Can you guess the number one space in our home where we produce the most trash? The kitchen! If we focus our efforts in this one space, we will see a drastic reduction of waste and take a huge step on our zero-waste journey. Zero-waste food shopping makes a huge difference in your ecological footprint.
It’s Not About Being Perfect
Zero-waste food shopping is not easy. In fact, it’s all dependent on your access, location, financial situation, and diet. There is no shame if you can’t follow all of these suggestions. This journey, as we said before isn’t about being perfect. It’s about taking small manageable steps that work for you and your family. Even one or two steps can make a big difference! Until zero-waste grocery stores are the norm and not the exception, we can only take incremental steps. Every step counts!
How To Zero-Waste Food Shop In Six Common Areas
What is bulk shopping? Bulk is not what you go to big food club stores to get. Bulk isn’t referring to buying large quantities of items. In this instance, bulk food that is sold in scoopable containers without packaging. Bulk can range anywhere from dry goods to oils and vinegars – even soap. The bulk sections are generally in the health food sections of grocery stores. There are even bulk/co-op like shops that focus on natural, healthy, and local food.
Take your own containers to the store and fill up with what you need. You can get flour, sugar, beans, rice, oats, granola, trail mix, lentils, and more from the bulk bins. In order to do this, you will want to understand how to tare jars for zero-waste groceries. Because bulk shopping is by weight, this ensures you only pay for the product and not the packaging. You can re-use glass, plastic or other containers to do this! Another tip is to also buy re-usable produce bags and full on zero waste shopping kits. You don’t need to go buy a thing though, if you’re mindful about items that you buy and could re-use and if you think creatively.
If a store has a bulk section, you can usually get bulk spices. Using small mason jars or reusing existing spice containers works really well. Tare (see above) your jar beforehand.
3. Fruits and Veggies
Try to frequent grocery stores that offer unpackaged fruits and veggies. Farmers markets and local markets that support area farmers are also a great place to look. More and more local markets like Sweet Beet Market in Bradford and Warner Public Market in Warner are popping up around the state. Maybe there is one in your area? These options are great because most produce is local and in season. You can also look into CSA programs or community gardens for package free goodness.
Freshly baked bread can often be found at your local farmer’s markets, going to a local bakery, or seeing if your local grocery store will allow you to buy your bread without the wrapper.
5. Meat, Eggs, and Dairy
If you consume meat and dairy, look for local butchers who farm sustainably. Bring a metal or glass container (or even your crock pot insert!) to have the butcher fill. For dairy, again use your own containers at a cheese shop or deli counter. For milk, look for it in glass or consider making your own nondairy milk. When you buy eggs, check out your local farmer’s market where you can return your empty cartons or find a neighbor who raises chickens and become best friends. There are a lot of Chicken Farmers in NH. (Bragging rights to those who ‘get’ the photo!)
6. Liquids and Nut Butters
Many bulk stores also have oils, vinegars, syrups, and nut butters in bulk. Again, bring your own containers and fill up with how much you need.
Take These Zero-Waste Food Shopping Action Steps
- Check out your local stores (see below) to see what available bulk and package free options you have.
- Put together a Zero Waste Shopping Kit of your own.
- Start implementing 1 extra plant-based meal into your dinner plan per week.
- One by one, start replacing the items you generally buy in packaging with a package free option.
Places to Zero-Waste Food Shop
- Lebanon AND Hanover – Co-op Food Store: Find all kinds of dry pantry staples (beans, grains, baking supplies, spices, snacks, and more), as well as a fantastic liquid bulk section with honey, soy sauce, tamari, olive and canola oils, vanilla, and sesame seed oil. Take a look at their full list of bulk products on their website.
- Keene – Monadnock Food Co-op: Sells bulk pantry staples, such as baking essentials, grains, beans, snacks, herbs, and spices.
- Littleton –Littleton Co-op: You’ll see grains, flour, beans, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, olive oil, tea, herbs, spices, fair trade coffee, granola, and more.
- Concord AND New London –Concord Food Co-op: Features bulk basics, such as grains (stock up on locally milled flour!), beans (including some fun heirloom varieties), legumes, tea, spices, and more.
- Portsmouth –Portsmouth Health Food: Bulk rains, beans, nuts, seeds, snacks, pastas, herbs, spices, teas, liquid soaps, laundry detergent, dishwasher powder, shampoo, conditioner, and more. –The Spice & Tea Exchange: Bulk herbs, spices, teas, infused sugars, salts, and more.
- Plymouth –Peppercorn: You can find bulk grains, beans, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, snacks, granola, tea, herbs, spices, honey, balsamic vinegar, local maple syrup, olive oil, tamari, soap, laundry detergent, and dish soap.
- Manchester – A-Market: You’ll find a bulk section and many natural, organic, specialty and locally produced grocery items.
- State-wide: Summer and Winter Farmer’s markets can be found throughout the state. Check out the NH Dept. of Agriculture’s list here.
- Get a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share: Here is a list of farms that offer summer/winter or both CSA shares.