Grocery cart revisited

Last weekend’s grocery extravaganza, costing around $140. Um, that’s my living room in the background.

Grocery shopping is the least of my worries these days on the zero waste front — I’ve got my routines down pat. I do need to work on finding a source of bulk oils (vinegars would also be nice), and/or a source for unwrapped cheese. And I would absolutely love it if Eric came to me all like, yo, let’s just do bakery bread from now on in your adorable bags! (He doesn’t actually talk like that in real life, but this way is more entertaining to write.)

But I don’t worry anymore about what will happen when I ask for tare on my jars, or go to the meat counter with a container. Or what anyone will say if I pull out a bag in the produce or bulk aisles. Because no one cares.

The above photo (inspired by Anna’s recent post on grocery shopping in the UK) is a pretty good representation of what my cart looks like on a weekly basis. This feeds a family of four for the week, although I also rely on my pantry and freezer — I’ve got plenty of stuff I put away this summer for these rather blah winter months. But I should also point out that we are feeding two growing girls who can eat. 😉

Anyway: Above you’ll see bakery bread in homemade bags (HERE and HERE), produce in cloth bags or nothing (we go through a lot of carrots and peppers), ground beef in a container, and bulk in jars that includes popcorn kernels, peanut butter, garlic and onion powders, dried dates and apricots, and some peppermint castile for our soap pumps. That’s the YAY NO WASTE! part of this whole ordeal.

I ran out of jars but was having a coffee emergency, so that’s the paper bag on top of the package of oatmeal — I like that brand because it’s a cardboard box and paper packages. I also bought a box of cereal — Abby’s bye item, although Johanna picked it out — and that’s … well, not quite as great because there’s a plastic bag inside the cardboard box, but the bag can be recycled at my grocery store. Same cardboard and liner situation with the box of bunny crackers. Bread is the biggest offender — Johanna was with me, and she picked out bagels AND English muffins, and I let her because A) Eric’s bye item and 2) plastic bags with no inner liner. Eric’s bread DOES have an inner liner, and that’s just trash.

And that makes me sad. (Thus my bakery fantasy above.)

Tin cans made it in the cart — refried beans and tomatoes for the emergency supply kit — as well as glass jars of organic canola oil and rice vinegar (we’d run out of both), two gallons of milk (plastic, but recyclable) and a carton of eggs (Beth, how are your chickens doing?).

Oh, and not pictured because was already in the freezer: A gallon of Tillamook Mudslide ice cream.

Also trash. The container cannot be recycled, and it’s got a coating, so it can’t even be composted.

The only other thing that isn’t pictured — because I didn’t have to buy it last weekend — that is a common purchase is cheese. We have a cheesemaker in the area (ish), but they wrap their cheeses with plastic, too, and it’s incredibly expensive. (Although totally delicious.) I looked into buying milk from a dairy, incidentally, as suggested by someone in the comments, but unfortunately, that isn’t a thing here.

I know I can do better — I mean, there’s still a German deli I haven’t checked out yet that may or may not have unwrapped cheese and oils — although some of what I could do (like milk in glass) aren’t financially feasible for us. (I really do need to do a post where I compare the price of zero waste items to their packaged counterparts — I am positive that zero waste items are more expensive here, but I can’t prove it.) But I also think that, given I only had to make two stops — just my favorite market and the bakery — it’s not terrible.

And I’m super grateful for the bulk options in my area that allows me to shop like this. I know that’s not the case for everyone.

Bonus photos of the grocery store: I forgot to take pictures of the organic bulk coffee and tea options we have when I did my initial grocery store post, but I remembered last weekend! It’s actually kind of amazing that we have access to something like this — we’re not a particularly large town, and this is a rather decent selection:

Organic coffee

Organic tea

Next up: I have a treat for you on Monday — a guest post on emergency preparedness from someone who’s lived it.

12 Responses to Grocery cart revisited

  1. I’m surprised at how hard it is to find loose, bulk tea. We have an unbelievable variety of grocery stores where I live, (Trader Joes, Fresh Market, World Market, Whole Foods, Food Lion, Farm Fresh, Wal-mart, Target, Costco, Sams, Aldi, Kroger, an organic store, two private stores, and soon Lidl, all within a 10-minute drive) but none of them sell bulk tea, not even Whole Foods. The closest they come is loose tea in a zip-lock plasic bag. Now if I was a coffee drinker, I’d have a huge assortment to choose from. I just don’t get it. There is one small store that only sells bulk tea, so at least I have that. But they are bit hard-sell and expensive.

  2. We also lack a range of bulk tea options, although we have some; maybe a selection of 5 options at one store, and probably 15 or so at Whole Foods. I have noticed (as with bulk foods in general) that the offerings are skewed towards a certain sort of crunchy person’s tastes – a lot of green teas. Whereas I’m usually looking for run-of-the-mill black tea, redbush tea, chamomile tea, etc.

    With bulk in general, here at least, I find that a lot of the offerings are slightly exotic items that people might like to try in a small quantity, rather than staples that would supply a household’s basic and affordable food needs. And here, that is how bulk is sold: ‘buy only what you need’ (of this unusual snack mix, protein powder, flax granola, green tea), rather than ‘buy without packaging’.

    • That’s also disappointing — especially if you lean more towards pantry staples.

      I keep thinking it would be awesome to have a bulk store called BYOB(ag) — uh, get it? — but I’m not cut out for entrepreneurship. I just want to shop at a place like that. Someone steal my idea and move to my town and open that for me, okay? 😉

  3. I’m WAY less zero waste than I was years ago, but I did a post which was cost comparision (my zero waste store is a coop and more ethical = more expensive, as well as less waste). I changed my bloog’s url to directly point to it from clicking my name (I think… I hope?)

    • It worked! Very interesting. I wish I understood the economics of buying — then maybe I’d understand why some things are more expensive than others, even in the same store, regardless of packaging. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Great post. Love the detail, thank you! I’m new to your blog so I have a couple of questions if you don’t mind: 1) what grocery store did you go to? 2) what do you do with the lids on the gallons of milk and glass jars of oil (or any lids in general)? My understanding is that the lids aren’t recyclable but maybe that’s just my area.

    • I love questions! My grocery store is a chain that’s found in Oregon, Washington State and parts of Montana — so having the name probably wouldn’t do much good. (But should you live in any of those places, I’ll PM you.) And second, we are able to recycle the lids on milk jugs, but not glass jars of oil (or vinegar. Or anything glass, really). Recycling definitely varies from place to place. Ours is pretty liberal.

      Welcome to the blog! Not sure how much you’ve poked around, but you there are four years’ worth of projects here — mine is the fifth — and we’ll be collecting applications for Year 6 soon. I started reading during Kerry’s year (our founder), so it’s been really fun for me to get to carry on the tradition.

  5. In Australia it is almost impossible to get bulk loose tea as well. Sigh.
    Over the weekend I stayed with a girlfriend and we went to a farmer’s market in a tiny town nearby. It had the BEST unpackaged bulk stand! I was salivating and so so envious of those lucky locals. Of course, I did not have a single container with me, so didn’t buy a thing. I am going to check with my local farmer’s market co-ordinator and see if she can get something like that going here (but, but, why can’t someone ELSE do it?! I’m tired of having to be The Annoying One).
    I buy 1 kg blocks of local tasty cheese, and fortunately the plastic packaging is recyclable. Am planning to make some beeswax wraps this week, so when i *do* find unwrapped cheese, I have a good way to store it.

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