10 seasonal foods that you didn't know were dirt cheap and healthy

Save dollars, cents, and SmartPoints!
Published November 3, 2019

Healthy doesn’t always have to equal expensive! Here are ten not-to-be-missed examples of seasonal produce (and why you should be eating them regularly.)


1. Squash


Acorn, butternut, and hubbard squash are just some of the locally grown winter squash available once September rolls around. Packed with nutrients, winter squash is an excellent source of vitamins A and C and a good source of vitamins E and B6, dietary fibre, magnesium, and manganese (an important mineral that helps bolster bone growth and strength.)


Try this: Roast cubed winter squash in a hot oven with a small drizzle of olive or coconut oil and your choice of seasonings. Serve on top of rice bowls or in plant-based tacos.


2. Onions


Autumn is the perfect time to shop for Walla Walla, Vidalia, red, and Spanish onions. Not only are they budget-friendly, onions can easily become a memorable main or side dish once with some heat and a little patience. Onions are an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of vitamin B6, dietary fibre, and manganese.


Try this: If you love the taste of caramelized onions but aren’t a fan of their long cooking time, try making a large batch all at once and freezing the finished product in ice cube trays. To use, defrost the onion cubes at room temperature and add to soups, omelettes, and grilled sandwiches.


3. Swiss chard


White, red, and rainbow Swiss chard is abundantly available at grocery stores and winter farmer’s markets during the colder months. A serving of Swiss chard contains more than three times the recommended daily value of vitamin K, an important nutrient your body uses to help with blood clotting, and is an excellent source of vitamin A.


Try this: Like kale, Swiss chard can be added raw or lightly massaged to salads (remove the woody stems before eating.)


4. Brussels sprouts


Brussels sprouts are especially good as the weather gets colder when they develop a nutty and faintly sweet flavour. Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of vitamins C and K and a good source of dietary fibre, vitamin A, manganese and folate (a type of B-vitamin your body uses to help make DNA and aid cell with cell division.)


Try this: Cut uncooked Brussels sprouts into a fine chiffonade (ribbons) and add to an autumn-inspired slaw.


5. Sweet potatoes


Most Thanksgiving dinners would feel incomplete without the addition of a sweet potato dish but this versatile root vegetable is a healthy and inexpensive ingredient to keep on constant meal rotation during the colder months. A serving of sweet potatoes contains almost four times the daily recommended amount of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that has been linked to a lower risk of lung and prostate cancer.


Try this: Grate raw sweet potatoes and mix with a small amount of flour and one egg for baked vegetable fritters to serve with your favourite salsa.


6. Pears


Bosc, D’Anjou and Williams pears are just a handful of the options that become available with the arrival of mid-September. Pears are a good source of vitamin C and contain almost a fifth of your daily recommended allowance of dietary fibre. 


Try this: Serve whole or sliced pears on a cheese board, particularly with blue cheeses, Cheddar, and aged Spanish cheeses.


7. Mushrooms


Although locally foraged mushrooms often come with a hefty price tag, look for their dried counterparts for those times when nothing except the fanciest of mushrooms will do. You’ll only need to buy a very small amount and the soaking liquid can be used to deepen the flavour of mushroom dishes and stocks. Mushrooms that have been grown indoors are generally a poor source of vitamin D, but if they’re exposed to natural sunlight for an hour or so before serving they’ll have much higher levels of vitamin D.


Try this: Sauté mushrooms in a small amount of butter and white wine (or white vermouth.) Add a sprig of fresh thyme, kosher salt and black pepper to taste before serving over toast.


8. Cabbage


Cabbage has been a staple of the frugal kitchen for hundreds of years and it's easy to see why. It can be cooked, eaten raw and used as a wrap for stuffing; there is also a large variety to choose from: napa, red, green, and Savoy cabbages are readily available almost all year long (not to mention, the seemingly endless cabbage options if Asian cabbages are added to the mix.) While the exact numbers depend on the type of cabbage, this cruciferous vegetable is generally an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K as well as being a good source of manganese.


Try this: Use the leaves from a delicate cabbage such as napa or Savoy to wrap up your favourite burrito filling. Having trouble with pliability? Put the cabbage leaves in the freezer for 10 minutes before wrapping up your ingredients.


9. Apples


It wouldn’t be fall without a trip to the apple orchard (or at least, without a sudden increase in the number of apples in your fruit bowl.) Whether you’re a fan of Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, Ambrosia or Golden Delicious apples this fruit is as good for you as it is easy on the wallet. Apples are a good source of vitamin C and fibre, making them filling, portable snacks for extra-busy days.


Try this: Make your own applesauce in a slow cooker with a splash of water or apple cider, a cinnamon stick and a drizzle of honey.


10. Carrots


Orange carrots are a budget-friendly choice any day of the year, but it’s becoming increasingly easier to find their yellow, purple and pink counterparts for a good price when they’re in season. With more than 400 per cent of your daily recommended value of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, carrots have been linked to better eye health and a lowered risk of certain cancers.


Try this: Grate carrots (or buy them pre-grated) and add to cold soba noodle salads along with scallions, sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and cilantro or fresh Thai basil.