My rising level of anxiety about the massive waste problem that I was contributing to with my careless consumption of plastics finally got to me. 91% of plastic is not recycled. Plastic production is outpacing waste management, let alone recycling, and a significant portion of the problem comes down to our addiction to single-use packaging and disposable products. I decided I was going to try to stop buying single-use plastics.
The kitchen is where I began because it is where we spend most of our time and where most of our waste accumulates. I hoped to shop completely plastic free, no produce bags, no to-go grocery bags and no food wrapped in plastic. In the end, only the last part was actually hard.
First, I made a complete list of the items we had in our fridge and pantry. I then took that list to the local stores that sell food in bulk and made a check next to the items that I could buy in bulk, a P, G or A next to items that could be purchased in paper, glass or aluminum/metal. I would decide later if I actually needed the remaining items on the list and if so how I would make the best zero waste choice to get them.
Once I knew what and how much I was going to buy in bulk, I got glass storage containers for everything. While plastic storage bins aren’t single-use plastic, I still wanted to buy in glass since its a better recyclable material. It seems crazy to think about what is going to happen to your storage containers in 100 years, but plastic is not going to biodegrade within that time period (more like 4 or 5 times that) so I’ll always choose to purchase in a more sustainable material if I have the option. Plus glass is beautiful and transparent and everything I want for pantry storage.
Once you have the storage bins ready to hold everything from your grocery haul, you are almost ready for plastic-free shopping! Before you go to the store though, you will need to make sure you are ready with all you need to shop. I typically bring:
2-4 Glass storage containers for prepared foods section
2-6 Produce/bulk bags
2-4 Grocery bags
2-4 Bread bags or Beeswax Wrap
If you are shopping with glassware in the bulk bin section, you will need to get them tared first since they’re heavy and you don’t want to pay extra. Go to the checkout right when you walk in (bring your own sharpie if you remember) and have them write the tare weight on the top lid. If you do this the first time with permanent marker, then you won’t need to again. The people working in the prepared-food section have their own scale and can tare your containers before filling so there is no need to go to the checkout if those are only glass items you are shopping with.
I often put the bulk items in my canvas eco bags (they have the tare weights on the tags) and then fill the jars at home. This makes my load lighter and less noisy! The only downside is having to guess how much bulk food to fill the bags with. I usually bring at least two of my Bayco glass storage containers for the prepared foods section for the deli meat/cheese counter, salad bar and hot foods bar. It probably changes from store to store but I have found a lot of foods like yogurt, strawberries and blueberries that are normally only sold in plastic in this section!
Fresh bread from the bakery has been one of the most enjoyable outcomes of me going plastic free. I can’t believe I haven’t been buying fresh bread all along! To purchase bread from the bakery plastic free you simply go to the counter with your bread bag and they will fill it for you with your bread choice, sliced and everything and then hand you a payment sticker for checkout. I love the bread bags I got by adore amore. I keep the bread in these bread bags or in beeswax wrap and then for extra freshness I also put the bags in a bread box at home. We found one that holds 2-3 loaves of bread.
Overall I have found that plastic-free grocery shopping is not complicated once you are organized. The people who work in the store, and even other shoppers, are usually really helpful (and impressed by your efforts!).
Once you have your bulk items, bread or produce, you want to make sure you have the proper places to store them! Here is a roundup of the essentials I have used for at home storage.
AT HOME STORAGE ESSENTIALS
Ball Mason Jars
I love ball mason jars. They are great for smaller item storage and also can be used for so many different things. We use them as smoothie cups for the kids with these silicone top covers and as drinking glasses for ourselves. I especially love them for wine! Because they are such a staple, you can buy so many useful accessories for them like lids with straw holes and silicone sleeves to prevent breaking. I don’t mind the two part lid locking system, but if you hate it then you can get the twist tops.
If you prefer an attached top and want high quality glass storage, go with Le Parfait. They are very similar to Ball mason jars but have a fancier look. I like having both.
Bormioli Rocco Fido Jars
Bormioli Rocco Fido Jars are very lovely and similar to Le Parfait with an attached lid.
Anchor Hocking Montana Jars with Acacia Lid
Perfect for the pantry items that you really stock up on and want easy access to. We put everything from our mango slices and cashews to our flour and oats in these containers. The top is wide enough for dipping a measuring cup or for grabbing a handful of nuts. The lid is airtight but easy enough to undo so you can grab those snacks with one arm while holding the baby with the other. Win!
Bayco Glass Meal Prep Containers
I don’t love that the lids are plastic but I had a hard time finding airtight glass storage with quality bamboo lids. I also wanted a container that would have a clasp since I often throw these in my purse on the go, whether to the grocery store for pre-made items or out to dinner for takeaway.
A fun item to shop for. Style depends on you and your kitchen.