AUG
04

Sourcing Locally Since Before Local Was Cool

There’s no doubt local food is #trending.

For many shoppers, the farmers’ market is as much a place to see and be seen as it is a place to buy vegetables. Community-supported agriculture is becoming increasingly popular, and more and more restaurants are catching on to the locavore movement.

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Local is trendy for good reason. Not only does local food come with the environmental benefits of reduced emissions for transport, local food comes with economic and social benefits as well. Sourcing local builds a sense community, bolsters local economies, and gets people excited about where they live.  

To Sunset, local is not a passing fad, nor is it anything new. Sunset has been sourcing locally for our entire 80-year history—long before anyone coined the term “locavore”. Supporting local vendors is part of our DNA. After all, Sunset’s a locally owned business, too.

Rick Didier In 2017, we still carry many of the same local vendors that we carried in 1937. For example, back in the 1930s, the original Cortesi clan forged a relationship with John Link—the original owner of Didier Farm in Lincolnshire, IL. Because the farm is less than 10 miles from Sunset, the Cortesis saw Didier Farm as the obvious choice to bring Sunset customers the freshest vegetables. To this day, we still carry peppers, squashes, beets, cabbage, kale, green beans, chard, cucumbers, and many other crops grown by Didier Farm. Shop our stores between late-July and mid-September, and you’ll find Didier populating our produce departments.

As the local food landscape evolves, we’re evolving with it, bringing in new local vendors as they enter the local marketplace. For many local vendors, Sunset was the first retailer to carry their product. For example, Meyer Farm Herbs, Carol’s Cookies, Hungry Monkey Baking Company, Hole in the Wall pasta sauce, and many others looked to Sunset to help launch their businesses.

If you see the value in understanding where your food came from, attend our Midwest Local Foods event on Saturday, August 12th, from 10am-2pm, at our Highland Park and Libertyville stores. Expand your locavore diet beyond just produce and sample the best the Midwest has to offer from all departments of our store. Shop small and fill your fridge, pantry, and freezer with food produced close to home.

Midwest Local Food event flyer

 

Courtney Mayszak, RDN, LDN 847.681.5513 courtney@sunsetfoods.com

 

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MAY
24

Copper River Salmon: A Delicacy Soon to Hit Sunset Stores!

Copper River logo

Copper River salmon is said to be the best in the world. Here’s why this highly coveted fish is such a big deal.  

The Copper River flows in Alaska. It is nearly 300 miles long, 10 miles wide, and replete with challenges like frigidly cold glacier-fed water, rushing rapids, and powerful currents. Every spring, King, Sockeye, and Coho salmon make their way from the Pacific Ocean up this treacherous river, where they’ll give birth to the next generation. 

Because only the strong survive the Copper River, salmon must pack on pounds to complete their strenuous journey. Not only are Copper River salmon at peak maturity, they’re also extremely robust creatures with healthy stores of natural oils and body fat. These fats take the form of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential to human health. Specifically, omega-3’s are critical for a healthy heart, brain, and nervous system. In addition to nutritional benefits, the salmons’ fat stores also lend themselves to a rich, buttery flavor. One bite of this fish and you’ll understand why foodies everywhere relish Copper River salmon. Some consider the start of the Copper River salmon season a holiday. 

Boat on the Copper River

Sustainability is critical to those who fish the Copper River. Fishing families of south-central Alaska are independent, small business owners. They are dedicated to the long-term sustainability of their fish stocks, livelihood, and environment. They have tremendous respect for the fish and the ocean, and happily adhere to Alaska’s fishing guidelines—which are among the strictest in the world—to ensure abundance for future generations. 

Fisherman in his boatFisherman Michael Bowen on his boat, the Jenna Marie. Michael has been salmon fishing on the Copper River since 1970. 

Commercial fishermen are only allowed to fish the Copper River from mid-May to mid-June, meaning this fishy delicacy is only available for a few weeks each year. Get yours at your nearest Sunset Foods this Saturday, May 27th, from 10am-4pm. Fillets, steaks, and whole fish are available. Our team will happily cut (and even season and cook) your fish however you’d like. 

Copper River sale

 

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MAR
28

Tossed Treasures - How to Curb Food Waste for Earth Month

As Earth Day approaches, let’s be reminded that the foods we eat have an impact on our planet. Getting food from farm to fork spends 10% of the total U.S. energy budget1, uses 50% of our land2, and swallows 80% of all freshwater consumed in the United States3. Yet, 40% of food produced in the U.S. goes uneaten4.

Food waste

Food is too good to waste. When we throw away food, we also waste the energy, land, and water that was needed to produce, package, and transport it. Wasted food is the single largest component of municipal solid waste in the U.S.5 What’s more, when wasted food sits in a landfill, it produces methane—a greenhouse gas about 30 times more potent that carbon dioxide6. Even the most sustainably farmed food does us no good if no one eats it.

If you’re interested in doing something good for the planet this Earth Month, curbing your food waste is an excellent place to start. In addition to reducing your carbon footprint, you’ll save money. The average American household tosses 25% of the food they buy. For a family of four, this amounts to about $2,275 each year7.

Below are some simple ways to waste less food. Commit to two or three (or more!) of these strategies this Earth Month. Even small changes make a big difference over time. 

