Zero waste grocery shopping – the sustainable way of buying food.
We’ve all done it.
We’ve bought packaged fruit and vegetables because it’s convenient.
We go for plastic bags because we forgot to bring one of the twenty reusable tote bags we’ve got at home.
Is this sounding familiar?
Here’s another one. We’ve driven ten extra minutes to the store across town that sells our favorite chocolate chip cookies. Alright, I’ll stop here.
I know the scenarios above make you feel a little guilty. But trust me when I say you are not alone.
When it comes to grocery shopping, it’s easy to choose convenience over eco-friendly. This is exactly why we’re experiencing so many environmental problems today.
Reality is, most of us don’t think about the consequences of our actions. Especially not the negative environmental consequences.
But you know what?
The good news is that this doesn’t have to be you!
It’s never too late to change. If you want to be more environmentally-friendly, why not start with something you do every week?
Start with grocery shopping. That’s why you’re here, right?
In this list, I’ll let you in on 7 easy steps to achieve zero waste grocery shopping.
The unofficial first step is deciding you want to be better and if you’re reading this, then you’re already ahead.
Are you ready to take on the green challenge?
Then listen up! Let’s start simple.
1.Avoid packaging when you can!
Fortunately, a lot of grocery stores are ditching plastic to be more eco-friendly. I always say less is more. Especially when it comes to plastic packaging and plastic-covered products.
Now, our goal is to buy zero plastic packaging, but remember: it’s a learning process.
Any progress is still progress.
So let’s get back to the first step.
Say no to plastic-wrapped fruits and veggies. Pay attention to any packaged food you buy. Seek alternatives when you can.
Ask yourself these questions every time you’re at the store.
Is the packaging recyclable or compostable? Is it biodegradable?
Can you somehow repurpose the packaging when you’re done with it?
Be honest. Can you live without this plastic packaged product? If so, then say no! You have a choice.
Make a conscious effort to buy less plastic every single time you shop. Every. Single. Time.
Repeat until you don’t even have to think about it anymore.
I admit, single-use plastics like water bottles, chip bags, and foam containers make life easier for a lot of people. We use the item one time and then throw it away. No need to wash it or store it in the house.
But there’s a not-so-small catch.
All this plastic either ends up polluting waterways, getting incinerated, or filling up landfills. You’ve probably heard this a million times before, but sadly, it’s true.
And I don’t believe convenience justifies any of these problems.
Yes, we need single-use plastics in certain situations. For instance, we need things like syringes, bandages, and gloves for sanitary reasons. But that’s a whole another issue.
The moral of the story is that single-use plastics harm the environment.
So what can we do about it? Well, bear with me through these next six steps and find out how you can make a huge difference.
Let’s recap. You’ve said no to packaging. You’re buying loose products. You’re checking if the containers are recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable.
2. Buy in bulk!
This will make you think about what you really need and save you money. Think about it this way: you’re paying less per unit price when you buy in bulk.
Let me show you how easy it is.
When buying something in large quantities like beans or noodles, bring your own container and jot down the price look-up code (PLU). This is the string of numbers you see under the item label on the shelf. It’s usually under or on top of the barcode.
Don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it seems.
When you’re at the register, give the cashier the PLU code so they can weigh your item(s) and charge you accordingly. It’s that easy!
It makes so much sense to buy some things in bulk.
Think pasta, spices, oats, and more. It really depends on your diet. But whatever it is, buying in bulk will save you money.
Who doesn’t like to hear that?
And you know what else? This next trick is going to make steps one and two much easier:
3. Bring your own bags and produce bags when you shop.
Let me share what’s worked for me. These reusable cotton produce bags come in a set of nine and they have the weight written on them already.
What does this mean exactly?
Well, I point out to the cashier how much the bag weighs so I don’t pay extra at check-out. Another cool thing about these is that I can keep my produce separate instead of stuffing everything into a tote bag. No more crushed tomatoes!
These reusable produce bags, not plastic bags, are the definition of convenience! Seriously.
I also use this cotton string bag for other groceries and other errands.
Need a bag for fruits and veggies? Check. Need something to hold your knick knacks from the flea market? Check. Need a compact laundry bag? Check. This bag is so versatile, I can’t recommend it enough.
And guess what?
This way, I’m not forced to buy plastic or paper bags when I’m out.
The bags are extremely durable, but if they do break down from wear and tear, they are biodegradable. Bonus!
So we’ve got the produce bags and the reusable bag.
4. Bring your own containers!
I know it’s hard to avoid packaging for things like fish and meats, so this is your solution. When you’re at the deli or seafood section at the store, ask them to weigh your item first.
