How to grocery shop Zero Waste

20150405_093752 a dream lived greener dream love grow how to shop zero waste copy

Since starting this, I have slowly been making my way around the city to all the bulk, green and natural, local stores. It is funny how there isn’t one store that I have found yet that has everything that I need in one place. Anyway, yesterday I was at Whole Foods on Bank St. (we only have one) for the first time and while I was at the check out, the cashier made a comment to me that actually took me off guard.

“That’s really smart of you to bring your own bags for everything. I’ve never seen anyone do that before.”

Why it surprised me was:

1) She noticed
2) It was the first time she’s seen anyone do that

Which led me to wonder, why aren’t more people bringing their own bags? When did we start absent mindedly using plastic bags to put produce in?

Before I began, I was definitely a plastic bag user. I would be lazy and forget to bring a reusable bag. Plastic bags were my normal. I used them for produce. I used them for my groceries. I justified it by saying that I would reuse them or I would need them for garbage. 2 months ago I was thinking, how else do I throw my garbage out if I don’t have plastic bags? Now I don’t even have a garbage can in my home.

Bringing my own bags and jars have become second nature to me in a short amount of time and although I try not to pay attention to what others are doing, I can’t help but notice when people use the plastic bags for produce or for groceries.

But it comes down to this: when no one around you is doing it or when you aren’t even aware that you are doing it and no other options are presented to you, what else do you do?

So thanks to that cashier, I am here to share with you how I do my shopping.

Keep in mind, this isn’t easy. I have given up a lot of things I enjoyed eating (like cherry tomatoes) but it has encouraged me to cook or bake them myself, which is much better for you anyway. Don’t ask how I manage to do all this cooking and baking (and blogging) in between being a full-time single Mom and running my own business, but if you want something bad enough for yourself, there are no excuses.

So on to how I shop:

20150405_093746 a dream lived greener how to shop zero wasteIn the beginning I had asked one of my best friends who is a seamstress to make me some cloth bags and some mesh bags. The mesh bags have a pull string and are made out of crinoline she had laying around and the cloth bags (orange and white) are made from a sample drapery book that we got from a curtain store. They were going to throw them out.

The mesh bags I use mainly for produce. The cloth bags I use for produce too, like potatoes, but I also use them for breads. When I go to the bakery section and have a craving, I’ll stick a few buns or croissants in there. (I don’t eat much bread because I have a gluten sensitivity). If I use all of my cloth bags up, then I just take the produce as is. My apple touching a lemon or a bunch of carrots in my reusable bag isn’t going to do any harm. And we wash everything when we get home anyway.

The jars are for all of my bulk foods. I either use mason jars or the ones with the white lids because they hold more. When I get home I transfer the bulk to their designated jars. Using mason jars is easy if you keep the same items in them because you can just pop them in your cupboard when you get home.

I keep the tares on them but have pretty much memorized how much the jars and bags weigh.

The clipboard (I got this idea from one of the other Zero Waste Bloggers – sorry I can’t remember who exactly, but thank you if you’re the one reading this) I use to keep my notes and write down my bin codes. The white paper is a scrap paper that I use to write my grocery list or any meal ideas that I have so I know what to get when I shop. I use painters tape to mark down the item and the bin code and put it on my jar at check out, or sometimes I just write them down on the paper and read it out loud to the cashier.

I definitely don’t look “cool” shopping with a clipboard in one hand and a toddler tugging at me on the other, but I’m over trying to look cool anyway. What I’m doing is going beyond my own Self and besides, I’ve already accepted I’m a strange one.

Anyway, I put all of these into a reusable bag so that I can have something to bring everything home in.

I try to only shop once a week, but sometimes the urge hits me to buy something and in that case, I try to keep a stash of jars and bags in my car.

My diet consists mainly of: vegetables, fruits, beans (lentils, chickpeas, mung beans etc.) and my own baked goods. I eat brown rice pasta, brown rice, couscous and quinoa. (I’ll be putting up more recipes). I don’t eat a lot of meat and if I do, it’s mostly chicken. I haven’t found a butcher to put meat into my jar and to be honest, I don’t really miss meat. What I do miss is cheese. I’ve made a farmer’s cheese which I used in a salad, but I’ve ended up leaving my cheese eating as a treat for when I go out to the restaurant.

There’s so much I want to share and write about, like for example:

1) How difficult it is to shop when you only want to buy local, Canadian produce or bulk items

but I’ll leave that for another time. I’m constantly learning and thinking of ways that businesses can improve their “system” and create greener options for everyone. Maybe one day I’ll just need to open my own zero waste store.

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7 thoughts on “How to grocery shop Zero Waste

  1. Went shopping today and thought about this blog post. I wanted to try the veggie stock powder in the bulk aisle and had to get it in a small plastic bag. If I like the stock, I’ll ask the store if I can bring my mason jar next time to refill that and if their cash registers can calculate the price by subtracting the tare. So far, I’ve felt too weird to do that but having to get a plastic bag for the bulk stock defeats the purpose.

  2. The Brown Paper Coffee Bag…
    Buying coffee was a predicament. The mason jars where not calculated in the system so it would charged me an additional price. I now use the store brown paper bag to fill it up. When I get home I empty the coffee in to the jar and fold the paper bag for the next trip. At about 20 trips, the bag becomes slightly worn. At about 35 i get my first hole. What ends up happening is that I use a new brown paper bag from the grocery and the old bag gets used for tinder while camping. Since its worn and the fibers become loose, its a great fire starter that can be cut into strands and and last about 6 to 8 camp fire tinder (1 week of camping). The only thing left is to figure out what to use the wire that comes attached to bag for.
    Thanks for the blog and the video was great also. Cheers~

    1. Hi Francois,
      Thanks for letting me know how you’ve been doing it. Normally you need to ask your store to tare (weigh) the jar before you fill it up. They deduct the weight from the bulk you purchased. I think what you’ve been doing though is still great. I don’t buy coffee but I do know one friend who gets hers somewhere that just sells them in brown paper bags and she composts too. If you do have an idea what to use the twisty wire for, I’d love to know!
      Take care!

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