Challenge number 2 in my month of Reducing Waste was for all of my grocery shopping to be waste free. This meant not purchasing food items with plastic containers or packaging—everything I bought had to be able to be composted at the end of the day.
Honestly, I don't think that a week is long enough to truly dive into all of the intricacies and options of no waste grocery shopping, but I learned quite a few things throughout the process that I'll be incorporating into my every day.
Also, I need you to know that this exercise has started to turn me into a grandma. In reorganizing my spice drawer, I consolidated samesies, and saved the empties for later use. I even put one in a drawer and started putting the rubber bands from produce in them. I started a veggie scrap bag for the freezer for future broths and have been saving to go containers from restaurants. I'm on a slippery slope ...
Here are 5 tips to help you succeed at no waste grocery shopping
Tip 1 / Plan Ahead
Planning ahead is my nemesis. I'm the queen of just popping by the grocery store haphazardly during my day, consequently while ravenous, scanning the aisles for all of the things. My grocery bill usually ends up being ginormous, and I realize at check out that all of my 15 reusable bags are still nestled underneath the sink.
If you want to do a grocery run that incorporates as little waste as possible, you have to plan ahead. Have two or three recipes already picked out, make a list, and grab those grocery bags, produce bags & reusable containers before you embark on your grocery journey.
Planning definitely takes the most work, but it's the most important step.
Tip 2 / Leave Extra Reusable Items In The Car
Because life isn't always as planned, keep a couple of reusable bags in the trunk of your car, so if you forget the bags you normally use, you have a few to spare. Keep a few bulk containers and reusable produce bags in there too. This one is a no brainer, and takes 1 minute to find a few bags and stow them in your car. AKA go do it now!
I ordered these produce bags from amazon, which come in a variety of sizes and can double as containers for a lot of bulk items since the mesh is so fine.I even used them as a substitute when they asked if they wanted meat in a separate plastic bag since they pop right into the washing machine.
Tip 3 / Stick Mainly To The Produce & Bulk Sections
FirstI have to clear the air a little bit here:
Shopping 100% zero wasn't isn't practical for all of life.
BUT, choosing to shop from the produce and bulk sections whenever possible is a huge way to reduce your landfill contribution. You can get cereals, flour, sugar, nuts, legumes, rice, oats, grains, GUMMY BEARS, chocolate, almond flour, protein powder, coconut sugar ... so many things from the bulk section (at least at Sprouts where I shop)
All stores are different, so next time you're shopping, see what your grocery store's bulk section has to offer and if any ingredients on your list can come straight from there.
BOnus: if you have an instant pot, there's no need to soak legumes over night, which means less prep and planning
More About Bulk Shopping
Tip 4 / Make Some of Your Staples Yourself
Do an inventory of what you consume on a weekly basis, and try substituting one or two with home made recipes. You can make your own mayo, almond milk, nut butters, kombucha, iced coffee, bread, broth, pickles and sauces to cut back on packaging. And I bet it will taste better too.
Tip 5 / Save Veggie Scraps For Broth
Our usual rhythm is to stock up on broth from Costco (we love Costco). But the amount of extra packaging it entails vs how easy it is to make at home makes it a no brainer to make your own every once in a while. Stash a ziplock or container in your freezer and put all your veggie scraps in there.
Potato and carrot peelings, garlic & onion skins, green leek leaves are all great for stock! And don't be afraid to get creative. I've heard that you can even add egg shells.
You can use your freezer scraps to supplement a batch of broth you're making, or if you've got a full bag, use it for it's own batch.