A win and a loss, and then another loss

Oh, you guys, I was feeling so good about my last grocery shopping trip. I’d talked with the family about the project and felt like we’d come up with some good compromises and solutions (more on that Friday). I was armed with jars and bags and my orange Tupperware, and I was going to DO THIS THING.

All caps so you know I mean it.

Johanna decided she wanted to come along, mainly because there’s usually a coffee stop somewhere in our future. (I know, shocking.) She generally gets a strawberry smoothie (although the kid is well-versed in the joy of an Americano with cream, I’m not even going to lie), and high on Roberta’s suggestion that I could use a jar for iced drinks, I grabbed an extra. And felt not a little smug about it.

I forgot to take a photo of Johanna's smoothie-in-a-jar AND my shopping cart, so here's a picture of Skilly instead.

I forgot to take a photo of Johanna’s smoothie-in-a-jar AND my shopping cart, so here’s a picture of Skilly instead.

Oh, hey, sorry, quick tangent — so the last time I was at the coffee drive-thru place, I asked, theoretically, what would happen if I brought in a jar for iced drinks, and the barista was all like, oh, yeah, you should see the stuff people bring in for us to fill, like a glass jar was the most common thing you could ever dream of bringing to a coffee shop, and then she added that if I stuck one of their stickers on it, I’d get a quarter off too boot.

She also mentioned that really the only thing they don’t do is reuse paper cups because they have those, and they’re gross to refill.

So when Johanna and I pulled through, I got my standard decaf Americano with cream (well, it was like 2 p.m., and I have enough problems sleeping without help) and passed over my travel mug, then said very nonchalantly, and can I get a kid’s smoothie in this? and handed over my jar.

And the kid was all, yeah, no problem.

IT WORKED! Success!

I paid attention to how they made our drinks, and they have reusable plastic measuring cups that they make all drinks in, even if you’re using one of their cups. I thought that was interesting and also exactly what I wanted to see, especially after reading Jodie’s comment about baristas in her area making drinks in a cup and then pouring them into her travel mug — then throwing the cup away afterwards — most of the time.

Oh, but I forgot to bring one of her reusable straws, so… I guess it’s just a mostly win. Next time!

Anyway. Johanna has her smoothie and I have my coffee, and we are ready to hit the store. I get tare on my jars, and then we start with the produce aisle. I get all the things except for the cauliflower that Abby asked for because it only comes wrapped in plastic. No waste. (Oh, wait, I forgot the lettuce has a blue band around it. One waste.)

Then we hit the bulk aisle. Instead of packaged crackers, Johanna gives the okay to sesame cheese straws (I later discovered Abby hates them) and then requests some pistachios. Next we get nut butter, my new best friend granola, and baking soda.

Oh, and as I was getting that granola, this lady comes over and is all like, I’ve never thought of putting bulk items in a jar! I’m totally going to tell my daughter about this! That was very good for my self-esteem. I do wonder sometimes what people think of my jars, if they’re grossed out or what. So thank you, nice lady.

Now is where it gets sketchy: My favorite mother-in-law turned 75 on Saturday, and we had a party for her Monday. The birthday girl always gets to pick her birthday dessert, and she wanted peppermint ice cream with hot fudge sauce and nuts. Nuts I could get in bulk; the rest, not so much. Oh, and remember how I mentioned I can’t eat artificial colors, flavors or preservatives without dying? So I got a single serving ice cream cup for me of a more natural sort, too. I could have gotten myself another package-less treat. I did not.

Then two gallons of milk in plastic jugs — for my $3.99 it would cost $12 to get the same gallon in glass bottles, and I’m just not there yet — two loaves of bread for Eric, a container of organic mustard for me and a container of stone ground mustard for him.

Not that all of this is trash. I can recycle the milk jugs, mustard containers and the outer bread bags, and reuse the fudge sauce jar. The ice cream cartons and that stupid band around the lettuce, yeah, that’s just going to the landfill.

But hey! I had more in reusables than not in my cart, and that made me feel pretty good, like maybe I can do this after all…

And then it was time for the meat counter. I take out my container and am scoping out my options and see that chicken breasts are half-off. Excellent! I’ll take whatever fits in this container, I tell the clerk guy. Clerk guy takes out a plastic bag and starts to reach for the chicken. Couldn’t you just put my container on the scale and get the tare and then fill it? I ask, but he says no, he’s more comfortable doing it this way. Well, that bums me out, but he’s already got the chicken in the bag so… that ship has pretty much sailed.

You probably don’t want this plastic bag, he says after he eyeballs the chicken and my container and weights it on the scale. No, I don’t, I tell him, and he dumps it all in my container.

Which is when I realize he’s way, way over estimated the size of that thing.

He’s struggling with the lid, and it occurs to me that there is only one way out. Let’s do this, I say, let’s put a couple of the pieces back into the bag and I’ll buy that too. (I mean, it’s touched my container, so I’m pretty sure I have to anyway.) I have to wrap this up in paper now, since it’s chicken, he says, and I just cry, basically, because now I have paper AND plastic to deal with.

And then go search out the hand sanitizer because he’s got the entire outside of my container all gooey from the chicken smashing. So I just freak out a little (read: A LOT. Internally. I’m not one for scenes) and then throw that whole mess into one of my reusable bags and call it a day.

Back in the car, trying to rally, it WAS my best shopping trip yet, with 11 packaged items (dumb chicken) out of 31. It was also, incidentally, the least expensive bill I’ve had in recent memory, although I’m not sure if that was just a coincidence.

I did get a photo of the broken glass, though.

I did get a photo of the broken glass, though.

Home again, Johanna has her smoothie jar in hand and I ask if she can carry up a gallon of milk, too. Sure, she says, grabs a jug, and that’s when we hear the crash.

Yeah, she dropped it on the concrete. Glass everywhere. She was wearing flip-flops, and thank heavens she didn’t lose a toe. She actually didn’t get hurt at all.

In my defense, I am usually optimistic about all the wrong things, and that Sunday trip was one of them. Don’t get cocky, I think that’s the moral of this whole sad tale.

The end.

Hey, I just remembered: Today marks our one week anniversary of the reusable beverage container challenge. How are we all doing?

Next up: The Walkers discuss our hopes and fears about the project. This actually went better than I expected…

15 Responses to A win and a loss, and then another loss

  1. About three weeks ago, I set a challenge for myself – I don’t get my first cup of coffee until I’ve been to the gym. Then to sweeten the deal, I get to go to the coffee joint of my choosing for my fix. I was feeling a bit guilty over the cups I was throwing away but kept forgetting my travel mug. I haven’t forgotten it once (or my water bottle for the gym) since you set the challenge. Keep up the good work!

    • Hey, that’s fantastic! I think awareness is really most of the battle. And I admire your ability to do anything before coffee. 😉 That’s a great motivator!

  2. I’m so sorry about the rough trip. I’ve been there. Like the time they changed the registers, no longer could put the tare in, and took all my glass jars into the back and transferred the contents into plastic bags…
    Hang in there! I’m feeling so inspired watching (reading?) you do this! It makes me feel less crazy to know someone else is out there doing the same things.

    • Roberta! The glass jar worked! I mean, before it got smashed or whatever. (Poor Jo was devastated. Dude, you get a bye when it’s your mother making you do this weird stuff.) I’m still riding the high of that suggestion — you’d think that, since I have so many jars and actually brew my coffee in one at home, I’d have put two and two together on my own, but nope. You’re a genius!

      And yes! That’s how I feel, too — less crazy because hey, I’m not the only one attempting to do this, or even just interested in this. I feel like I have a whole band of supportive people around me at all times. This online community is the best.

      And thanks for sharing your tare story … sometimes the best intentions are just not enough. WHY, WORLD???

  3. I feel for you – I mean, I’m thinking ‘next he’ll yell at her for all the world to hear’ – but alas, just general ‘I don’t wanna do it your way lady’ – which is also a peril one faces.

    Sorry about the smashed jar – but i betcha have more where that came from.

    And on the purchases – at the end of the day, the public zero waste heros, must have forgone so many nice things in sake of the cause. Like you, I’m not sure I’m that far gone!

    • Oh jeez, can you imagine what those early zero wasters had to endure? I mean, I can get all-natural M&M-like candies in my bulk bin, a new offering in the past two weeks. (They’re even GMO free!) I feel like I hit the lottery.

  4. Thanks for the great ideas on less waste at the grocery. As an update to the coffee cup challenge, it is going well. Easy since it was already part of my routine. Water bottle usage not as good but it is a change. Working to remember to bring a full water bottle from home since closest filtered water is a floor away. Better results in the second week!

    • Thank you for the update! It’s fun for me to hear how it’s going. Awareness is most of the battle, I think — I’ve found it much easier to remember now that I have to actually report back! 🙂

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