How to Survive the Grocery Store Zero Waste Style

Kermit said “its not easy being green”, but what I think he actually meant was “its not easy going green”. At least not at first. By nature human beings are really adaptable, but we don’t really love change. If you ask our French friends they might say that Americans are really good at adapting to change, its one of the only things they admire about us. Zero waste requires change, serious change, in your thinking, your planning, your vision. Its feasible change though!! Once you get through your first shopping trip the sense of empowerment sets in. You can do it, you can change. Its certainly not smooth sailing going forward, but that is because our society has not yet adapted to make it smooth for us. We’ll get there, its already happening all over the world.

Muster up the strength, fill up a cart with an orchestra of jars, clang your way to the customer service counter and weight those puppies away. Then make your way around the perimeter of the store. You will find enthusiastic types and nay sayers, its the nature of the “change” beast, just ask your stubborn elder (you know who you are) they’ll tell you about the good ol’ days. Cheese sans wrapping please, fill my jar with as many drumettes as you can squeeze in there. The bulk section was made for jars and reusable bags! When they give you trouble you mutter that you gave up your trash can for 2017 or like I did today “my daughter really loves sea turtles and so we have given up the plastic that hurts them”. The kids in the race-car cart where very perplexed. While in line stand with pride as others look your way and cower as they realize that everything in your cart is gorgeous displayed in jars while theirs is full of plastic soon to fill the oceans. My Vegan Aunt said she would swing her hand basket in pride, singing to herself a little rhyme about how her basket was full of healthy, fresh items while others were filled with dead carcasses. You have change in your cart how many people can say that?

To get through the grocery store not only do you have to have a strong spine and thick skin but you also need the right supplies! I have collected the following to make my shopping adventures easier. If you have any brilliant ideas PLEASE share! There is always room for improvement.

My kit includes:

  • Reusable Bags – I really love this one that I used as a diaper bag with Marilyn. I wanted something I would use again and wasn’t covered in some sickly cute print, so my sister surprised me with it for my baby shower. I loved that it stood up on its own, was made in the USA, and was open on the top so in emergencies everything was immediately available. All of these qualities also make it great for zero waste shopping! It lives in the pantry and I fill it will jars as I empty them throughout the week. I also have a mishmash of free, cloth options, which honestly annoy me most of the time. They work so I can’t really justify replacing them with something else right now. As they fall apart (which they have been doing) I’ll replace with something similar to my favorite one.
  • A Lot of Jars – I have a ton of Ball jars I have used for canning in the past, some oversized ones, some glass tupperware for things like meat and cheese, and some metal hinged ones that I recently bought. I bought mine through Anchor Hocking because they have this nice statement on their website about how their products are made in the USA and have been since forever. Well when I received my box of jars they were surrounded by plastic despite my request to not be, and when I flipped them over I was horrified. Not only does the tag say made in China, but the words are imprinted on the glass. Imprinted. When I called to initiate a return and express horrification the lady and her supervisor basically told me too damn bad and if I wanted to return them I would have to pay for the shipping and pay a 30% restocking fee. WOW. Those jerks!! Needless to say I won’t be buying their products anymore, nor should you. Maybe I should sick Trump after them…..that is one thing he seems to be good at….
  • Cloth Bags – I mostly use these for produce and some bulk items flour, sugar, rice, laundry soap etc.  I have a few mesh ones that were given to me by my mother in law, but the others I made from a linen shower curtain I purchased in the wrong size. It was such beautiful linen I couldn’t bear to donate it, its been taking up room in my closet for years! The other night I sat down and sewed some drawstring bags and used scraps of colorful vintage linen. I was apprehensive about the mishmash of colors, but it ends up being really helpful. The navy one I have been using for laundry soap and even though it gets washed between uses I don’t tend to choose that one for flour or sugar just to be safe.
  • Canning Funnel – This will make your bulk grocers very happy and it makes filling your jars so much easier! No mess all over the floor. I picked an extra one up at the hardware store after searching for a used one left me empty handed. I keep one in my favorite shopping bag.
  • Crayon – At my whole foods they only offer pens and pencils and that doesn’t write on a glass jar very well. I borrowed a red crayon from Marilyn’s set, its a sea rock non-toxic crayon that I believe is sold only in a plastic bag but there are lots of options out there that are plastic free. Good Earth market offers refillable crayons, it might be worth purchasing down the road but for now Marilyn’s crayon is working.
  • Glass Jug – This is for Orange juice, I bought a glass jug made in the USA from my grocery store that holds 64oz . You could find something else or utilize a used option. I like this because its easy to handle and they know it is 64oz so there are no second glances. I love the juicing machine, it reminds me of Starbucks in France, yes I went to Starbucks in France (my husband, ugh) and yes they offered fresh squeezed juice!
  • My List – When shopping once a week and via zero waste it is ABSOLUTELY necessary to have a list. Absolutely. I am a notorious leave my list on the counter type, but since my shopping trips have become “planned” I find its making its way with me every time . I have adopted Bea Johnson’s list idea. Its made of scrap papers folded and cut in to fourths and fastened together with a binder clip that also works as a hook to hang inside our go to cabinet (near the car keys). It has two columns one for food and one for everything else. This list is great because everyone writes what they need on there, well except Marilyn who shouts out her requests as I am writing notes on it, and I can utilize my day of errands based on the list.


With a little gumption you can adopt zero waste shopping in your house too! Remember you can vote with your dollars every day!!


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