It’s no secret that grocery stores produce a lot of waste, from the packaging of the food to the actual food itself. But what may be surprising is how much of that waste can be avoided. By making a few simple changes in the way you shop, you can drastically reduce the amount of trash you create — and help the planet.
In this guide, I’ll show you how to go (almost) zero-waste at the grocery store, from choosing packaging-free produce to shopping in bulk. By following these tips, you’ll be well on a waste-free lifestyle.
What is Zero Waste?
The first step to going zero-waste at the grocery store is understanding what zero-waste actually is. Zero-waste is the philosophy of creating no waste. That means reducing, reusing, and recycling everything you can so that nothing ends up in a landfill.
In practical terms, going zero-waste at the grocery store means avoiding disposable items like plastic bags and single-use packaging. It also means choosing products that have minimal packaging or are package-free. And finally, it means shopping in bulk to avoid those little individual packages of things like snacks and cereal.
The goal of zero-waste is to send nothing to the landfill. But in reality, it’s impossible to eliminate waste entirely. So the philosophy of zero-waste is about doing the best you can to reduce waste and live a more sustainable lifestyle.
Plan Before You Buy
One of the simplest ways to reduce waste at the grocery store is to plan your meals before shopping. By knowing what you’re going to make for the week, you can avoid buying things you don’t need and reduce food waste.
Another way to plan is to create a grocery list that includes only the items you need. This will help you stick to your list and avoid impulse buys. You can also save money by planning — which means you’ll have more money to spend on higher quality, sustainable products.
I always have two lists when I go grocery shopping: a list of what we’ll always need, for example, milk, bread, egg, butter, etc., and a list of what we need for the recipes I’ve planned for the week. This ensures that I only buy what we need and don’t end up with food waste.
Meal planning can also help you save a lot of time and energy. By knowing what you’re going to make ahead of time, you can avoid the last-minute rush to the grocery store or the temptation to order takeout.
Opt for Zero-Waste Grocery Stores
One way to reduce your waste at the grocery store is to shop at zero-waste or package-free stores. These types of stores are popping up worldwide, and they offer a great alternative to traditional grocery stores. I LOVE this concept since it means that the store is doing the work to reduce waste, and I don’t have to think about it.
You can expect to find package-free produce, bulk items, and reusable packaging options at a zero-waste store. Some stores even allow you to bring your containers to fill up with products. A shop assistant will help you weigh the container before filling it, so you only pay for the product — not the packaging.
If there’s not a zero-waste store near you, don’t worry. You can still shop for waste-free groceries at your local grocery store. Just be sure to bring your own bags and containers, and avoid any single-use packaging.
Choose Package-Free Produce
You can usually find package-free produce at your local grocery store, farmers’ market, or even in the bulk section of some stores. When shopping for produce, simply look for items not wrapped in plastic or styrofoam packaging. You can often find fruits and vegetables like apples, carrots, and potatoes without packaging.
If you’re shopping at a farmers’ market, bring your own bags or containers to transport your produce home. Most markets will have weighed boxes or bags that you can use to fill up with your purchase.
At the grocery store, try to avoid pre-packaged fruits and vegetables. These are usually more expensive and often come in plastic packaging. Instead, opt for the loose produce that you can choose yourself. This way, you can avoid any unnecessary packaging.
Buy In Bulk
I like to buy cereal, snacks, grains, and beans in bulk. This way, I can avoid those little individual packages of things. And I often find that the bulk items are cheaper than their packaged counterparts.
You should only shop in bulk items you use most; for example, I don’t buy sugar in bulk because we don’t use it very often. But I do buy things like rice, quinoa, and oatmeal in bulk because we often eat them.
You can also buy beauty products like shampoo, liquid soap, and conditioner in bulk. These are often available in large containers that can be refilled at the store or by the manufacturer.
To find out if a store carries bulk items, simply ask a shop assistant or check the store’s website. Most health food stores and some regular grocery stores offer bulk shopping options.
Shop at Farmers Markets and Local Stores
One of the best ways to reduce waste is to buy local and seasonal produce. When fruits and vegetables are in season, they’re usually cheaper and tastier. Plus, they don’t have to travel as far to get to you, so they have a smaller carbon footprint.
You can find seasonal produce at your local farmers’ market. These markets are a great place to buy fresh and local fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, and honey. You can often find package-free produce at farmers’ markets, too.
You can also try shopping at local stores for seasonal produce. These types of stores typically sell produce that’s sourced from nearby farms. This is a great way to support local businesses and farmers while reducing your food miles.
Going zero-waste is not an easy feat. You have to plan, be mindful of your purchases, and be willing to change your comfort levels. But it’s definitely doable, and it’s a great way to reduce your impact on the environment.
Start small by bringing your own bags to the grocery store and avoiding single-use packaging. Then, work your way to bigger changes like shopping at farmers’ markets and buying in bulk. Remember, every little bit counts.
What are some of your favorite tips for going zero waste at the grocery store? Please share them in the comments below!