Zero Waste Grocery Tips without a Bulk Store
Updated: Feb 17
Zero waste bulk stores are not available everywhere. Where I live we have a few in the larger cities and that’s about it. Unfortunately for me this is not close by and I have to get by visiting regular grocery stores. This makes zero waste groceries not really zero waste but as low waste as possible and I want to share a few tips with you to make your daily groceries as low waste as possible.
Go for a different type of packaging instead of plastic. Did you know that the use of plastic packaging has increased over 100 times since the 1960s?
There is no need to contribute to this waste therefore choose a different type of packaging material. Aluminum, glass, and cardboard are all better options compared to plastic. Another interesting fact is that even though plastic packaging has increased severely over the past 60 years, glass packing has ‘only’ double in use. Meaning lots of packaging that used to be glass is now plastic.
Some jars may look like glass but are plastic, unfortunately. So, be careful. Always tap the container with a fingernail so you can hear whether or not the packing is indeed glass. Another advantage of glass jars is that when it is empty, you have an empty jar that you could use for other purposes. These could be food-related like storing snacks but glass jars have lots of more uses like storing craft materials, storing toothbrushes, etc.
Aluminum is a great choice even though cans are often made from more materials than just aluminum (manganese, iron, copper, and silicon). Mainly because the can, lining, and lid are made in different factories. However, closed-loop recycling of aluminum cans is a very low carbon footprint and is, therefore, a great alternative to plastic.
Make it yourself
Salt is widely used in pre-made food mixes because of its wide uses. It has preservative and antimicrobial effects and is a flavor enhancer. However, over the past decades, we have become aware of the negative effect of salt in our diet as high salt consumption is linked to hypertension and consequently a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
So making your own spice and backing mixes is not only healthier for you, but it also saves you from lots of package waste and saves you money. Homemade spice mixes also taste much better as there is no added salt in your mixture (if you don’t want it). You can purchase herbs and spices so you can make these exactly as you would like. Don’t like cilantro? Leave it out of the recipe. Don’t like spicy food? Half (or quarter) the dose of chili in your recipe.
Making your own bread can be a challenge. Therefore I have a bread-making machine but this machine has more awesome purposes as it can also make a cake, jam, and dough. The latter function is most often used in our house as we make lots of pizza. The machine does everything from kneading to rising and kneading again. I just put all the ingredients in the machine and after about 90 minutes I have pizza dough. Now I only need to roll it out, put all ingredients on top of it, and put it into the oven.
Buy in bulk
Like I mentioned before, I don’t have a zero-waste bulk store nearby but I do buy everything as bulk as possible. I buy rice in bags of 10kg which lasts me almost forever. Pasta I also buy in bulk although the bag is not as big. This saves a lot of packaging and a lot of money too. Flour for backing, I buy at the mill (I am Dutch so plenty of mills but our local grocery stores sometimes also have large bags of flour). Coffee and tea I buy in a specialty store. The owner is awesome and is ok with me bringing my own container for both coffee and tea. I think I am the only one who brings their own can of coffee beans but I don’t really care about that. I care more about not using plastic. Often smaller stores are more open to bringing your own container. Use this as an advantage.
The consumption of meat is rising every year due to a growing human population this has big negative consequences for land and water use as well as environmental change. Next to being not very sustainable, it is also bad for your health as it increases the risks of chronic illness, such as colorectal cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
So, eating less meat is recommended, not only to benefit our environment but also to improve your health. Lots of plant-based meat alternatives are available nowadays. These meat alternatives are often made with wheat, soybean, legumes, oilseeds, or fungi and are known to be good sources of plant-based proteins.
The texture might be different from your regular meat products and this might take some getting used to. Try out different types to see which you like best.
Another option would be to make a meal with beans or nuts to substitute the protein. I am not a big fan of tofu either so I cook with beans and nuts often.
Visit your local farmer market regularly and bring your own cotton bags. The average lifespan of a plastic bag is 12 minutes and takes centuries to decompose. Let's not contribute to that and bring our own bags.
On a farmers market, you not only have a large choice in fruits, vegetables, and nuts but these products are not pre-packed saving you a lot of packaging. Products on a farmers market are also cheaper and locally produced reducing your carbon footprint even further.
I hope this blog post gives you some inspiration for doing your daily groceries more sustainably.