Balke