Personal Finance

Our Guide to Buying Produce in Season to Save Money

Eating fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season isn’t just good for your health. It’s good for your wallet.

You may have noticed the price of strawberries is cheaper in the summer than in the winter or that butternut squash is a better deal in autumn months. That’s because produce typically costs less when it’s in season.

Targeting your grocery picks on produce in season will help you stretch your food budget.

What Does It Mean for Produce To Be In Season?

Fruits and vegetables are “in season” during the time of the year they are naturally harvested.

Plants have different growing cycles. Some thrive best when temperatures are warm, while others grow better in cooler weather.

In any given season, a new crop of fruits and veggies will be ready to be picked, plucked, gathered or dug up. When a certain type of produce is being harvested in abundance, grocers usually lower prices due to the increased local supply.

On the other hand, fruits and veggies cost more when they aren’t in season because they have to be shipped from distant farms where growing conditions are more ideal. The cost to transport out-of-season produce is passed onto the consumer.

What Produce Is In Season Year Round?

Some fruits and vegetables don’t have a particular season and can be harvested throughout the entire year. You’ll find prices are fairly stable no matter when you buy them.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s SNAP-Ed program, this includes:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Lemons
  • Limes

Know What’s in Season and When

Many fruits and vegetables peak at a certain time of year. Others are harvested over a stretch of several months. You’ll see prices drop when they’re in season and rise when they’re not. It may also be more difficult to find out-of-season produce on grocery store shelves.

The USDA’s guidance on produce in season will help you save money when you shop.

Produce in Season During the Summer

A stack of peaches at the grocery store.

Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Summer brings thoughts of fresh berries and juicy watermelon. Along with those favorites, try something different at your next summer barbecue and grill some zucchini or corn on the cob.

Here are some fruits and vegetables you’ll find in season during the summer months:

  • Apricots
  • Avocados
  • Beets
  • Bell peppers
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cherries
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Garlic
  • Green beans
  • Honeydew melon
  • Lima beans
  • Mangos
  • Okra
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Summer squash
  • Tomatillos
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon
  • Zucchini

Produce in Season During the Fall

As the leaves change colors, root vegetables and gourds will be affordable grocery store picks.

Seasonal produce in autumn includes:

  • Beets
  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Collard greens
  • Cranberries
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Grapes
  • Green beans
  • Kale
  • Kiwifruit
  • Lettuce
  • Mangos
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Parsnips
  • Pears
  • Peas
  • Pineapples
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Radishes
  • Raspberries
  • Rutabagas
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potatoes and yams
  • Swiss chard
  • Turnips
  • Winter squash

Produce in Season During the Winter

Two senior citizens shop for leeks at the grocery store.

Getty Images

Eating fresh fruits and vegetables in the winter will help you balance out all the sugary holiday treats. Consider a vitamin C boost from oranges and grapefruit as the cold and flu season settles in.

These produce picks are in season during the winter:

  • Avocados
  • Beets
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Collard greens
  • Grapefruit
  • Kale
  • Kiwifruit
  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Oranges
  • Parsnips
  • Pears
  • Pineapples
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Rutabagas
  • Sweet potatoes and yams
  • Swiss chard
  • Turnips
  • Winter squash

Produce in Season During the Spring

A stack of Swiss chard at the grocery store.

Getty Images

Enjoy leafy greens as the weather warms up and the flowers begin to bloom.

The fruits and vegetables you’ll find in season this time of year include:

  • Apricots
  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Collard greens
  • Garlic
  • Kale
  • Kiwifruit
  • Lettuce
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Pineapples
  • Radishes
  • Rhubarb
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Swiss Chard
  • Turnips

What to Know When Shopping for Produce in Season

While the lists above focus on what’s in season in the United States as a whole, supplies may differ some based on where you live. For example, berries grown in Florida tend to peak in the spring rather than in the summer.

For more specific guidance on seasonality, refer to your state’s department of agriculture or your local extension program. This Seasonal Food Guide shows people what’s in season in each state.

Having a relationship with local farmers can also help you buy produce in season. Consider shopping at a farmer’s market or joining a Community Supported Agriculture program to save money on seasonal fruits and veggies.

When buying produce, know how to identify when fruits and vegetables are ripe, the best ways to store them at home and how long they’ll last before going bad. Buy only what you’ll be able to eat — or plan to freeze, can or pickle any extra. That way you can avoid food waste.

Meal prepping and cooking all edible parts of the plant are other measures to get the most out of your produce.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

This article originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder