food · low impact

a beginner’s guide to low impact groceries

when starting on this journey, the first thing I thought was ‘well how am I going to do this when I don’t have bulk stores near me?’

all the blog posts and pins and instagram accounts I had seen talked endlessly about glass jars and cotton bags full of flour and pasta and washing up liquid, and when I looked around me there was simply nowhere that would allow me to shop like that. the one place that was advertised to have this available actually had more plastic than a supermarket shop! I went home, bag full of clean and weighed jars, feeling very dejected and sad, and decided that I needed to find out how to do this thing without access to the amazing zero-packaging stores everyone else seems to have around them.

if you’re in the same predicament as me, do not give up! here are my top tips for shopping low impact without speciality stores.

step one: visit your local shops

my local greengrocer has been a life saver for massively decreasing my packaging consumption. almost everything is loose, they have refill stations for washing up liquid and laundry detergent, and they have a bulk section for nuts and dried fruit. I simply pile all my veg into the basket, they weigh each type separately, and I chuck it back into my shopping bag loose and mixed up. I’m washing them all before use, anyway, so a bit of potato soil on my apples won’t hurt!

they do still have some things wrapped in plastic, so my next plan is to ask them if I can use my own containers for berries etc. and leave the plastic cartons with them to reuse.

step two: consider your packaging

if you’re shopping in a supermarket, make an effort to buy products in glass/paper/tin packaging rather than plastic. these have an infinite recycling lifespan, whereas even recyclable plastic can only be recycled a few times before having to be thrown away.

step three: reuse plastic packaging

for those products which I simply cannot get hold of without plastic (looking at you, frozen food!) I slice the top of the bag clean off and then, once empty, use them as storage bags in the same way as I would sandwich bags. once they’ve been used a few times, I can then use them to store soiled cat litter to put in the bin. this means my single use plastic is never truly single use, and reduces my need to use any extra plastic.

step four: buy in bulk

now, I know I said this is for people who don’t have bulk stores, so hear me out! by this, I mean purchasing things which are in plastic packaging in much larger quantities so as to reduce the amount of overall packaging used. for example, one 10 kilo bag of cat biscuit uses much less packaging than ten 1 kilo bags. I also get a better deal for my money this way!

step five: ask if you really need it.

this is probably the hardest step, but the one that will be most effective! each time you pick something up to buy, consider whether you need that product or if you just want it. buying things in glass, or in bulk, or whatever else is great but only goes so far; it’s still creating packaging and ultimately waste. the big change is in reducing how much we buy in the first place.

changing our eating habits is incredibly difficult, but small changes can have a huge impact. next time you grocery shop, try shopping around a weekly meal plan instead of just buying things you think you need, you’ll be amazed how much less you buy! even something as simple as checking your cupboards and making a shopping list to stick to can massively reduce your packaging, as well as reducing your bill…

catch you next time,

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