Sunday, April 21, 2013

Zero Waste: Grocery Shopping

There are several easy ways to reduce your waste. I realized quickly that much of our waste originates in the kitchen and eliminating waste before it enters the home through zero waste grocery shopping could make a sizable impact. I researched online for tips on waste free shopping, many of which I learned from the Zero Waste Home blog. Bringing our own containers, bulk and produce bags seemed like a big step. Gearing up for that first shopping trip took a mentality shift but was so intriguing that I knew I had to give it a try! 

This is how I prepped for that trip: I had two plastic Tupperware containers, a few mesh produce bags (had been using for a while) and a reusable canvas tote. I also did a ton of research to pepare but still had so many 'what ifs' whirling in my mind. 

What if - they flat out said no?
What if - everyone looked at me like I was insane?
What if - I lose the nerve at the last second?

I silenced the chatter in my head and went for it. Then, as I first asked for chicken thighs in my own container I got a burst of adrenaline. I felt like I could do anything. After checkout I walked out of the grocery store feeling proud and I couldn't wait until my husband got home from work to tell him about it. 

It's been about a year and a half since that first shopping trip and we haven't looked back. My husband and I usually do our grocery shopping together and we don't think about how we 'used' to shop anymore. We just understand that if we're not prepared to shop then we shouldn't be inside a store. This mentality has made us much more organized. We come prepared with a shopping list and we stick to it which saves us time and money. We bring the containers and bags just for what we need and leave the rest at home. 

Here is how we do our less waste grocery shopping:

1. Make a list. We talk to each other and figure out what we are out of and what we need (usually with specific recipes in mind).

2. Gather supplies. Our usual shopping supplies look a little something like this:
  • 2 - 3 Reusable tote bags for carrying everything
  • A few glass jars for wet items such as meat, cheese, peanut butter and olives. We use various sizes of Le Parfet jars, they're durable, clear and not plastic. If buying wet items in bulk (not behind meat counter for instance) then you'll have to weigh your jar to get the tare so the weight of the jar gets subtracted at check out. They can weigh jars at customer service, bring a water soluble crayon to write weight on the lid.
  • A few produce bags. We use green mesh bags by Blue Avocado.
  • A few bulk drawstring bags. I made mine out of flour sack towels because I love to sew but I have also seen them in the bulk section for sale at Whole Foods.
  • Water soluble crayon to write tare weight on jars and bulk bin numbers on my bulk bags 
  • Deposit items, such as clean Straus milk bottles, Revive kombucha bottles and St. Benoit yogurt jars. These products charge a deposit when purchased that is then refunded to you once you bring it back. 
3. Head to the store with your supplies for shopping.

4. Stick to the list. It's easy to get side tracked just know you aren't going to buy anything that has packaging.

5. At checkout refuse the receipt, it probably has BPA on it anyway.

{Produce and meat purchased with our reusables}


  1. Wow that's really cool! I never even knew that stores would go along with containers that customers provide. Definitely more green than the millions of plastic bags that are swimming in our oceans.

  2. I was really surprised too, but people have actually been shopping like this for years. Every store has their own policy but it never hurts to ask. We've had great luck with shopping like this in our area. Composting has also really reduced our waste in the kitchen. Thanks so much for the positivity Charlie!

  3. Wow. What you are doing to live your values is so impressive to me and thoroughly inspiring. I am definitely going to try this. Thank you for posting!!

  4. I can't wait to do this Genna, you and Kaz really have it together to do this and then share all your info, you guys are the best and I will keep you posted on how the shopping trip goes, thanks :)

  5. Thank you all so much for the support! I will be posting more, let me know how it goes for you too =)