I’m going to be real: I’m not one of those people who only shops at the co-op or hyper-local farmers markets. It’s within neither my monetary or temporal budget. I’m OK with that currently, and you should be too, if that’s what your situation allows.
But not being able to shop purely in bulk or from local sources doesn’t mean you should give up the good fight against waste!
Instead, you’ve got to just be smarter and more organized; to that end, here are five small tips for zero waste grocery shopping.
Need some zero waste shopping resources specific to Indy? Check out this post!
There is no faster way to fail at zero waste grocery shopping than to come unprepared. If you don’t have glass jars, you’ll end up buying items in plastic or purchasing glass jars you don’t need. If you forget cloth produce bags, you’ll end up using plastic bags (or doing the awkward item juggle on the way to the car).
In my last post, I included a list of items I bring on every shopping trip. These are not necessities, but definitely serve as a good starting off point.
I’d also recommend keeping a few spare bags and/or jars in your car or near the front door at all times. If they’re visible and at-the-ready, your zero waste shopping items will be much harder to forget.
Be confident in your mission.
Let me tell you: if you don’t act like you know what you’re doing, life gets a whole lot harder at checkout. It’s awkward as you try to navigate tare weights, PLU numbers, and general explanations as you just try to get out of the store.
So go into your shopping experience sure about your goal (ie. producing as little waste as possible). Then, be the boss of your own shopping trip. Provided there is no stated restriction on bringing your own containers into the store, don’t be afraid to use your zero waste shopping items.
While cashiers are generally nice people, they might not have much exposure to zero waste shopping. Bulk bags, tare weights, and other alternatives may seem foreign.
Tare everything before you start!
For those who don’t know: tare weight is the weight of a container without anything inside of it.
Don’t be like me the first time I went bulk shopping and forget to tare a jar before filling it with something. The cashier and I made an educated guess about the weight and then moved on, but there’s a better way to do it!
If stores have their own electronic scales (usually in the produce section), weigh the containers yourself. I like to keep a sharpie in one of my totes to mark the weight so I don’t have to do it every time.
If there’s no electronic scales, ask one of the cashiers to weigh the container for you. They’ll be able to do it easily and you’ll also find out if it’s cool to use your own containers.
Be aware of hidden waste opportunities.
Big zero waste fails are easy to spot: plastic containers, single-use items, recyclable packing that could otherwise be bought in bulk.
But beware of sneakier zero waste fails like:
- plastic lining on paper bags;
- rubber bands;
- plastic twist-ties;
- produce stickers;
- non-recyclable labels on glass jars.
While you won’t get sent to zero waste jail if you purchase any of these, it’s good to be aware of these potential pitfalls.
Give yourself a little room to fail.
Perhaps the most important of all: if your shopping trip is not 100% zero waste, that’s OK! Just being more conscious about reducing waste is a huge step!
On my most recent trip to the store, I was almost 100% zero waste – except for the package of tofu I got. Sure, I could have gone without, but I’ve really been craving tofu for a while.
Because really, zero waste is not actually a zero sum game; it’s a useful catch all for an important movement, but in no way requires participants to create NO WASTE. (FYI, that’s impossible.)
So give yourself some items to fail on. When the zero waste police come, you can let them know I told you it was OK!
Do you have any tips for zero waste grocery shopping? If you do, please share them in the comments below! I’d love to hear some of your tips and tricks!