When I think of zero waste, the first thing that comes to mind is the grocery store, probably because the majority of what makes it into our house is from our weekly shopping trip at the supermarket.
Well, you gotta eat.
Our little town is blessed to have a grocery store with a decent, if hit and miss, bulk aisle. I’ve also come to think of the various meat, deli and produce sections as bulk because I’m able to bring a jar or bag to fill.
One question that has come up is how to get a jar filled at the meat counter. I’m here to tell you that it’s easy – you just gotta screw up your courage first.
I don’t use a jar for my beef, pork or chicken (I do for the deli case, but I don’t get a lot of deli items as a general rule, having some rather interesting food allergies, if by “interesting” you mean “extremely sensitive to artificial colors, flavors and preservatives”). I use an alarmingly bright orange Tupperware container I inherited from my sweet 92-year-old grandma when she was moving out of her house and into assisted living last summer. I like it because it has a large “mouth,” which means no one has to squish anything into it. I try to make it as easy as possible on whoever is helping me.
Although our meat counter lady told me once that she doesn’t mind – she’s squished all manner of thing into jars for people. I’ve also been told that it’s easier on their end when someone brings in a reusable container because they just have to fill it – there’s no paper to grab for weighing and then wrapping.
That made me feel better.
As for the courage part: It was hard for me the first time to put myself out there. I had seen someone else do it, so I knew it was possible; it was just asking that was the problem. It turned out to be less of an ordeal than I’d expected. And every time I ask, it gets easier. Also, the benefit of going to the same store all the time is that the people who work there know you. “Oh, right, there’s that crazy tall lady with her container. Yeah, pop that up on the scale.”
Anyway, if you’re thinking of getting meat in a container, I advise just going for it. What could happen? I guess if health codes don’t allow it in your area, then you end up with a package. And P.S., I’ve noticed that no one ever takes my container behind the counter – they leave it on top of the case and fill it there. Must be an Oregon health code regulation thing.
So, back to my shopping cart (wait, were we ever ON my shopping cart? The words get away from me sometimes): On my most recent trip to the store, I purposely shopped as I normally would because I figured that was the fairest way to figure out what my challenges were going to be.
Here’s what my cart looked like after I’d visited the produce section, bulk aisle and meat case:
Doesn’t that look like I’m doing great? Well, things are about to get ugly.
My husband likes packaged bread better than the loaves I can get at the bakery up the street (I’ve never gotten into the habit of bringing reusable bags for my bread purchases there, but at least those loaves are in one plastic bag instead of two. Justification!). My kids like potato chips and crackers in their lunches, and the occasional rice cake. Milk and cheese? Plastic and plastic wrap. Egg cartons can at least be recycled or reused in a variety of ways, I suppose. Olive oil comes in a glass jar, which sounds environmentally-friendly, but word on the street is that our county’s recycling program is going to stop accepting those soon because there’s no money in it.
Yogurt: Plastic. Cream cheese: Cardboard and then some sort of foil liner, so only partial credit for recyclablility. (Is that even a word? Spell check is mad at me right now.) Butter: We get some Amish brand that comes wrapped in paper, but you can’t recycle paper that’s touched food. And then there are the cans of refried beans and packages of tortillas (“random crap in a tortilla” is a regular dinner theme in our house), the tins of tomatoes and sauces, the cereals and oatmeal and jars of peanut butter.
Oh, geez, and this is just FOOD. I don’t even want to think about cleaning supplies. Or, like, toothpaste and toilet paper.
Taking a breath, this is fine, we’re all good, baby steps…
Here’s my cart by the end of the trip. You’ll notice I didn’t get everything listed above – we didn’t need all of that stuff – but those are all items that make it on my list regularly and can be found in my refrigerator and cupboards.
So there is clearly some room here for improvement. Although, disclaimer, instead of my usual packaged cereal, I did choose some granola from the bulk bin, just as a nod to the project and my future (it’s coming anyway, may as well accept it: Oaty Bites are a thing of the past for me. Sniff.)
Upcoming in the Walker household will be a conversation about what we can give up, what we are willing to try, and what we’re just not ready to let go of. This is mostly for the girls’ sakes, as they are the ones that are having the hardest time wrapping their heads around the project (I didn’t foresee that, although maybe I should have — New Ideas Are Scary).
Next week’s cart should look better is what I’m saying.
Next up: As I was writing, it occurred to me that I should probably explain what my shopping kit looks like and how tare works. So we’ll do that.