A Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping : Without a Bulk Store
Updated: May 27
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If you follow me on Instagram you know I go bulk shopping every weekend ! It helps me avoid so much unnecessary waste.
I have been hearing from so many people that bulk shopping just isn’t an option for them . Either they don’t have access to one or they have serious allergies and the risk of contamination with bulk food is too high.
As much as I wish there was a bulk store on every corner ... there just isn’t.
How are you supposed to be waste free when you can’t shop in bulk ?
Honestly you can’t ... but you can make a HUGE difference by being aware of what you buy .
Here are 9 easy ways to help you reduce waste while at any regular grocery store!
1. Buy Produce in Bulk
Most grocery stores have multiple options for their produce . You can buy a big bag of potatoes or you can stuff your own reusable bag with bulk potatoes . Same goes for all other produce . Every grocery store I’ve been to has peppers , zucchini , herbs , tomatoes ,lettuce, spinach , onion , etc all unwrapped. Doing this will significantly reduce the amount of plastic you bring into your home .
2. Buy ingredients instead of pre made foods
This is a very important step in every zero waste journey . Even if you have to buy some of your ingredients packaged it will drastically reduce your waste if you are doing your own cooking and baking .
Bake your own muffins and cookies instead of buying them , create your own taco seasoning instead of buying the packaged stuff , make your own stir fry sauces, make your own salads instead of the pre made excessively packaged stuff.
Learning to cook will really help you on your journey .
3. Avoid Plastic Packaging When You Can
There are tons of alternative to plastic in most grocery stores ! You can get eggs in cardboard instead of styrofoam and plastic , you can buy spices in glass instead of plastic , You can buy pasta in cardboard boxes instead of plastic bags !
If you can’t make your own salad dressings and sauces choose glass bottles over plastic bottles .
Heinz now sells mayo in a glass jar and most vegan mayonnaise comes in glass .
If you are struggling to find a plastic free alternative check the organic section ! They tend to have better options though they also tend to be more expensive.
Aluminum cans can be endlessly recycled unlike plastic . If you can find BPA free cans they are a great low waste option .
Click HERE to read A Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping: Canned Vs. Frozen. (Spoiler alert... I typically choose frozen.)
4. Choose Large Over Small
If you must buy something In plastic or just something in any form of packaging choose the larger size over the smaller size . 1 large bottle that will last you a long time is a lot less waste than 5 small bottles .
For example I typically buy the 4L bottle of vinegar over the 1L bottle.
I buy my flour , sugar , baking soda , ect at the bulk store. If I didn’t have that option I would buy them in the largest packages I could find so they would last me a long time .
This only works if the item won’t go bad! Obviously it wouldn't make sense
to buy a large amount of something like milk that will expire before you can use it up .
The key is to avoid waste not create it .
5. Shop The Bulk Sections
This one won’t be helpful for those with allergies but for everyone else this is a big one . Most grocery stores have a bulk selection .
I’m not just talking trail mix , nuts , and candy. Most grocery stores have a bulk section in their bakery too.
Sometimes its just a small section in the corner but they are starting to get more popular .
You can get store made buns , bagels, and sometimes donuts all without packaging . Be sure to bring enough bags!
Grocery stores are even starting to get bulk oils , vinegars , and coffee !
6. Shop Local & in Season
Shopping local and in season is so important . Not only does it help your economy but it reduces the need for transportation and unnecessary packaging.
Lots of grocery stores have a section for local and in season produce.
If you eat meat and dairy check to see which brands are local to you ! This will drastically reduce your footprint.
7. Don’t Be Afraid to ASK
I asked my local grocery stores bakery if they had any bread that wasn’t wrapped yet . They said YES and handed me an unwrapped loaf of bread ! I was nervous to ask but I’m so happy I did .
Same with the deli . If you bring your own container most deli‘s will let you use your container for sandwich meat .
If you are unsure about your stores rules just ask ! Most stores are very helpful and understanding.
8. Reuse & Repurpose
This is so important and I can’t stress it enough. Find new uses for empty bottles and container! Use your imagination ! I store my borax ( water softener for my cloth diapers) in an old yogurt container! It works amazing and has saved me from needing to buy something new.
And when it’s time don‘t forget to dispose of items properly . Clean containers and recycle them if they are recyclable .
9. Bring Your Own Bags
This one is pretty obvious but I figured I should mention it !
Bring your own produce and grocery bags ! This will make a huge difference .
If you don’t have pretty reusable bags it doesn’t matter .
If you have a stash of old plastic grocery bags in your house take them and reuse them ... over and over again . They work great for produce too !
Plastic bags were originally meant to be reused .
Give them as much life as possible before recycling them .
If you don’t have a bulk store your zero waste journey will definitely have different challenges but it doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference .
If you do have a bulk store near you click HERE to learn how to shop at bulk stores!
Being conscious of what you buy makes a HUGE impact. Companies will only keep making items people actually buy , so be aware of what you’re buying .
Do your best, don’t worry about what everyone else is doing .This is your journey not theirs .