Then ask to store it in your own container instead of a plastic bag or plastic-lined wrapping paper. Usually, the workers are happy to oblige!
At first it might seem strange, but remember: you’re making a lifestyle change towards zero waste grocery shopping.
Keep your end goal in mind!
Bottom line: you just need to get in the habit of making conscious decisions. Keep doing it until it’s second nature. Most people promise to make changes but don’t stick with their resolutions. Then they end up going back to their old habits.
The secret to breaking these habits? Sometimes all you need to do is make one change and the rest will follow.
For example, if you’re buying in bulk, then it’s easier to remember to bring your own containers, and vice versa. What I mean is, bringing your own containers means you’ll be able to buy in bulk without using plastic bags at the store. Everything is ready for you.
But one thing’s for sure. If you’re not planning out what to buy at the store, then none of these steps will make a difference.
So stick with me here. I have another secret for you.
5. Before you go to the store, make a shopping list!
It doesn’t have to be old-school on a legal yellow pad, just use the Notes app on your phone. Trust me on this.
Go in with a plan and you won’t come out with unnecessary stuff. Even I’ve bought things because they were on sale or they tasted good in the samples they handed out.
You’re at the store and all of a sudden, you have a gallon of dairy-free almond ice cream and five pounds of spinach pasta in your cart.
The point of the story?
When you have a shopping list, you are more likely to save money.
When you write down only what you need, you’re saving money and wasting less to none.
Don’t just take my word for it.
In 2010, 133 billion pounds of food was wasted. But you’re probably wondering, how? More importantly, what’s the big deal, right?
Well, waste doesn’t just mean the actual food, but everything involved in the food industry. This includes everything from production to transportation and disposal.In a nutshell, that’s fossil fuels, human labor, and other resources wasted.
Now this is a huge problem. This waste also includes restaurant and store wastes, but it is still a huge issue.
Imagine for a moment if we all put in more effort to reduce food waste. It would be an enormous first step in tackling environmental problems.
You can help change this. It’s as simple as buying only what you need. No, really.
It is that simple.
A lot of these lifestyle changes are attainable by most people. We just need to be more aware of our actions.
This next step will prove my point.
One big thing that most people overlook is how far they drive to the store.
6. My advice is to drive to and shop at the closest grocery store.
You’re probably asking yourself, what does driving to the store have to do with zero waste grocery shopping?
Let me tell you.
Even if you bring your own bags and containers, you’re still using gas if you’re driving too far to the store. The simple truth is, most people don’t think about this part of grocery shopping. And we should.
Before we go any further, remember when I said make a shopping list before you go to the store? Making a shopping list also means you don’t forget anything and have to drive back to buy it. That’s a lot of driving you can avoid.
Let me remind you of another step that will come in handy now. This is the part where buying in bulk makes a difference.
Buying in bulk means you’re cutting down on gas with fewer trips to the store.
Luckily, there’s one thing you can try to avoid driving too far. At least when it’s the right season.
7. Shop at your local farmers’ market.
Believe it or not, they have affordable and healthy options. Furthermore, you’re supporting local farming families at the same time.
When you see familiar faces every time you buy produce, you’re building a community. You know where your money is going and who you’re supporting.
It gets better. When you shop at these markets, it means your food didn’t come all the way from another state or country.
Why does this matter? You’re supporting using less gas for food transportation.
Your fruits and vegetables don’t come from huge trucks that are driven from thousands of miles away. They don’t come from cargo ships or planes that use up massive amounts of fuel. Which means? Less waste!
Another cool thing is that farmers’ markets usually don’t package their products. Ever. By contrast, traditional grocery stores package produce so they’re not damaged during transport. But local farmers’ markets don’t have that problem.
Let me tell you why. They use their own vehicles, (not huge trucks) and they transport way less produce. In turn, they don’t have to worry as much about damage during transport.
Unless it’s honey, eggs, or sauces that need to be in a container, almost everything is sold loose. Amazing, right?
So whip out your produce bags and shop guilt-free!
Personally, I enjoy farmers’ markets because the produce and products are always fresh. They sell fruits and vegetables that are in season.
To top it off, there are organic options that don’t break the bank.
I know in the winter, there aren’t too many produce choices, but come spring and summer, the farmers’ market is the way to go.
It’s your money, so why not spend it on some eco-conscious products?
Well, this is the point where I wish you luck in your environmentally-friendly journey.
I hope you’ve learned a thing or two and I hope that you’re inspired to take on this zero waste grocery shopping journey.