A checklist of must-have items for the conscientious, zero-waste grocery shopper!
1. Sturdy, reusable tote bags (canvas is best- washable and biodegradable!)
2. Reusable produce bags – mesh is versatile (can be used as a cheesecloth and to make nut milks) but the polyester isn’t biodegradable (though if you decide to buy mesh, 3B Bags will recycle them for you), and I’ve had a couple bags lose their strings. Which is why a really good option is…
3. Muslin, cotton or other tight-weave natural fiber bags! Vary sizes for teas, spices and small portions, great for finer ingredients like flours that mesh wouldn’t be able to hold. Make your own if you’re handy with a sewing machine!
4. Containers for “wet” ingredients like meat or deli items – cheese, olives, salads, hot bar, etc. I advocate stainless steel – much lighter than glass!
5. Glass jars or bottles for liquid ingredients (and extra fine powdered or staining ingredients like beetroot powder, turmeric, arrowroot powder, cocoa powder).
6. A washable crayon / grease pencil to mark bin numbers of bulk items.
Make sure to tare (weigh) your containers while they’re empty! The cashier will subtract this from the weight of your goods. A quality kitchen scale is a sound investment – I like weighted recipes better anyways! Less guesswork and inconsistency. If you’re buying liquid, make sure to know / note the volume of the container – sometimes that’s how you’re charged.
If you bring more than one glass jar with you, I advise packing containers with a tea towel or other cloth around them to prevent breaking and loud noise.
Shopping in bulk helps you purchase only what you need! Don’t forget to check out farmer’s markets, local meat and seafood vendors and specialty stores; they often accommodate bulk purchases. And meal-planning is a great way to plan-ahead and cut back on food waste – and helpful to see in advance where packaged products could be avoided, and save a little extra carbon by only driving to the store once or twice a week.