How to grocery shop and not drop the ball on the environment

 

Its time to break up with the plastic produce bags when shopping for your food

There – we said it.

These bags are horrible for animals, the environment, and your health in general. Your fruit and veggies don’t need to have plastic homes, trust us on this. They won’t fight, and they won’t hurt each other.

You COULD invest in the purchase of reusable produce bags – but for an easy DIY  and a more environmentally friendly version, make you own. I had a burst of brilliance (humble brag) about turning old pillow cases into grocery produce bags, the tutorial for which is below. If you don’t have any old pillow cases, I would suggest heading over to Len’s Mills Store with a reusable bag to pick up a few cheap pillow cases OR some cheap and light weight fabric.

Here is a great tutorial on turning plain old fabric into produce bags, if you don’t have access to a sewing machine however, I would suggest ours as it involves no machine and only a minimal amount of hand sewing.

What else do I need to shop for groceries zero waste?

Once you have your non-plastic grocery bags, you are almost ready to shop. The other essentials are reusable and sturdy grocery bags or baskets to carry your groceries home, as well as containers to shop bulk without the waste.

When possible – start your shopping at a farmers market

Stop thinking of Farmers Markets as places to only buy fruits and vegetables, because they have so much more – plus living in London, Ontario – we are beyond lucky for the amount of access we have to farmers markets.

  • The Western Fair Farmers & Artisans Market is open year round every Saturday 8am-3pm: This market is a bulk food buyers dream, most farmers don’t wrap their produce in plastic and are more than happy to take back the packaging that is on them so they can re-use them. You can get breads, vegan cheese, sauces, spreads, preserves, and gifts here.
  • Covent Garden Market is a year round indoor market ranging from fresh produce to gifting, and everything in between. Even more exciting is their outdoor farmers market open May to December Thursdays 8:00am-2:00pm & Saturdays 8:00am-1:00pm.
  • Trails End Farmers Market is open on Saturdays year-round from 7am – 5pm to bring customers locally sourced foods and other products.

Shop in bulk foods stores

Shopping in bulk food stores or in the bulk section is arguable the easiest way to remove plastic from the equation. If you haven’t been in a bulk food store in a while, or have only explored it for the candy aisle, you would be surprised what you can find. For example, bulk barn carries many pantry staples such as nuts, dried fruit, flour’s, chocolates, beans, lentils, soup mixes, barley, peas, bulk soaps and cleaning products, many different types of breakfast cereals,  grains, chia seeds, hemp hearts, oats, corn meal, bran, granolas, bulk coffee, bulk tea, pasta, rice, and so many others. Check out their website to see if they have what you are looking for.

Remember to bring an abundance of reusable containers and jars when you are going to buy food at a bulk food store..

Wait, containers INSTEAD of bags at bulk stores?

Yes – I know, its revolutionary. The Bulk Barn now allows you and encourages you to bring your own clean reusable containers to shop at their store. Simply bring in your own clean containers, have the cashier weigh them, and you are off to the races. More information can be found on this program here.

Zero Waste at the Grocery Store

Does it bother anyone else how readily available those flimsy plastic bags are in the produce aisles? Yes? Ok, good.

Like we said before, its time to break up with plastic bags. Use your own bags OR let your produce hang loose in a basket or box you bring to the store.

Trash is for Tossers has a great YouTube video series on her start to finish grocery trips to shop zero waste, and we highly recommend watching it.

Here are some other resources on shopping zero waste:

One Green Planet’s Simple Guide to Shopping Zero Waste

Tree Hugger’s 10 Steps for a ‘Zero Waste’ Shopping Routine

Going Zero Waste’s Ultimate Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping


I know how I should shop, but how do I pack my lunch to be Zero Waste?

Now that you have an idea of what you want to eat and how to turn your food into a Wasteless Wonder – its time to pack and prepare it. Click here for our third installment, Packing, storing, and breaking up with plastic wrap – making sure your food lasts

Articles in our Zero Waste Lunch series:

1 – Getting Started – zero waste starts with a plan (meal planning and recipes)

2 – Shopping with a purpose – how to grocery shop and not drop the ball on the environment

3 – Packing, storing, and breaking up with plastic wrap – making sure your food lasts

4 – Packing your lunch without packing waste

5 – Wasteless Lunch Week Social Media Sharables


This series was written and created by Kaitlyn Tyschenko, the Communications and Outreach Assistant for the London Environmental Network (Summer 2017). She can be contacted at communications[at]londonenvironment.net