Zero waste series: zero waste basics when grocery shopping

Hello trash obsessed friends!

I hope you had a fantastic Plastic Free July and have started freeing yourself of plastic and disposable items (moved to an organic farm in a place where they don’t have wifi, and became a true zero waster, 100% DYI-er, ‘living off love and fresh water’ as we say in French – vivre d’amour et d’eau fraîche, en français dans le texte). Yes? Amazing, I’ll meet you there.

In all seriousness, I truly hope Plastic Free July was the little kick in the butt you needed to start being more mindful about your trash – and if not, please read on to find out how easy it is going to be to start.

I thought I’d start with my tips for less waste in the kitchen, a place where we can make a lot of waste without really realising it. We’ll start with the first step, before anything even enters your home, when you make the conscious decision to buy food to nourish your body and your soul and make your weekly trip to the holly place that is named ‘supermarket’.

Reusable shopping bags

You know where I’m going with this. I’m going to tell you about reusable shopping bags, because this really is the most basic way to save 100% absolutely useless thin plastic bags to spread like the plague. If you live in a country like Australia where for some mysterious reason these haven’t yet been banned from the shops, it’s just so easy to forget your reusable bag at home or in your car, and to go back home with 5-10 thin, ugly, polluting grey plastic bags, which, let’s be honest, you will put away in your special-plastic-bag-drawer and never use again. I find this absolutely infuriating and the laziest, most careless thing.

I’ll be honest, I have forgotten my reusable shopping bags at home more than once, often if I go grab a few things for dinner at the last minute. As mentioned in my previous post, in this case I try to be as creative as I can: emptying my yoga bag in my car and using this as a shopping bag, or only buying as many items as I can carry in my arms, or finding a cardboard box in the shop to carry my items (this is especially if you go to Aldi, organic shops or the markets as they often have them available).

Another tip is to leave your reusable bags in your car at all times, and to always bring them back to the car the next time you go out after emptying your grocery shopping. Or to buy one of these really cool foldable tiny bags and to keep it with you in your work bag for example. Possibilities are endless my friends – but the ugly thin grey plastic bag is not one of them.

Reusable produce bags

The second zero waste habit to adopt at the shops is to get your hands on a set of reusable produce bags (I have these mesh bags from Onya and they are pretty good), which you will keep in… your reusable shopping bag, yes. These can be used not only for most fruits and veggies, but also for nuts, seeds, and any produce you can buy in bulk in your store, as long as they aren’t super thin like chia seeds or sugar for example.

IMG_7585

In that case, you probably want to get a set of cloth produce bags instead of mesh ones, as they would be suitable for anything, unlike mine. And if you don’t want to invest in produce bags, you can always reuse old tote bags, or even make produce bags out of old tee shirts or fabric if you’re a bit of DIY-er.

If you really just can’t be bothered and this all seems like way too much, be mindful the next time you grab a produce plastic bag to put a single avocado or a bunch of bananas and ask yourself ‘does this really need to go in a bag?’. Pretty sure you can just check them out as is and the cashier won’t faint at the sight of a naked avocado.

Bulk buying

These days, more and more mainstream shops offer some sort of bulk buying aisle, where you can buy 7.5 grams worth of almonds if you so desire, which is great, as you will probably waste less food. But (of course there is a but), they also very kindly provide you with… a beautiful resealable plastic bag, which is very likely to hit the bin as soon as you are done with it.

In terms of footprint, bulk buying very small amounts of food (i.e. above mentioned 7.5 grams of almonds) in a plastic bag that you will then toss can actually turn out to be worse than just buying a regular bag of almonds, because you will end up producing a lot more waste.

  • Option 1: refer to the above and get a set of cloth produce bags.
  • Option 2: if you must use the plastic option, make sure to fill the bag up (i.e. forget about the 7.5 grams of almonds) and reuse the bag as a sandwich bag, a snack bag or whatever tickles your fancy.

There are also more and more specialised bulk foods store (I have two at less than 500 meters from my house), where you can bring your own jars and containers to fill up. If the jar is quite heavy, you can usually weigh it before filling up, so the weigh can be deducted from the final price. Alternatively, the store should provide you with brown recyclable paper bags, or you can use your reusable produce bags. These wonderful places also usually sell bulk cleaning, skin care, hair care products etc – but we will get to that in the next article.

Packaged products

Last but not least, what of the already packaged products? Unless you are buying everything at the markets (and even then) or in a bulk buying shop, it’s pretty difficult (not to say impossible) to avoid buying packaged products.

My ‘less waste’ tips would be:

  • Stay away from single packaged items, like muesli bars, juice boxes (prefer a (glass) bottle), pre-prepared meals (yuck) or individual yogurts (prefer a tub).
  • Avoid overly packaged products, like Burrito kits for example, that are made of 4-5 single use packages inside a bigger box.
  • Prefer recyclable containers made of glass ideally, or tins. Plastic should always be the last resort when you have options. Where you have bought a glass bottle or jar, wash them and keep them when they are empty – they will be great to store your foods bought in bulk.

And… that’s all, folks. Stay tuned for the next (not so daunting) part of our less waste journey, where we take the food home with us and try not to produce waste as we consume it.

 

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