Having worked at an extremely large grocery store, I have seen an incredible amount of waste produced. Plus multiply that by all the stores across the entire country, and my heart hurts a great amount thinking about all the waste. However, I am trying to think more positively. Little steps can hopefully influence others to make a bigger impact on the waste (particularly plastic) problem. So let’s check out the steps I take in order to be a consciously consumer.
Make A List
This is one of the smallest, yet most important steps. We often write notes in our phones (no paper waste!) and erase the item once we have gathered it. Making a list helps in several ways.
1)Get only what you need We want to cut down on plastic waste, but this also makes sure we are not wasting any of the good food.
2) Limit impulse buys. We often have a rule where we can only buy 1 or 2 items not on our list to allow a little flexibility in the case of forgotten items. Limiting impulse buys can help cut down on waste because they are often processed or heavily packaged items (chips, candy, freezer meals).
3)Faster shopping trips Our favorite activity next to skiing and cooking is grocery shopping… call us crazy, I know. But honestly it’s very rewarding to get in the store, grab what we need, and get out in a timely fashion. This makes sure our time spent wandering the aisles isn’t dragging on and on and on.
First, Buy Fresh
One reason we head to the grocery store often is because of our love for the fresh veggies. When eating plant-based, it’s incredibly cheap and easy to get fresh produce.
And when we say get fresh veggies, we mean that you DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT TOUCHING THOSE NASTY PLASTIC BAGS. Go zero waste by purchasing the individual potatoes and carrots (which are just as good, if not better) because you are going to go home and take them out of the bag and wash them anyways.
Our staples include zucchini, potatoes, jalapenos, carrots, yams, onions, and spinach (in bunches not in plastic cartons). Seriously, so cheap.
Bulk has been that epiphany that has been right there in front of us this whole time. Not only do you only get what you need (see above under “Make a List”), it’s more cost effective to grab the brandless items without packaging.
Bring your own containers. It sucks when you go to buy bulk but still have to constantly be using more plastic. I’m that crazy lady because I have the same bread or tortilla bags, as well as other random bags we have accumulated from food items that I bring EVERY. SINGLE. DAMN. TIME. Coordinate this when making a list so you know you have enough containers for what you need.
After we get home, I transfer the loose bulk items to recycled glass jars for easy access and aesthetics.
This method can be used for, but is not limited to: spices, noodles, quinoa, nuts, oatmeal, peanut butter, and (my fav) popcorn kernels.
Consciously Notice Containers
Now that we have moved to food items that don’t come in bulk at your grocery store, we have to make sure to make conscious choices when grabbing merchandise off the shelf. Consciously make the choice between plastic packaging and glass ones. While technically, glass jars are still creating waste, they are much safer and better to reuse, and if they do end up in landfills, they do not create harmful chemicals that plastic produces. It’s like choosing the lesser of the two evils, but this choice puts you in a more observant mindset.
Plus, glass jars have allowed me to not have to buy new Tupperware, so if you see glass packaging as more expensive, make sure to add in the savings of also getting a new reusable item!
Read more glass recycling facts here: http://www.gpi.org/recycling/glass-recycling-facts
Or learn more deciding between the packaging types here: https://livegreen.recyclebank.com/column/because-you-asked/should-i-choose-plastic-aluminum-or-glass-bottles
Okay, I am hinting that you need to think while you grocery shop, but also think about buying concentrated items. That’s right. Smaller packaging = less waste, right? Let’s take for instance. Instead of buying Bloody Mary mix in a giant plastic bottle, maybe try using tomato paste from a can and adding water because (surprise!) tomato juice and tomato sauce is just tomatoes and varying amounts of water. Unless you want to go zero waste (which I have totally done before) and make tomato juice from scratch.
Same goes for any other drink concentrates, but my favorite concentrate has to be Better Than Bouillon. Amazing veggie flavor (better than any veggie stock) that is totally customizable and flexible for recipes. Plus the cutest little glass jar.
Grab Those Bags
USE YOUR DAMN REUSABLE BAGS ALREADY. Keep them everywhere. In your car, in your purse, in your jacket pocket (literally I have one that folds up smaller than my fist), more bags inside the bags, literally whatever it takes. Or be prepared to use your arms as a basket because we need to make plastic bags a thing of the past.
Grocery shopping can either be an extreme waste producer, or we can all make choices to cut down on consumption. Remember to think positively and Mother Earth will appreciate any small efforts made to bring down consumption.
Your Part-time plant eater and full-time conscious consumer,