I actually like grocery shopping. Most weeks I’m doing it with my three kids which always makes for an interesting trip, but overall, I enjoy the experience. I also go through phases on how much I shop. If we have a big garden, I don’t have to grocery shop often. But right now, since our garden at our new house isn’t going yet, I’m grocery shopping weekly.
I do all my grocery shopping at one store. We have a locally owned organic grocery store (not one of the big chains) that I go to. They have a good bulk section and good produce. If I was buying a lot of prepackaged foods, it would be too expensive of a place to shop. But I make everything from scratch (sounds harder than it actually is!), so I can get out of there without spending a crazy amount of money. If you are curious how I do grocery shop on a budget and how much I spend per month, you can check out the guest blog post I did for The Whole Food Diary.
Plastic & Packaging
When the average person grocery shops, they end up with a lot of waste. A lot of it comes from prepackaged foods. A box of cereal has a box and a bag. Then we put that box of cereal in another plastic bag to get it from the store to the car. All that ends up in the trash. And that’s just one cereal box! Almost everything has a wrapper or package. Even if you are buying bulk or getting produce, there are always plastic bags for you to put them in and then tie them up with a twist tie. More trash. I remember filling half my garbage can with trash after each grocery trip.
I don’t think I need to say trash is bad for the environment. Not only is all that plastic and packaging taxing on our planet when it is produced, it’s terrible for our planet once we dispose of it as well. I’m not going to preach on that. You all know it.
But I will say that reducing waste has become something that’s very important to me. I don’t exactly know the affect that my one life has on the entire earth, but I do know that my decisions added to your decisions added to someone else’s decisions do make a difference. I really value where we live. I value taking care of our earth, and one thing I can do is intentionally reduce the trash I’m producing.
Little to Zero Waste Shopping
How exactly do I grocery shop without creating any trash? First, let me be clear, I do create some trash. Sometimes I buy something prepackaged/pre-made so it does come in packaging. Also, I do occasionally forget to bring my supplies with me to the store. But for the most part, I’m able to grocery shop each week with little or no trash afterwards because of what I bring with me.
I always bring my shopping bags with me. I do this whether I’m grocery shopping, going to Target, or stopping by Home Depot. I NEVER use plastic bags in the stores. If I accidentally forget my re-usable shopping bags, I simply don’t get a bag. I put everything in my arms or purse and carry it out. I just can’t do plastic bags anymore. And it’s kind of a pact I’ve made with myself. If I forget my re-usuable bags, then I need to “suffer” for it. Not in a self-punishment kind of way. But if I’m carrying armfuls of stuff out to the car, you can bet I’m more likely to remember my bags next time.
I bought these bags from Lands End. They were more of an upfront investment, but they are so heavy duty. I can load them up and never worry about them breaking. I like that they are canvas too. I use them for everything. 99% of the time they are shopping bags, but I love having one item with multiple uses (makes my home more minimalistic and simple) so I use these bags for overnight bags, library book bags, or beach/lake day bags. They are awesome! Seriously. Buy some. I have 3 mediums and 1 large. I really like having the 1 large, because I can fold all 3 medium ones up inside of it and put them in my trunk. It helps keep them all together in one place. They are also washable, which is a plus!
How to Shop Bulk
Bulk is basically food that doesn’t come in packaging. It can be anything from rice to granola to maple syrup. A lot of times you’ll find it in bins at grocery stores. At chain grocery stores, you’ll only find a handful of things, but in organic grocery stores you can usually find lots of items to buy in bulk. Here’s a list of what I usually get: flour, quinoa, beans, nuts, popcorn, oats, dates, honey, olive oil, and syrup.
The most “normal” thing to do is get a plastic bag that the store provides, fill it with whatever you want, and then write the bin number on the twist tie so that the cashier knows what bin you got it from. When you get to the check out, he or she will look at the bin number, weigh your item, and charge you accordingly. I don’t use the grocery store’s plastic bags though… I’ve got a different solution for getting my food home.
What I Use to Shop Bulk
I’ve got several ways I shop for bulk items. For dry goods such as beans, rice, and flour, I have these bags that I got off Amazon. I bought the set that has 2 of each size for a total of 6. They have the tare weight on the tag… meaning, the weight of the bag. The cashier needs the tare when they check you out, because they need to know how much the bag weighs so they can deduct it from the total weight. That way you aren’t paying more than you need to. I actually took a sharpie marker (not the most toxic free thing to do) and wrote the tare on the outside of the bag. After shopping a few times with them, I realized it was hard for the cashier to read the tag. They curl up, and it’s a pain for the cashier to uncurl them to read the tare weight. I want to make it as easy on them as possible. I also write “Bin:” on the front of the bag. I use a washable wax crayon to write the bin number. You’ll see from my pictures what I mean. These bags are OLD so that’s why they look so rough. You’ll also notice, I regularly forget to bring my washable wax crayons so I just use a regular ball point pen to write the bin number, and it doesn’t wash out so well.
If I’m getting produce, I use these bags. Again, I’ve got 2 of each size for a total of 6 bags. Mine have lasted 3 years, and I’m still using them weekly.
If I’m getting liquids, I just bring my own mason jars and lids like these. I weigh them when I get there so I know what tare to tell the cashier, and then I fill them up with whatever I need. They are great for peanut butter, honey, and syrup.
One thing I do as soon as I unload my groceries is return all the bags to the trunk of my car. That way I don’t forget them next time I grocery shop. I’ll also sometimes add in 1-2 glass mason jars so that I have them if I need them. I don’t keep the wax crayon in the car, because our summers here are very hot and I’ve had one melt all over my bags before. Usually the bulk dry good bags need to be washed each week so when they come out of the dryer on laundry day, I make sure to take them to the trunk of my car as well.
You’ll probably spend about $100 to get this going unless you can sew your own bags and save some money. But it’s worth the investment! Like I said, I’ve had all my bags for 3-4 years, and they still work great. I have a feeling my Lands End shopping bags will be around for many more years. They are so heavy duty. And other than a few stains, you can’t tell that I’ve used them at all. They are in excellent condition.
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