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Zero Waste Grocery Store Challenge: Grocery Outlet

Zero Waste Lifestyle

Last Updated on January 23, 2024

Welcome back the zero waste grocery store challenge! This week we’re taking a look at Grocery Outlet where 99% of everything was wrapped in a package. It was very, very daunting. 

I did not have much success in any way shape or form. But, I gave it a try! I don’t have pictures of the actual groceries I bought because we had a fridge malfunction as soon as I got back from the store. 

Zero waste grocery store challenge, how to do a zero waste grocery shopping at Grocery Outlet

Our fridge decided it didn’t want to keep cool any more. In order to prevent as much food waste as I could, I started cooking everything in the hopes that I would be able to prevent our food from spoiling. I think I did pretty well. I only had to compost two things. 

Justin fixed the fridge, so it’s working just fine now. Yay! 

If you’re new to the grocery store challenge, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite bloggers and vloggers to help me out in different regions all over the US. 

  • East: Meredith from Meredith Tested: Trader Joe’s, Costco, Hannaford Supermarket, and Wal-Mart.
  • South: Manuela from The Girl Gone Green: will be going to Aldi, Publix, and Wal-Mart.
  • Midwest: Celia from Litterless: will be taking you to Kroger, Jewel-Osco, and Wal-Mart.
  • West: Andrea of Be Zero: will be featuring Lucky’s, Safeway, and Wal-Mart.
  • Pacific: Kathryn of Going Zero Waste will be visiting Target, Grocery Outlet, and Wal-Mart.

I started this challenge because I’m from a place where there was nothing in town but a Walmart. I have friends who STILL don’t have access to recycling. This in no way shape or form should limit them from participating in the zero waste lifestyle. 

Not everyone lives in an ideal world with ideal access. This challenge is about real people who want to reduce their waste to the best of their ability. I hope that these grocery store challenges will give them those tools. 

grocery store outlet: 

What a nightmare. Almost everything was wrapped in plastic. I haven’t stepped foot inside of a place with that much plastic in years, it was like my own personal torture chamber. 

However, they did have a lot of local food which I thought was pretty cool. I’ve taken some snaps from around the store to show you what I found. 

The first stop was the health and beauty aisle. The only thing I could find was Tom’s toothpaste. They take their packaging back through Terracycle. Of course if you’re feeling like tackling an easy DIY, I’d highly recommend you check out my tooth powder and mouthwash recipes. 

The next stop was the produce section which was very disappointing. Everything organic was wrapped in so much plastic. The conventional produce had less packaging, but some of it was wrapped too.

I thought this lettuce was pretty cool. It has the roots still in tact. So, ideally you could buy this lettuce and never have to buy lettuce again. 

It didn’t feel like there was much winning at this store. If this were your only option in town, I would definitely recommend looking to see if a CSA services your area. 

If you aren’t familiar, a CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Typically, local farmers will deliver a box of fresh, in season, fruits and veggies to your door step. This is a great website to look for farmers markets or CSA’s in your area. 

RELATED: Innovative Ideas for Cooking With Food Scraps

I did buy several lemons, avocados, and tomatoes! These babies came naked. 

They also had an entire shelf dedicated to lonely bananas. Lonely bananas have a 60% more likely chance of being thrown out than bananas in bunches. So, grab a lonely banana, and check out the catchy song I wrote to help you remember. 

So much packaging. But, I spy some semi-naked greens and beets. 

I also spotted some kimchi in glass! Rainbow Grocery has kimchi in bulk, but I don’t make it out there very often. It’s great to know  that this is an option. 

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping

After hitting up the produce section, I went to dairy. Surprisingly, they had vegan cheese! Of course, I had to try some. Growing up allergic to dairy, there were very few non-dairy options available.. especially in the middle of Arkansas. 

I feel like non-dairy items started becoming really popular around the time I went zero waste. During this challenge, I’ve allowed myself to get a little crazy and try some new fun things! 

I could only find soy milk in a tetrapak and decided to pass. Justin wanted cow milk and there weren’t any good options packaging wise, but they did have local, organic, from a farm whose practices I support. That was nice. 

I also noticed a large selection of egg cartons that can be recycled and composted. Just make sure to remove the sticker. Also, they had several Certified Humane. 

After the dairy section I wondered to the bread. I wondered the perimeter of the grocery store where you’re most likely to find package free food. 

I picked up a loaf of organic sourdough made in San Francisco. It came in a plastic bag #4 and I will recycle it at the top of the grocery store with other grocery bags. Be on the look out for the final report post where, I’ll weigh all of the trash and recycling that I’ve made in the past couple of months during this challenge. 

 After, I picked up bread it was time to head into the aisles to see what I could find.

The first aisle I turned down had a lot of legumes packaged in plastic #4. I stocked up on black beans, garbanzo beans, and pinto beans. 

It’s really easy to make veggie stock out of food scraps. You can get my recipe here. I always like to keep it on hand in my freezer. But, if you’re in a pinch and need some, always go for a can instead of the tetrapaks.

Steel cans have almost a 100% recycle rate and can be back on the shelf within 90 days of being recycled. 

The next aisle I wondered down had pasta in boxes, soups in cans, and pasta sauce in glass jars. 

The next aisle I walked down had a lot of California products. Glass is great because it’s infinitely recyclable without losing quality. That being said, glass is really heavy!  

When it’s shipped it has a much higher carbon footprint because it uses more energy to transport. While I still believe glass is always better than plastic, buying local goods helps to off set this. I was really proud to see a good representation of California goods at the store. 

Other things I bought that aren’t mentioned here are 2lbs of ancient grain mix and some organic salsa in a glass jar. The ancient grain mix was full of millet, quinoa, and amaranth.

I use these grains to prep lunches for work.  Unfortunately they came in a zippered pouch. I’m not sure if it’s plastic #2 or #4, but I’ll find out. 

This was my trip to Grocery Outlet. I’m very much looking forward to doing Walmart with all of the girls involved on this challenge! 

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  1. I can’t believe how inexpensive organic items are in the US…

    If it were like this in Canada, it would be so much more affordable to eat organic more often.

  2. The glass vs. plastic debate is so tricky when it comes to bottles and jars. While plastic is made from fossil fuels, something that many zero-wasters try to avoid, plastic bottles actually have a higher value as a recyclable commodity than glass right now because of the market. A lot of communities are actually suspending their glass recycling because the demand for it and value of it are so low. So even though glass can technically be recycled infinitely without losing it’s value, very little of it is actually getting recycled. Part of that has to do with the quality of the glass by the time it gets to the recycling facility; with single stream recycling, it’s typically broken into so many pieces by the time it gets there that it can’t be sorted properly. The other part of it has to do with how cheap the virgin materials are. It’s way cheaper right now to make glass out of virgin materials than out of recycled glass. The recycling market is always changing, and it probably won’t be like this forever, but it does complicate the plastic vs. glass debate. Here’s an interesting article that gets into it a bit more:

  3. What a brave expedition!!
    BTW, expect a massive reduction in plastics "recycling" as China clamps down on importing our garbage at the end of the year :/

  4. I’ve never liked freshly-ground peanut butter, which is the only kind I can find in bulk near me. So that Santa Cruz brand is my go to. I have so many of those empty jars now, which I use to hold tea and other snacks!