5 Ways to Buy Groceries AND Create Zero Waste!

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Check out Annie’s post on how to create less to no waste while grocery shopping! 


Groceries stores that attempt to be waste- and packaging-free are starting to appear in different places around the world. Germany is set to open its’ first this year, Denver is working on opening one by 2015, and Texas’ in.gredients has been operating for a couple years now. However, if you don’t have access to a zero-waste grocery store, there are still ways you can reduce your waste when grocery shopping. Maybe you can even achieve zero-waste grocery shopping!

Here are some ways to help you on your conquest to zero-waste grocery shopping:

1. Bring your own grocery bags

This is becoming increasingly common practice as cities are one by one banning plastic bags and requiring grocery stores to charge for paper and/or plastic bags. California is leading the charge, being the first to implement a statewide ban on plastic bags which will come into effect in July 2015 for grocery stores and supermarkets, and 2016 for convenience stores and pharmacies. If you don’t have reusable bags, many stores sell them by cash registers. Otherwise, you can use tote bags, backpacks, baskets, or get crafty and make your own bag.


2. Visit farmers markets

Vegetables and fruits at farmer’s markets don’t usually have all the packaging and plastic wrap that those at grocery stores can have. You can put them directly in your reusable bag! If they’re in a basket (berries, tomatoes, jalapenos, ect) you can give the basket back to the farmer and they will reuse it. Some farmers will do the same for egg cartons as well.


3. Buy in bulk

Many grocery stores have a bulk food section, which is great! At bulk containers, you can buy as much or little as you need, instead of buying multiple packages of one item. Depending on the store, they might have spices, grains, rice, dried nuts and fruits, and legumes available in bulk containers. Only buying as much as you need also helps reduce any possible food waste from having leftover ingredients. In addition, you can try small portions of new foods, without being stuck with a bunch leftover if you end up not liking it.


4. Bring your own reusable containers

Some stores let you bring your own reusable containers and bags (mason jars, cloth bags, tupperware containers, etc) for bulk items and some counter items (lunch meats, seafood, meat). The store takes your containers and bags at customer service and writes the weight on the jar so that you only pay for what you get. You can check with your grocery store beforehand to find out if they will let you do this. Some stores don’t let you use your containers due to sanitation and cross-contamination concern. Organic and smaller local stores are usually more willing to let you use your own containers.


5. Make a plan

Planning ahead for the coming week by making a menu and writing a corresponding grocery list with specific ingredients and quantities, will help diminish food waste during the week. Doing this helps ensure that everything you buy gets used for something during the week. You won’t end up with half a fish fillet that you run out of time to eat before it goes bad. You can still indulge in picking items not on your list, but picking less of these ensures that there are less foods that get forgotten about in the back of the pantry or fridge to only be thrown away when found two weeks later.

Happy Grocery Shopping!