Food is perhaps one of the biggest things to tackle when going zero waste, so why not start with that? As someone with a picky appetite and too many food allergies to count, I knew this would be a challenge. But it helps that a great bulk foods store opened right down the street from me a few weeks ago. And that I have an obsession with mason jars (seriously, my toothbrush is sitting in a mason jar..why? because it looks cute).
I set out on my first attempt at a completely zero waste grocery shopping experience a few days ago, and it actually was not as hard as I thought it would be. I bought quite a bit for only about $33:
- 1.5 pounds banana chips
- 1 pound 10 bean soup mix
- 1.5 pounds gummy bears
- 1.5 pounds milk chocolate-covered almonds
- 1 pound dried mango slices
- 2 pounds salted peanuts
- 2 organic cucumbers
- 2 organic loose carrots
- 1 organic sweet potato
That might not seem like a lot to you, but for someone with a lot of food allergies (have I mentioned I have a lot of food allergies?) it’s a pretty good amount of food. I’ve slowly built up my stash of food with lots of dried bulk foods like rice, beans and granola, so I already had those. But who cares about the food? Let’s talk about how to get the food.
First, do your homework! Look to youtubers or bloggers (hey that’s me!) who have done this before to get some tips!
- Don’t forget your reusable shopping bag!
- Bring mesh or cotton produce bags for dry goods and produce
- Jars for dry goods and meat
- Sharpies to write tare weight on jars (it reduces the need for stickers)
- I really like this Simple Ecology zero waste beginner’s kit I found on Amazon.
I’ll admit, I’ve always been too afraid to bring my jars. Not quite sure why though. Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen anybody else do it yet. I use my produce bags for the dried goods I pick up from the bulk section, then move them to the jars once I get home.
You’d be surprised by what you can find in the bulk aisle. Did you see gummy bears on the list?! Umm hello! I’ve found quite a few great candy and snack selections to keep you satisfied between meal times in the bulk aisle.
When you’re shopping for produce, try to find some without stickers, as they’re not recyclable.
When you shop in the bulk section, keep track of the PLU #’s for each item. These are usually three to four digits, and they act as a sort of barcode to help the checkout person identify what’s what when weighing the items. Produce also has PLU #’s, which are usually located on the stickers. Keep track of those as well. I usually just take a photo of each item sign when filling up on dry goods and produce.
It’s really that easy! The toughest thing, in my opinion, is finding a store with a great bulk section. My favorites are Sprouts Farmers Market, Whole Foods, and The Turnip Truck–a local health foods store.
Be looking out for a post on zero waste shopping with food allergies sometime soon.