Seasonal Menu Planning – How to Do It and Why

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Want to make the most of seasonal produce? Here’s how to easily do seasonal menu planning for your family.

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.

Creating a Meal Plan Around Seasonal Produce

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!

Creating a Meal Plan Around Seasonal Produce

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!

Creating a Meal Plan Around Seasonal Produce

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:

As spring gets busier, you can use your Instant Pot or pressure cooker to make meals faster.

Creating a Meal Plan Around Seasonal Produce

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.

Pumpkin Bread

Fall Menu Planning

In-season produce:  apples, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, potatoes, butternut squash, carrots, collard greens, kale, beets

Sample Meal Plan:

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.

Meal Planning Made Simple

My favorite season of produce is definitely summer. What about you?

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Me and KadyMerissa 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.

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  1. Hi,
    I’ve been enjoying your story and blog so much but starting a couple of weeks ago your pictures stopped showing up (on this page and on my reader page). Has anyone else had this problem? Is it just me?
    Thanks again for this sweet blog and for the love of god, stay ahead of the zucchini.

    1. Hmmm, I haven’t heard of that problem yet and I’m not sure why it would be doing that. Do you have some kind of blocking software installed on your computer or is it just my images that seem to be not showing up?

  2. What a great post! And especially awesome because I can print it out! 🙂 I found you through Tuesday’s linkup and am now following you on Twitter. Have a blessed rest of your week, Tara!

  3. Stopped by from Wednesday Whatsits. Your post intrigued me because I, too, try to eat and cook seasonally and locally. I will be back to check out some of your recipes for sure.

  4. This is a good thing to do…. we had salad this week w/ the first tomato, pepper, and cucumber from our garden, also used – swiss chard, basil, dill, purslane, and more from the garden…. it was SO GOOD – and tasted even better since we knew that most of the salad came from our garden. 🙂

  5. This meal plan is exactly what I needed! I started my garden this year and it seems like everything ripened at once. I am worried about it going to waste but your ideas are awesome! Pinned.

  6. We tend to create meals based on what is available fresh locally. I have to agree with you, eating a sun ripened tomato makes me never want to get one at a grocery store again.

    Thank you for stopping by the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop this week. We hope to see you drop by our neck of the woods next week!

  7. Hi Tara and Merissa – These are great tips. I love having a big garden, but I have to be intentional about planning and usually all of the vegetables it produces! Thanks for sharing with the Let’s Get Real Party.

  8. Hi Tara,

    I am new to your site and I love it! I am truly a “groupy”… wow. I could spend all day here. Thank you so much for all you do and share so that we too can plan and eat sustainably. Many blessings and much thanks to you!

    1. Hi Jen. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I wrote the post as a contributor, but this is Merissa’s site. It is a bit confusing with the different authors. And I agree with you, Merissa does have a fantastic site. Tons of great ideas and tips.

  9. oh my gosh I have never planned my meals. I get up and find something to eat, hubby doesn’t get up till about 10 and I wake up early and hungry. so I have to feed me, ha ha I might eat toast from raisin bread or sausage or cereal. Boring I know, I head to sewing room and I do lots of sewing , love to sew for my great grands. 2 girls and 3 boys. right now I am making 2 poodle skirts for my girls. For lunch I might run up and get a brat and put on bread and mustard, with coke and I hurt in my back and hip so bad that I don’t want to do house work. I just want spring to get here to start my garden, from a chair. oh and I do still work at a job one day a week. I am suppose to be retired too. I sure enjoy reading your site and love the outdoor picture.

  10. These meal plans are so helpful, I am starting work in the fall and I’ve been thinking of food timetable. Thanks so much