Shop Wisely

  • Make a list (and remember to bring it with you!). Stick to your list to avoid impulse buys, which often go unused.
  • Buy only what you need. Opt for by-the-pound pricing in the produce, seafood, and deli departments. If a perishable item is packaged in a larger container than you need (for example, you’d prefer to buy only a few basil leaves rather than a whole container), one of our employees would be happy to break it down for you.
  • Make smaller, more frequent shopping trips. You’ll have access to more fresh foods and you’ll trim waste. 
  • Purchase a combination of delicate produce items (like berries, greens, tomatoes, and avocadoes) and more durable items (like broccoli, oranges, cabbage, and potatoes). Eat the delicate items first—they’ll spoil faster.
  • Don’t shop on an empty stomach. Everything looks appetizing when you’re hungry, and you’ll probably buy too much food. Keep a snack in your bag and tear into it if needed.
  • Head home after your shopping trip. Try to make food shopping your last errand of the day. If it’s a long ride home or you must make a stop after shopping, keep a cooler in your trunk. 

Store Properly

  • Conquer clutter. Out of sight is out of mind (and usually, wasted), so avoid overstuffing your fridge and freezer.
  • Practice FIFO—or “first in, first out”. When you buy fresh groceries, move older items to the front and place the newer items near the back.
  • Designate an “eat me soon” area of your fridge, and place items there are nearing expiration.
  • Move fruits and vegetables out of the crisper drawer—it’s too easy to forget they’re in there. Keep them in the center of your fridge instead.
  • Choose transparent storage containers. Knowing what’s inside a container will help you remember to eat it.
  • Avoid washing your fruits and vegetables until you’re ready to eat them. Too much moisture will cause these items to rot faster.
  • Treat fresh herbs like fresh flowers. Store them in a jar or small vase with an inch or two of water at the bottom. Cover the top with a plastic produce bag. They’ll stay fresh for weeks this way.
  • Remove milk from the refrigerator door. The door is the warmest area of the fridge, so keep more perishable items in the interior. And remember, the lower the shelf, the cooler the temperature.
  • Store uncut avocadoes, bananas, cantaloupe, garlic, kiwi, onions, pineapple, potatoes, and tomatoes at room temperature. Citrus fruits can be stored at either room temperature or in the fridge, but never in a plastic bag. 

Know Your Dates

  • “Use by” and “best by” dates are manufacturers’ suggestions for peak quality. Because manufacturers aim to preserve their brand’s reputation, these dates are often overly conservative.
  • Label dates do not indicate food safety. Eggs or yogurt, for example, are often safe to consume for weeks past the “best by” date. Use your senses to determine if something is safe enough to eat.
  • Label dates are not regulated (except in the case of infant formula). 

Use It Up

  • Love your leftovers. Have a leftover night, or box them up and eat them for lunch the next day.
  • Make a “clean the fridge” stew. Throw in whatever you’ve got on hand, like vegetables, fresh herbs, last night’s stir-fry, potatoes or onions that are beginning to sprout, and half-used containers of broth.
  • Can’t finish your greens before they get slimy? Opt for baby kale or baby spinach. These greens are tender enough to make fresh salads, yet hearty enough to stand up to some heat. Sauté them or add them to stew when they begin to wilt.
  • Can’t finish a loaf of bread before it turns moldy? Store it in the fridge or freezer instead of on the counter top. Frozen slices of bread can go right from the freezer into the toaster.
  • Repurpose stale bread or bagels into breadcrumbs, bread pudding, croutons, or crostini. 

Serve Smart

  • Use smaller plates and bowls. Opt for no larger than 9-inch dinner plates and 12-ounce cereal bowls. In addition to curbing waste, research suggests that we eat fewer calories when we use smaller dinnerware—and we don’t even notice! Good for the environment and your waistline.
  • Enable seconds rather than over-portioning firsts. Make it easy for family and guests to help themselves to more food by serving family-style.
  • If children are prone to over-serve themselves, portion their meals for them.
  • When dining out, ask your server about portion sizes before ordering. Inquire if half sizes are available, or have your leftovers boxed up (it’s not faux-pas!) if you’re unable to finish a whole portion. 

Look out for more sustainable-eating strategies throughout Earth Month! 

 

 

References

  1. M. Webber, "How to Make the Food System More Energy Efficient," Scientific American, Decemeber 29, 2011. 
  2. USDA Economic Research Service, “Major Uses of Land in the United States,” Pub. 2002/eIB-14, 2002, http://www.ers.usda.gov/ publications/eIB14/eib14a.pdf.
  3. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), economic Research Service, economic Bulletin No. (eIB-16), “Agricultural Resources and environmental Indicators,” Chapter 2.1, July 2006, http://www.ers. usda.gov/publications/arei/eib16/.
  4. K.D. Hall, J. Guo, M. Dore, C.C. Chow, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, “The Progressive Increase of Food Waste in America and Its environmental Impact,” PLoS ONe 4(11):e7940, 2009. 
  5. Gunders, D. (2012). Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill. Natural Resources Defense Council.
  6. Understanding Global Warming Potentials. (2017, February 14). Retrieved March 29, 2017, from https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/understanding-global-warming-potentials
  7. Bloom, J. (2010). Home Is Where the Waste Is. In American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It) (p. 187). Philadelphia, PA: First Da Capo Press.

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