Five items I no longer buy at the grocery store

I had such a lovely Saturday — I got caught up on laundry, cleaned my kitchen, made a double batch of chocolate chip cookies, took a rather great nap in the sun (!), read a bit of Station Eleven (eBook from the library) AND went grocery shopping.

That might not sound very relaxing, but it was everything I wanted it to be and more.

Anyway, as I was going through aisles — or not going through them, I guess — it hit me that there are so many things I don’t buy anymore that used to fill my cart. It’s part zero waste, part my jerk of a stomach (when you can’t eat the packaged cookies anyway, why buy them?), and part access to a fairly decent bulk section. But whatever the reason, I’m just excited that there are five less packages coming into the house to toss or recycle each week.

Exhibit 1

I used to buy mandarines every single week for the girls — they are big fans. Sometimes I’d get annoyed because one would be moldy and I wouldn’t notice until I’d get home, but I never thought about the waste, both from the netting and the label. Since the project started, I’ve just been buying plain ol’ oranges. No one has complained. I’m not even sure they’ve noticed.

Exhibit 2

I used to keep a package (or two) of granola bars in my desk drawer for emergencies. I tend to get a little crazy when I’m hungry (that’s the downside of a fast metabolism). I also used to buy packages for the girls to take with them in their lunches, to basketball games and practices, and just eat as snacks. I stopped buying them when the project started, but was having a hard time figuring out how to replace them in our lives. Then Jeanne saved the day with her No Bake Energy Bar (or Mom’s Weird Granola Bar in our household). I make a new batch every single week; I eat it daily for breakfast, Eric and the girls like it for snacks. It’s proved a very sustainable option.

Exhibit 3

Now THIS was a heartbreaker. Cinnamon is my favorite flavor (well, besides chocolate) and, having that aforementioned jerk of a stomach (to review, it refuses all artificial colors, flavors and preservatives, which is a ton of fun!), these mints were the closest thing I had to cinnamon-flavored candy. They come in a recyclable or reusable tin … that’s wrapped in plastic. I couldn’t justify them any more when the project started. I looked at them Saturday with a little longing in my soul — why lie? — but I don’t regret the decision, and know I will stay strong even after the project is over.

Exhibit 4

Cinnamon mints may have been a heartbreaker, but plain yogurt has been the hardest for me to give up — that used to be my go-to breakfast, with bulk maple syrup and maybe a sprinkle of walnuts. (That is seriously delicious.) Someone suggested recently that I start making it, and I’d love to, but I know in my heart I never will — it would just be one more thing on my plate. So I just like to walk by and say, hey there cow, and wipe the tear from my eye. (Okay fine, I don’t cry and I don’t talk to yogurt. But that makes for a way more boring story.)

Exhibit 5

It’s actually been a fairly long time since I’ve purchased individual herbs and spices at the store — we have a really great selection in our bulk aisle (you can even get some stuff in bulk that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the store) — but it’s only been a couple of years since I started taking my own glass jars in to fill. In retrospect, herbs and spices are a great way to dip your feet in the zero waste, bulk aisle, bring your own container waters. Because the jars tend to be smaller and easier to tote into the store, and it doesn’t feel as weird or out there.

There’s no real rhyme or reason to these items, incidentally — I just happened to see them and decided to snap a photo. And there just happened to be five. I’m trying to remember what else I used to buy, but it’s funny how you forget about things you no longer “see.” (I just don’t go down a lot of those aisles anymore.)

Okay, my friends, your turn — what have you given up in light of new zero waste or minimalist leanings? Do you miss any of it? Why hasn’t the world come up with unwrapped natural cinnamon mints? Is that too much to ask?!

P.S. I just remembered that our town’s plastic bag ban goes into effect today. I’m curious how this is going to look during my next shopping trip.

Next up: Updates! Including a rather scandalous story about Eric trying to circumvent my laundry room trash can situation.


7 Responses to Five items I no longer buy at the grocery store

  1. I don’t buy mandarins either! Also switched to plain oranges…turns out, they are more delicious.

    About making yogurt, is there really any advantage to making it at home if milk comes in plastic jugs? This is a question someone has asked me, and the irony is that I can get yogurt in glass (which is not returnable, but I always keep the jars to use), but my only milk options are plastic or cartons. I feel like homemade yogurt only makes sense from a packaging perspective if you have returnable milk bottles, but maybe I’m missing something, because this tip seems to be everywhere!

  2. I make yogurt at home, and I figure I do save a good bit of plastic. The yogurt container is thicker than the milk one, plus the science thing that volume increases more quickly than surface area, because of math. I know it’s not perfect. Maybe is I weighed both an empty yogurt container and an empty milk container I’d have better data, but I don’t have either or a scale that would weigh something that small, so I’m being less than helpful. 🙂

    I do want to encourage you to try making yogurt if you have a gas oven. Heat up the milk to 180 (when the skin forms), let it cool to 108 (ish, cool enough to handle with normal hands), add three teaspoons of yogurt, wrap in a towel and leave it in the oven 8-12 hours. I make it when I’m doing other things in the kitchen. I even do it regularly enough that we usually have yogurt available, and routine is sometimes hard for me.

    • I’ve been trying to answer Roberta and Jennifer separately, but I can’t. They’re too connected!

      I guess math does say volume over area, so that part makes sense. But I also kind of feel like, yeah, trading one plastic container for another, and if they both end up in the recycling, I’m not sure where the savings are.

      Plus I can’t seem to find a recipe that doesn’t make a half-gallon at a time. I’m really the only one who eats the stuff, and I don’t know if I like it *that* much. 😉

      Anyway, I have an electric range, but I’ve seen crock pot variations so really no excuses except my unwillingness to add that to my weekly routine.

      I’ve never seen yogurt in glass bottles! That’s kind of amazing …

  3. I have enjoyed reading your posts. I am sort of a newbie, so I have started slow with things such as not using bottled water, not using produce baggies etc. I don’t know if I can eventually do as well as most folks, but you have to start somewhere, right? I admire you and your family for your dedication! Our town and many towns around us have had plastic bag bans for years. Now our whole state is bag free. The hardest part is remembering to take in your bags. A lot of stores here have a sign on the front of the store saying “Got Bags?”. Otherwise, I just pile everything in the cart and put them in bags when I get to the car. Easy! Plus I refuse to pay ten cents for a bag both for the principle and because I’m cheap. 🙂

    • Kelley! Thanks so much for the nice words, I appreciate it.

      It took me a couple of years to get this all straightened out in my head before I decided zero waste was possible. It sounds like you’ve made some good changes — those are excellent places to start! — and you’ll find that success seems to build on itself. I think it’s wonderful that you’ve started!

  4. Funny story: a few years ago I was visiting in another province and decided to buy a couple of new bras. I am accustomed to bringing my own reusable bags at home but I was driving a strange car and no bags so when the store offered me a plastic bag for a nickel I declined and stuffed the bras in my coat pocket . When I got back to the car I took the bras out of my pocket and saw, to my chagrin, that they were severely misshapen from being scrunched up in my pocket so I started massaging them hoping that would restore the shape. It was then I noticed a gentleman in the car next to me watching intently. I wonder what he thought of the weirdo in the car massaging bras!

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