Why shopping local is good for the family

I love the change of season. It’s revitalising seeing the weather patterns shift and sun come out, little signs to let us know that a new cycle is ready to begin. What most excites me though is the availability of a whole new batch of beautiful seasonal produce. Time to experiment with different foods and flavours or rehash old favourite recipes that were enjoyed this time last year. 

There are many benefits to eating a diet based on local and seasonal availability. Here are the top reasons why I prefer to eat this way: 

It’s pretty hard to argue with this point. Foods that are grown locally and picked when they naturally should be are fresher and contain just the right balance of flavour producing chemicals and nutrients to taste absolutely delicious. You have probably experienced this first hand, a juicy mango or slice of crisp watermelon always tastes better in summer than the other seasons. A fresh juice made from naval oranges or mandarins in winter are sweet, juicy and bursting with antioxidants. 

All fruits and vegetables start to lose nutrients immediately after they are harvested, so the best produce is the fresh produce. This is why I love shopping locally at market gardens or at my local greengrocers – they let me know what the best foods are in season and where they come from. 

Seasonal and local produce tends to be more abundant and come from local sources. This means reduced production, distribution and storage costs that generally get passed on to the consumer. Healthy cooking and eating doesn’t mean you have to spend lots of money buying food – it just comes down to a little planning and making the effort to fit it into your busy lifestyle. 

Food miles are one of the major issues impacting the sustainability of our food supply. Take a moment to consider the time, labour, resources and energy put into producing food that is then flown around the world to different countries. Food wastage is another huge concern. Last season in Australia, peach growers had to dispose of thousands of plump, ripe peaches and bulldoze down their trees. What a waste of perfectly good produce due to the fact that canneries had reduced their supply quota and supermarkets had enough imported products already lining the shelves. Their peaches had nowhere to go. 

I love nothing more than rising early every few weeks and wandering the aisles of my local farmer’s markets. It is the perfect way to stay in touch with what is in season and build relationships with the amazing people producing my food. The community atmosphere at the markets is electric, local producers being supported by people who share their love of fresh, seasonal produce. For me, the farmer’s markets truly encompass seasonal eating and the paddock to plate philosophy. 

If shopping at your local farmers market or local greengrocer is new to you, consider it a way of putting your money into the Australian economy, which is essential to keeping our economy vibrant and healthy. 

Local businesses also are owned by your friends and neighbours who live in your community and are invested in providing products based around their own interests and the needs of their local customers. 

Foods that are available out of season have generally been stored for long periods of time or are flown or shipped from halfway around the world to ensure a steady supply all year round. Certain nutrients like vitamin C and cell-protecting phytochemicals are particularly susceptible to losses from prolonged storage and transportation. This is why I love shopping at my local farmer’s markets – they let me know the best foods in season and where they’ve come from. 

Quality produce is at the heart of all my recipes which is why I like to shop locally. My motto: “Keep it simple, keep it fresh and make it yourself” means that I will only source fresh, nutrient-rich produce to develop recipes and make my meals. 

You only need to shop once at a local farmers market to realise the quality of the produce. For instance, I find that tomatoes from the farmers market are extremely aromatic and delicious in flavour. I also find apples taste sweeter and have much more crunch and juiciness. Rocket leaves from the markets are often a darker green colour and have a very strong sharp and peppery flavour, unlike some of the store-bought varieties. 

These are the types of foods that are often in many types of family meals so you could easily make a fun day out at the local markets with your kids to help educate them on where their food comes from and why it’s good for them. 

For me, the farmer’s markets embody eating with the seasons and the paddock to plate philosophy. When you think local first, and buy local when you can, you also help preserve what makes your local community unique. 

By Teresa Cutter – The Healthy Chef

Disclaimer: The above health and medical information is general information only and is not a substitute for advice from a qualified medical or other health professional. If you are concerned about your child’s diet or if your child has special dietary needs, please speak with your GP or a qualified dietitian.