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The Ultimate Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping

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Zero Waste Grocery Shopping Without Bulk Stores

You’ve made great strides to reduce waste in the kitchen, but let’s be completely honest here: You’ll never have a low waste kitchen until you tackle zero waste grocery shopping.

Admittedly, zero waste grocery shopping was one of the last changes I made in my journey to live a more eco-friendly life simply because it seemed so overwhelming.

Grocery stores are filled with single-use plastic items. I wasn’t sure if it was even possible to go zero waste grocery shopping without a bulk grocery store.

Related: 50+ Genius Alternatives to Single-Use Plastic

However, once I started making small changes to how I shop, I realized zero waste shopping at a regular grocery store is possible. If you’re interested in zero waste grocery shopping without a bulk store, these simple tips and tricks can help!

1. Grow it Yourself

The first step in zero waste grocery shopping occurs before you even step foot in a grocery store. Growing as much of your own food as possible immediately reduces your waste because you have no need to bring home fruits and vegetables in plastic containers and plastic wrapping. Even better, it will help you save A LOT of money!

Related: Unbelievable Benefits of Gardening

Do you have no idea where to start? That’s OK! Gardening is actually a lot easier than you might think. Check out this guide on how to start a garden for beginners. It will walk you through the step-by-step process you need to follow to create a prosperous garden.

Once you have a good idea of how to start your garden, you’ll need some plants to grow. When you’re just starting out, I recommend these best vegetable plants for beginner gardeners.

Once you feel more comfortable around the garden, here are some other outstanding resources to check out:

Plus, don’t forget you can even grow a variety of fruits and vegetables inside when your weather isn’t conducive to gardening outside!

Related: Must-Have Gardening Tools for Every Gardener

2. Make it Yourself

In addition to growing plenty of your own food, it’s also really easy to make a variety of homemade foods. Instead of buying plastic bottles of herbs and spices, make your own!

Related: Urban Homesteading for Beginners

I grow basil, oregano, garlic chives, rosemary, and sage in my garden. When I need more dried herbs for cooking, I simply pick some straight from the plant and use this dehydrator to dry them. A mini food processor is the perfect size to chop up the dried herbs. Then I store them in these glass spice bottles.

Related: The Best Herbs to Grow in Your Indoor Herb Garden

If you make homemade bread, you never have to worry about running out or have to deal with those wasteful plastic bags. Yes, I do actually make my own bread. And no, I don’t spend hours and hours kneading and working the dough.

This is the bread maker I have, and it couldn’t be easier to use. You simply add the ingredients, select the cycle you need, and press start. Seriously. It’s that easy.

When you start making your bread at home, I highly suggest getting some beeswax food wraps to store your bread. These food wraps will eliminate your need for plastic wrap and help your bread stay fresh longer.

Related: How to Use Beeswax Food Wrap

You can make your own DIY beeswax food wrap, or you can purchase some. Here are several excellent options that I have personally used and recommend:

3. Bring Your Reusable Bags

Now that you’ve made and grown everything you can at home, it’s time to plan a trip to the grocery store. I think by now most people know to bring their reusable shopping bags so they don’t have to use wasteful plastic bags. However, those aren’t the only bags you should bring.

You also want to bring along some reusable produce bags. I use these organic cotton reusable produce bags and they are fantastic. They’re so nice, even the cashiers comment about their quality.

Related: Cotton or Microfiber: Which Is More Eco-Friendly?

The set includes 7 bags in 3 different sizes, so you can always find the one you need. Six of them are mesh, so the cashier can easily see what’s inside. There’s also a muslin bag that’s perfect for smaller items that might fall through the mesh.

With these bags, you don’t have to use those flimsy plastic produce bags at the store or get fruits and vegetables wrapped in a ridiculous amount of plastic wrap. Instead, you can pick up unpackaged produce and completely eliminate waste.

Related: Easy Tips to Immediately Start Reducing Your Waste

4. Choose Plastic-Free Packaging

Reusable shopping bags and reusable produce bags aren’t the only things you can use for zero waste grocery shopping. You also want to choose as much plastic-free packaging as possible.

