Ultimate Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping

Food packaging probably makes up a large portion of your weekly waste. Going to the grocery store is almost universal, and it's something we do about once a week. It's one of the easiest and biggest ways you can make an impact. Not just how you buy it, but also what you buy.

The ultimate Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping from www.goingzerowaste.com

farmers markets:

My favorite place to shop is the farmers market. I love buying directly from the farmer. I get a better deal, the farm gets a better deal, and I can get everything package free. If there's a rubber band around the produce, I give it back, and they'll reuse it. Also, if something is packaged, don't be afraid to ask for it package free. I've found that most people are incredibly accommodating. 

A typical conversation goes like this:

Kathryn: "I don't buy anything in plastic or packaging in general, but I really want to buy this."

Farmer: "Of course! Let me bring this in a reusable container with my logo on it next week," or, "Of course, I'll reuse this packaging and I can put it directly in your container."

See.... easy! Just talk to people. 

I know it can be scary; I'm used to hiding behind a computer screen, myself. Having human interaction can be terrifying, but most of the humans I interact with are pretty cool and super accommodating. 

I buy most of my vegetables loose. I find you don't really need to keep them together in a bag unless it's a whole bunch of small things like mushrooms or spinach leaves, etc. 

I think it's really important to buy seasonally and locally. Not only is it better for your wallet, but the food tastes better, it's fresher, and it didn't have to travel as far which lowers it's carbon footprint.

Now let's get to the hard part....

the bulk section:

step one:

Obtain a container.

How to Tare a jar from the ultimate Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping from www.goingzerowaste.com

Now this can be any type of container a mason jar, cloth bag, a stainless steel tin, glass snapware, I've even brought my crockpot. True story. 

step two:

Weigh container.

How to Tare a jar from the ultimate Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping from www.goingzerowaste.com

Now, you can weigh these at home on a kitchen scale or go to the counter at your local health food store and they'll weigh them for you. 

  • 32oz Mason Jar: 1.02lbs
  • 16oz Mason Jar: .65lbs
  • 8oz Mason Jar: .38lbs

These are the average weights.  This weight is called the tare rhymes with pear, mare, and care. And, you'll want to notate it on your container. 

step three:

Fill container.

How to Tare a jar from the ultimate Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping from www.goingzerowaste.com

This is where you have some creative license. 

step four:

PLU (price look up)

How to Tare a jar from the ultimate Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping from www.goingzerowaste.com

The PLU or Bin# is what the cashiers type in to associate your jar with the product. So, lets take the maple syrup for example. It's bin 6850.  (It's in the corner of the tag behind my face.) You can write that on your jar with a wax pen or glass writing pen or you can do my new favorite thing - take a picture of the PLU with your phone! That way I don't have to worry about writing the wrong number or not being able to read my writing. (Which happens way more often than you think. Bonus - waste free.)

How to Tare a jar from the ultimate Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping from www.goingzerowaste.com
A Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping from www.goingzerowaste.com

step five:

check out and dig in! 

A Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping from www.goingzerowaste.com

Now, you'll want to proudly head to the register with your filled jars and cloth bags. (I don't weigh my cloth bags because they're so light) The cashier will set your jar on the scale, subtract the tare weight and ask you what is inside. You'll pull up the codes on your phone and she'll charge you for exactly what you bought! Then go celebrate by eating all of your goodies. Why, yes, this is a picture of me sitting indian style and pigging out. 

Wasn't that easy? 

A Note: If it's your first time in a new store, it's always good to double check the store has taring capabilities before you fill up a jar and try to check out. (I made the mistake once - oops.)

And the hardest part...

butcher:

A Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping from www.goingzerowaste.com

If you buy meat, you'll have a similar interaction at the butcher or meat counter. They'll set your jar or container or crock pot on the scale. Then they'll press the tare button to zero out the weight. Then they'll fill it with what ever you desire, charging you only for what is in the jar. It works the same at the cheese counter as well. You can also try to go to a deli for lunch meat and cheese.

I don't eat meat, but I still buy meat for my boyfriend. I'm extremely proud of him, he's reduced his consumption down to less than a pound a week. I find this topic to be very sensitive for most people. (hence all of the hate mail I get. ;) In case you're wondering, I don't have any desire to control another human being - nor do I want to.) I think we should all focus on reducing meat and dairy consumption. The average American consumes 270 pounds of meat a year! We can all cut back. 

But, I can't make any decision on how much you cut back. Only you know what's good for you and your body. I think it's most important for us all to be kind to each other. Everyone is on a different journey and different place in their journey. 

I only ask that you take into consideration how your animals were raised and treated. Avoid factory farming at all costs! Look for organic farms where the animals run free under the sun, eat grass and bugs, and play and frolic. There are still farms out there like that. I can go into that in more detail later, if I haven't already lost half my readership due to talking about meat. I'm sure I'll read your hate mail later. ;D

Bring a reusable bag from A Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping from www.goingzerowaste.com
A Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping from www.goingzerowaste.com
A Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping from www.goingzerowaste.com

And, to bring it back up on a positive note! Here are some pictures of my reusable bags and jars. Don't feel you need to buy new jars to fill up. I found most of mine from the thrift store or you can use glass jam jars or marinara or anything you buy in jars. 

I sewed some produce bags from 100% cotton pillow cases I bought from the thrift store. I used some old dust bags from shoes and purses. And, I bought one set on amazon

If you don't have access to a lot of bulk, you should check out my post on how to shop when you don't have bulk options

Are you feeling brave enough to go on a zero waste shopping trip?