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Want to make the most of seasonal produce? Here’s how to easily do seasonal menu planning for your family.
Seasonal Meal Planning
Eating with the seasons is one of the best ways to add variety, excitement, and good nutrition to the family dinner table. Eating seasonally has a natural rhythm and starkly contrasts the grocery store’s seasonless feel.
When we crave warmth and comfort in the cold winter months, sturdy root vegetables that stand up to soups and stews are what the ground brings as nourishment for the winter meals.
As we tire of heavy dishes, spring emerges and brings light and bright produce such as delicate lettuces, greens, and peas for our weekly meals.
When we are at the height of the blazing heat in the middle of summer, water-rich juicy produce is abundant to hydrate our bodies and provide antioxidants to help protect us from the sun.
Seasonal Menu Planning
My favorite part about eating with the seasons is the taste. Oh my! I never knew strawberries could taste so sweet before we started growing our own, and I tasted a juicy red sun-ripened strawberry for the first time. Fresh carrots taste nothing like the ones from the store. They are powerful and bright in flavor. And a ripe summer garden tomato? It makes you never want to eat a tomato out of season again. There is just no comparison.
Most of us agree that making seasonal meals provides the best nutrition, tastes great, is less expensive, and adds a sense of anticipation to eating. The question is, how, then, do we create a weekly meal plan around seasonal produce and ingredients?
I will walk you through how to do just that by sharing with you seasonal produce in each season and easy sample new meals and menus using those items. Recipe links are provided to our favorite recipes when available.
Tip: The Farmer’s Market is a great resource for shopping for seasonal fruits and vegetables. Here’s how to Save Money at the Farmer’s Market!
Winter Menu Planning
In-season produce: winter squash, beets, parsnips, cabbage, carrots, and onions.
Note: Very few things actually grow in my area in the winter, but if stored properly, root vegetables can stay fresh most of the winter, and of course, you will have your home canned produce from the pantry and whatever you put in the freezer.
Sample Meal Plan:
- Breakfast: Oatmeal with any apples or other fruit preserved, Eggs and Sauerkraut, Beet Pancakes
- Main Dish: Stuffed Winter Squash, Cabbage Casserole, Cabbage Soup, Sauteed Beef and Cabbage, Pureed Winter Squash Soup.
- Side Dishes: Easy Winter Squash, Roasted Beets, Warm Beet Salad, Parsnip Fries, Sauteed Cabbage, Honey Glazed Carrots.
Utilize your crockpot or slow cooker in the winter for savory comfort foods.
You can find a full winter sample menu here to give you more ideas!
Spring Menu Planning
In-season produce: Swiss chard, dandelion greens, kale, collard greens, spinach, lettuce, arugula, snap peas, strawberries, broccoli, asparagus, radishes, carrots
Sample Meal Plan:
- Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs with Spinach or other greens, Fried Eggs with Asparagus, Granola with Strawberries and Milk
- Main Dish: Lettuce Salads topped with Chicken or other protein, Beef and Broccoli, Broccoli Cheddar Soup, Chicken and Sugar Snap Pea Stir Fry, Chicken Pot Pie with Biscuits, Amish Chicken Casserole.
- Side Dishes: Swiss Chard with Bacon and Onions, Kale Chips, Spinach and Strawberry Salad, Roasted Broccoli, Roasted asparagus
As spring gets busier, you can use your Instant Pot or pressure cooker to make meals faster.
Summer Menu Planning
In-season produce: tomatoes, peppers, green beans, berries, watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumber, eggplant, peaches, yellow squash, zucchini, new potatoes, brussels sprouts, blueberries
Sample Meal Plan:
- Breakfast: Zucchini Bread, Yogurt with fresh seasonal fruit, Eggs with fresh Salsa
- Main Dish: Pasta with Tomatoes, Garlic and Herbs, Fajitas with Peppers, Breaded Eggplant over Pasta, Zucchini Boats, Stuffed Peppers, Kabobs, Sandwiches topped with Tomatoes, Cucumbers, etc.
- Side Dishes: Cucumber and Tomato Salads, Steamed Green Beans, Boiled Green Beans and New Potatoes, Fruit Salads, Smoothies, Zucchini Cakes.
In the summer, we use our Flat Top Grill outside to not heat up the house while we are cooking.
Fall Menu Planning
In-season produce: apples, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, potatoes, butternut squash, carrots, collard greens, kale, beets
Sample Meal Plan:
- Breakfast: Pumpkin Muffins, Baked Apple Oatmeal, Apple Cinnamon Rolls
- Main Dish: Pumpkin Soup, Potato Soup, White Bean Soup, Roasted Root Vegetables with Sausage
- Side Dishes: Sweet potato and apples, southern collard greens, roasted beets
Want to get a free printable and find out how we logistically plan trips to the grocery store to make menus in summer and winter? Get my Summer and Winter Meal Planning Printables here.
My favorite season of produce is definitely summer. What about you?
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Merissa has been blogging about and living the simple life since 2009 and has internationally published 2 books on the topic. You can read about Merissa’s journey from penniless to the 100-acre farm and ministry on the About Page. You can send her a message any time from the Contact Page.
This post on Seasonal Menu Planning was originally posted on Little House Living in May of 2014. It has been updated as of May 2023.