Zero Waste Groceries are All About Organization

Ed. Note: This post on zero waste
groceries is part of Robyn Purchia’s series on Sustainablog:
Zero Waste Home. If you enjoy it, we hope you’ll
check out more of the series over there!

My zero waste goal has given me a new appreciation for grocery
shopping. Here’s how I fit zero waste groceries into my weekly

My zero waste goal has given me a new appreciation for grocery shopping. Here's how I fit zero waste groceries into my weekly routine.

In my previous life, I often ordered from Instacart, a service
that delivers groceries to your door. It was so convenient, but
so wasteful! I was always stuck with extra bags, big plastic
containers and free giveaways I didn’t want to eat.
As Dan
Mitchell noted in Civil Eats
, Instacart’s
delivery method also doesn’t create less trips to the grocery
store and less emissions and traffic. It was just a bad
environmental choice.

Related: Zero Waste Grocery Shopping for

Now, I spend just under an hour of my day on Mondays driving,
parking and perusing aisles. But the pros outweigh the cons in
my opinion. I’m back in control and I’m organized. Plus, I feel
like I’m doing something for my family’s future that goes
beyond lunches and dinners for the following week.

Write-out a Shopping List

Before the holidays, I met with Catherine
— a seasoned zero-waste practitioner. She’s a mom
like me, so I felt she could give me some sound advice on how
to reduce my trash without depriving my family of medicine,
food, comfort and cleanliness. Her first tip: create a shopping

Creating a shopping list seems pretty basic. Typically, I write
out the groceries I need right before I head to the store. But
my list would often have omissions and I’d have to make
multiple trips to the store per week. I also had never made a
shopping list with the goal to reduce waste.

Catherine advised keeping paper and a pen on the
refrigerator. (Scrap paper lying around the house is an
excellent zero-waste choice!) As my family ran out of something
or wanted to have something for the following week, they’d jot
it down on the paper. We established a new rule: if it
wasn’t on the list by Monday, it wasn’t going to be in the
house that week.

Bring Your Supplies

Once the shopping list is complete, Catherine’s next tip was to
bring all the containers and bags I’d need to purchase my
groceries in bulk and reduce waste. This is a littler trickier
than simply making a list, but not hard by any means. It simply
requires a little planning and muscle work.

Let’s use almonds, dates and clementine oranges as examples —
foods my family loves. Before I started my zero-waste
challenge, I’d buy new containers filled with almonds and dried
dates. I’d pull a new bag off the rolls in the produce aisle
and fill it with oranges. But this is unnecessary waste.
Sometimes I couldn’t even recycle the containers and bags.

Now, I have a different approach. Once I have my complete
shopping list, I circle the items that need containers or bags.
I bring containers and bags that I’ve collected and saved from
my previous life to the grocery store. All I have to do is
scoop my groceries back into their old homes.

Don’t forget to bring a reusable tote to bring all your
groceries home too. In San Francisco, you pay extra for bags.
But a lot of places still hand out
hard-to-recycle plastic and paper
bags like they’re candy.

Choose Your Grocery Store

Before beginning this zero-waste challenge I was focused on
finding sustainable and organic groceries. Now add bulk to my
already picky list. I’m not talking Costco bulk. I’m talking

beautiful, scoop-able bulk item bins

Rainbow Grocery is my choice in San Francisco. Not only do they
have the bin basics — almonds, flour, dates and beans — they
have spices, teas, honey, toiletries and the coolest peanut
butter squeezing machine. The store is designed for picky
shoppers like me who care about local, sustainable, organic and
waste-free products.

Not every town and city is blessed with stores
like Rainbow
. Perhaps the idea will spread if more people demand
waste-free products. But for now it’s good to just make do, and
not kill yourself driving all over trying to find all the items
you need in bulk.

Choose Your Products Wisely

You can’t buy everything in bulk. Milk, eggs and cheese
primarily come in containers and wrappers. Reducing waste is
more a matter of picking the container that’s the most
recyclable or compostable. Never buy products in Styrofoam — a
hard to recycle, synthetic material that breaks apart easily.
Avoid milk and cream containers with small plastic caps because
they can’t be recycled easily. Some cheese actually last longer
if they’re not wrapped in plastic.

Check out more Zero
Waste Home
tips soon!

Photo by bcmom on flickr
under a creative

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