Let me be the first to admit that I am far from living a zero waste lifestyle. There are plenty of plastic free habits I would like to adopt but haven’t quite succeeded in. Grocery shopping has been one of the easiest ways we’ve been able to reduce the amount of garbage we toss out, has helped us make healthier choices and saved us money. The title of “zero waste” anything might seem intimidating but in reality it’s quite simple and doesn’t take much to get started!
Shopping at a store that sells food items in bulk is ideal for zero waste shopping but if that’s not an option, consider a farmer’s market or eating more fresh produce to help cut down on food packaging.
Depending on your diet, here is a few essentials I recommend for a zerowaste shopping kit:
- Basket/Cloth Bag to carry your shopping supplies in.
- Glass jars with lids in sizes based on how much you need to purchase. Recycled pasta sauce and salsa jars are great for refilling in a bulk section. I like to use baby food jars for spices available in bulk.
- Marker or wax pen for writing the tare weight and item number. The tare weight is the empty weight of your container before being filled. You can usually get your empty containers weighed at a deli counter or register before shopping.
- Canvas/mesh drawstring bags for produce and some bulk items.
- Reusable shopping bags for carrying all the groceries out of the store in.
- Your shopping list so you know exactly what you need and avoid the rest.
That’s it! Initially it may seem like it will cost more to invest in zero waste shopping supplies but use what you have first and as you adjust to buying fewer packaged products you’ll find you can save money with fresh ingredients offsetting the cost of reusable bags. A mixture of olive oil, lemon, garlic & sea salt make a great alternative to marinara sauce in a jar and is much cheaper! There’s an added bonus if you recycle and compost your food waste as your trash can will fill much slower leading to fewer plastic trash bags you’ll need to spend on.
Be warned – once you try to grocery shop while avoiding plastic packaging you’ll be seeing it EVERYWHERE. It might initially feel like a lost cause but a few trips to the grocery store with a pre-planned ingredient list will be all it takes to find your rhythm.
My favorite items that can be bought without packaging in a grocery store include mangos, apples, peaches, bananas, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, avocados, broccoli and bell peppers. Almost all of my family’s grocery shopping is done at a store with a bulk section where we stock up on dried beans, lentils, quinoa, rice, trail mix, nuts, oats and spices. Outside of the bulk section I mostly purchase produce and occasionally I’ll get boxed pasta, bread, almond or soy milk, kombucha and a marinade. When I do purchase packaged products I aim to buy what is sold in a recyclable container but it doesn’t always work out that way.
My personal zero waste shopping kit includes a second hand market basket found at a local thrift store, various brands of reusable shopping bags, mesh produce bags from flip & tumble (but I’ll be making canvas ones as these are starting to get pretty worn out), a pouch to hold all my loose bags, glass jars and a permanent marker. I keep my stocked basket in the trunk of my car so I can easily tote all my supplies into the store whenever I need them.
If you’ve got a suggestion of something I missed for easy zero waste shopping, please let me know!