Related: Simple Ways to Reduce Your Plastic Use

Some types of plastic are impossible to recycle. Other types might only be able to be recycled once. If plastic is recycled, it’s often “downcycled,” which means it’s turned into a non-recyclable product, such as clothing or toys.

However, you can recycle metal and glass again and again without ever degrading their quality. That’s why you should always choose a metal or glass container over a plastic one.

Cardboard containers are another good option since they can also be recycled. Just keep mind that you should avoid mixed-material cardboard packages.

Mixed-material packages contain different types of materials in one package. Pasta boxes are a common example you’ll often see in the grocery store. While the boxes are typically cardboard, they’ll often have a plastic window so you can see the pasta inside.

Pasta box with plastic window
Pasta box with plastic window

The problem with these boxes is that the plastic contaminates the cardboard and makes the box impossible to recycle. Instead, look for boxes that are cardboard and cardboard alone.

Pasta box with no plastic window
Pasta box with no plastic window

Related: The Best Places to Buy Organic Food Online

5. Buy in Bulk

Now, I know what you’re thinking. The whole reason you’re reading this is because you don’t have a bulk store, so you can’t buy in bulk. But that’s not exactly true.

Related: How to Shop at a Zero Waste Store

When you need shelf-stable items like spices, rice, dried beans, and dried pasta, look for the biggest container you can get. (But also make sure you’ll be able to use what you buy before it becomes inedible so you prevent food waste.)

You can keep a smaller, more convenient size container in your kitchen and store the larger container in a pantry or closet. When you need more, simply refill the small container from the large container.

Shopping this way has two advantages. First, occasionally buying one large container instead of constantly buying smaller containers helps you reduce waste. Second, it can also save you money!

Plus, don’t forget you can do the same thing with any meats, fruits, or vegetables that you want to freeze.

Related: How to Freeze Food Without Using Plastic

6. Eat More Plant-Based Meals

Zero waste grocery shopping isn’t just about the items you bring home from the store. It’s also about the environmental impact of everything we eat.

The unfortunate truth is, how we grow, get, and eat our food is a major cause of climate change. A UN climate change report estimates that 23% of greenhouse gas emissions comes from livestock. Even worse, we’re clearing whole swaths of the very trees we need to fight climate change just to open up land to raise livestock.

Eating a plant-based diet is one of the most significant ways to reduce greenhouse gases from the agriculture sector.

If you need some inspiration to help you reduce the amount of meat you eat, here are some absolutely delicious recipe collections to check out:

7. Go to a Farmers Market

This last tip isn’t always easy. However, when possible, it significantly help you reduce waste when grocery shopping. If your community has a farmers market, try to do as much of your grocery shopping there as possible.

Related: Genius Ways to Reduce Food Waste at Home

There are several benefits to shopping at a farmers market. First, most of the vendors at the market are local farmers, which means you’re putting money right back into your community. This also means carbon emissions from transporting the food is significantly decreased.

I also find that these vendors are a lot more willing to let me use my own containers and bags when I’m shopping for food. I simply ask them if it’s OK for me to transfer the items from their containers to the ones I bring with me.

They’re almost always agreeable because it saves them a little money since they don’t have to buy new containers, and it helps me reach my goal of zero waste grocery shopping.

Related: How to Go Zero Waste on a Budget

Plus, you’ll be able to find fresh fruits and vegetables, honey, spices, eggs, meats, and more at a farmers market. Depending on how big your local farmers market is, you might be able to do all of your grocery shopping there!

What You Need for Zero Waste Grocery Shopping

Even if you don’t have a local bulk store, you can still reduce your waste when you shop for groceries. Thanks to these helpful tips, you can turn every trip into a zero waste grocery shopping trip.

More Zero Waste Living Tips

Now that you’ve learned more about zero waste grocery shopping, are you interested in checking out more tips about reducing your waste? Then please be sure to take a look at these other popular posts:

Fresh vegetables in canvas bag with text overlay The Ultimate Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping
Fresh vegetables in canvas bag with text overlay How to Make Every Trip a Zero Waste Grocery Shopping Trip