Last week I published a post with my first zero waste tip, which was how to lessen your food waste. This week is taking you out of your kitchen and into the store with how you can buy zero waste food products.

Like I had mentioned in my previous post, before I was educating myself on the zero waste lifestyle, I had no idea how much stuff I was throwing away. This goes with packaged food as well. I’ve been recycling for the past year which has cut down on a lot of waste going to landfills. But what if you could eliminate that step completely? Rather than buying a can of Great Northern Beans, or buying a bag of dried beans, you can go to the store and fill up your own container of exactly how much you need. Meal planning comes in handy here since, a lot of the time, canned or jarred items come in handy because they’re easy and convenient. You don’t necessarily have to meal plan either. Buying bulk in your staple items is also an option. Let’s just get right into it, though.

Step one to buying in bulk: find a store near you that you’re capable of doing so. Let me clarify one thing. Buying in bulk doesn’t mean you’re going to Sams Club or Costco and buying a huge package of pasta or toilet paper. Here’s what I mean.

market-district-bulk-foods-sectionimg_0717

These are places like Whole Foods, Giant Eagle Market District (for those on the East Coast) and plenty of other health food stores. There are probably ones that are near you. If you type into the search bar “health food stores near me”, there will be ones that come up and you can probably check and see if you can buy bulk items there. Some even have full pdf lists of all their bulk items they have available. As you explore different stores, you’ll realize what they do and don’t have. You’ll find that some have everything you’re looking for but are a little out of the way while others are closer but may not have everything you need. It’s a battle of compromise.

Here’s how it works. You take your own container (I use mason jars but usually, any type of glass container can work. I like mason jars because they have lines on the side to measure in cups if you need to. This comes in handy with recipes), weigh the EMPTY container by itself without the lid or anything inside to get the weight of the jar, otherwise known as the tare weight. I write my tare weight on the bottom of the jar, that way I always know and it makes it easier for the next time.fullsizerender

If you want to write yours on the lid of the jar, keep in mind that you’ll have to match that lid correctly with the jar all the time. If you’re filling up on staple items such as pasta, flour, sugar, peanut butter, etc., you might want to consider taking a larger jar. Then you take down the PLU number of whatever item you’ve filled up on, put your jar on the digital scale (if one if provided), add in your tare weight, put your PLU number in and viola! You’ve just bought something package free! If the store you’re in doesn’t have a digital scale, make sure you hold onto your PLU number and have your tare weight written on the jar somewhere and then take it to the register. The cashier can do everything for you at the register.

Depending on your store, you can fill up on just about anything. Beans, rice, pasta, grains, legumes, cereal, spices, peanut butter, oils, vinegar, coffee, flour, sugar, seeds, fruit, and much more. Of course, it all depends on your store. Some health food stores even have bulk hygiene products like shampoo and conditioner.

Not only does filling up your own container create less waste, but it also saves you money since you’re not paying for any name brands or packaging. Not to mention your pantry will look so lovely and less cluttered.

Last but not least, don’t be afraid to try this! It’s going to be weird your first time around but if you have any questions, ask someone that works there! They’ve most likely dealt with it before and can help you out. The first time I asked someone for help, the guy didn’t know what I was talking about. I asked someone else, and she walked me through it step by step. People may look at you funny but if you explain to them why you’re doing it, they’re intrigued most of the time! I recently had a woman asking me about how she can bring her own containers and how it makes more sense to her. People are curious and sometimes all it takes is one introduction to something new for them to adopt this idea. Other people that already know about this concept usually give me kudos for trying to do my part in saving the environment. Either way, it’s always really cool to hear what people have to say and their opinions on the matter.

With that, I wish you all the best of luck on your next shopping trip!

Happy Shopping🙂