A Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping

Going Zero-Waste doesn’t have to be daunting. If you’re on the journey to reduce your waste, you’re probably wanting to know how in the world to buy food and necessities without creating waste. Here are some of my tips in the grocery store on reducing waste.

  1. Reusable Shopping Bags. An easy place to start is by bringing reusable shopping bags. Most stores sell reusable shopping bags at the register, but if you want to buy a sustainable (and adorable canvas tote) check out The Tote Project. Another plus to using reusable bags is that you get a 5-10 cent discount per bag (at most stores), so eventually the bags will pay for themselves.
    *My trick to remembering my bags was this: if I forgot to bring my bags, my consequence was to carry everything out by hand. Let me tell you what, it only took a few times of doing that before I really made it a point to REMEMBER my bags.
  2. Reusable Produce Bags. Along with shopping bags, you should invest in some reusable produce bags! They are super handy and really help when you’re trying to buy fresh produce. You can find various produce bags here and here.
  3. Buy More Fresh Foods! Buy buying mostly veggies and fruits, you cut out a huge amount of packaging found in packaged foods. In most stores, there is usually a bakery department where you can buy fresh bread and wrap it in sackcloth or your own bread bag. It may seem that buying fresh food is more expensive, but in reality when you cut out buying packaged foods and only buying fresh, the cost ends up the same. You will also feel much better health wise.
  4. Stop Buying Foods Packaged in Plastic. Unless you can (and will) reuse the container. But plastic in general is not healthy for your body or the environment, so try your best to steer clear. Most foods packaged in plastic have carton/cardboard alternatives which are easier to recycle and biodegradable. Before you grab a plastic packaged item, scan the aisles for a fresh/ glass or cardboard packaged alternative.
    plastic               download-1
  5. Quit Dairy Products. Yogurt, Milk, Cheese, Ice cream, Coffee Creamer, etc. These all come in plastic containers. For dairy lovers, this might sound impossible, but when you start eating more plant based meals, you’ll find you don’t actually need dairy to survive. There are also dairy alternatives, like almond milk, soy milk and rice milk, which come in cardboard cartons, or are also easy to make at home.  And for those struggling with hormone, weigh or stomach issues, cutting out dairy will significantly help.
  6. Find a Local Farmers Market or Co-op. This will really help you cut down on waste because you don’t have to worry about all the produce stickers, veggies wrapped in plastic, and plastic bags. You can also bring your own containers to get the good things, like seasonings, flours, grains, refill syrups, oils and more.
  7. Buy From the Bulk Bins. More and more grocery stores today are adding a bulk bin section, which is great because it gives you the option to control how much of something you buy, so that you don’t have to waste it. It also allows you to bring your own container to avoid wasteful packaging. You’ll end up saving money this way too since you get to avoid the embedded cost of prepackaged items.
  8. Bring your own containers! This one, unfortunately, can be tricky. A lot of grocery store chains will not allow you to bring your own containers, so be sure to check with the store before getting your hopes up. Also, be sure to ask about TARE weight and if the registers are set up to do tare weight. This basically means you weigh your jar before filling it up, and write down the tare weight so that you don’t have to pay extra for the weight of the container. The registers (if they’re set up to) will subtract the cost of the container and only charge you for what you buy.
  9. Say No to Receipts. Most of us just crinkle the receipts and throw them away anyway. If, for some reason you need the receipt, then take it and just be sure to recycle it later.
  10. Give Yourself a Grace Period. I’m partially writing this because I feel better about having 10 points than 9, but on a serious note, really don’t stress too much. A lot of this progress will come with time, which takes patience. For me, the hardest part was actually finding a co-op or farmers market where I can shop and bring my own containers. It was really frustrating to WANT to go zero waste, but have no resources (with groceries) to do so. It takes time, so don’t worry and don’t feel bad in the mean time. If you’re doing all that you can, then you’re doing great! Keep it up, and before you know it, you’ll be shopping zero waste!

Resources in Austin, Texas

If you live in Austin, Texas, my favorite co-op is Wheatsville Co-op. I find everything I need there and their bulk section is incredible. They have 2 locations, so no matter what side of town you live on, there’s probably one not too far from you.

There’s also HEB, Whole Foods and Natural Grocers with a good bulk selection, but make sure to ask about bringing your own containers with TARE weight because some stores (like HEB) aren’t set up to do that.

Resources in Your Area

If you don’t live in Austin and want to find a farmers market, co-op, or store with bulk bins, just google “farmers market near XYZ” for example.

Good luck with your zero-waste shopping adventures. You’ve got this!



Featured Image: Austin Acupuncture Wellness

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