Grocery Shopping

Swaps

Here's a list of ideas for your zero waste / sustainable journey. I hope this helps! As a preface:

Beans

Often sold canned or in glass.

  • Consider buying dried beans and investing in a pressure cooker, which will allow you to speed up your cooking time significantly. Instapot is a popular type of pressure cooker these days. Small beans such as lentils cook more quickly.
  • Aluminum cans have a high recyclability rate (unlike plastic), but note they're usually lined with plastic to prolong shelf-life and prevent rusting. Some cans are marked BPA-free, but there are several other chemicals in plastic that are a health concern. Another note is that mining for aluminum is environmentally destructive.
  • Something to consider about glass is has the potential to break, which renders it non-recyclable. But glass jars are great for reuse as you go bulk shopping.
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Bottled water
  • In most parts of the US, tap water is safe to drink. Detroit, MI is a notable exception; it's horrible what is going on there and it's completely understandable for folks there to use bottled water. If the tap water is safe for consumption in your area, please do take advantage of it and bring a reusable bottle when you leave your home.
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Bread
  • Purchase bread at a local bakery using a cloth bag.
  • Some grocery stores also sell local bread unpackaged.
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K-cup
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Packaged Tomatoes
  • Stock up on tomatoes when they're in season. They are easily frozen and if you're into canning, they can be preserved that way as well.
  • Aluminum cans have a high recyclability rate (unlike plastic), but note they're usually lined with plastic to prolong shelf-life and prevent rusting. Some cans are marked BPA-free, but there are several other chemicals in plastic that are a health concern. Another note is that mining for aluminum is environmentally destructive.
  • Something to consider about glass is has the potential to break, which renders it non-recyclable. But glass jars are great for reuse as you go bulk shopping.
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Plastic produce bags
  • Reusable organic cotton or hemp bags: tightly woven for bulk grains, mesh for produce.
  • I don't use a bag for most produce. I simply put it in my cart and checkout. I group like-items on the conveyor belt to make it easy for the cashier. If I'm buying a lot of little things, like tiny red potatoes or cherry tomatoes, I use a cloth bag so they're easier to wrangle.
  • Mason jars. Over time, you may notice the original lids start to rust. You can replace them with stainless steel lids with removable silicone seals. I found mine on Amazon, but the specific ones are no longer available on there. There are plenty of options on there though.
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Plastic shopping bags
  • Most people already have a bunch of reusable bags lying around their house from events, conferences, and so on. Reuse what you have!
  • If you need a new one, these organic cotton mesh bags are super cute.
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Produce

Produce (fruit, veggies)

  • If given the option, opt for produce with less packaging. For instance, if given the choice between cherry tomatoes in a plastic clamshell package (which is not recyclable even if it has the chasing arrow resin code) and buying them without packaging with my cloth bag, I'll choose the later so long as there isn't a huge price disparity. Depending on your budget and the available options, you need to make the best call that works for your situation. As an aside, sometimes produce is packaged in cardboard crates which is much better than plastic containers but not as ideal as no packaging. Note: The plastic stickers on produce are prevalent so they are unavoidable unless you go to a farmer's market.
  • Farmer's markets have predominantly unpackaged produce without stickers! Plus, it allows you to support your local farmers and build a relationship with them. It's great if you have access to one in your area.
  • Try a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). With a program like this, you sign up for a weekly or monthly allotment of produce, while also supporting local farmers. These usually have minimal or no plastic packaging. There usually is a pick-up spot for these, either at a local farm or at a natural foods store.
  • Imperfect Foods is similar to a CSA in a sense, except you can sign up online and they deliver to your door. What's extra cool about them is they sell wonky shaped and otherwise slightly imperfect but still edible produce that doesn't meet grocery store standards. This diverts a lot of produce from landfills. They also sell some pre-packaged foods. Their produce is largely not in plastic packaging, with the occasional exceptions. A lot of their pre-packaged foods are sold in plastic. But the bright side is that the food they sell could otherwise be wasted; so you're diverting food waste. They also have a box return program, where you can leave your empty box out for pickup during the next delivery day. Then they donate it to food banks for reuse.
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Soda
  • Buy a used SodaStream to make your own carbonated, flavored beverage.
  • Make your own lemonade, iced tea, juices, or smoothies.
  • If you're buying soda in plastic bottles, switch to aluminum cans sold in cardboard boxes. A lot of resources go into making the aluminum, but it's arguably better than contributing to more plastic pollution.
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Tea bags

These often contain plastic.

  • Stainless steel tea balls
  • Stainless steel mesh strainer
  • French press
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