Show me the bulk

I’ve never thought about my favorite little grocery store as a bulk paradise, but based on some of the comments I’ve gotten this year,  maybe it is. We don’t have everything, but we have a variety, and that’s most of the battle.

To show you what I have here, I’ve assembled this little photo essay. One thing I’ve learned during the project is that the term “bulk” is open to interpretation. We have a bulk aisle, of course, but I’ve come to see bulk as anything I can get unpackaged, no matter where it’s located in the store.

Fresh fruit and veggies

This is our produce department. We have organic and regular, and this store is amazing about stocking local produce in season. (We have farm stands all over the place here, so in the growing months, I shop primarily from them.) No one bats an eye when I pull out my cloth produce bags, and I’ve gotten more comfortable with tossing unbagged produce in the cart if I happen to run out. (I’m a germaphobe. This is a big step for me.) And at the check stand, our cashiers are cool with opening the bags to see what’s inside and get produce codes. I know not everyone has checkers who will do that, and I always thank mine for being awesome.

Olive bar

And this little beauty is our olive bar. I don’t get stuff here very often, but it comes in handy sometimes. Incidentally, when I’m getting something from here or from the bulk bins, I try to do so without touching the scoop to my jar — just because I’m sure there are people out there who would appreciate that. (Remember: Germaphobe.) I know my jars are clean, but no one else does. I try to be mindful of that.

Bulk aisle part 1

Bulk aisle part 2 (I’m pretty impressed with all the herbs and spices we have)

And here’s our actual bulk aisle! Some of these bins are empty, but not many. The ones I visit the most are for herbs and spices, oatmeal, pasta, dried fruit (apricots, plums, dates), baking items (baking powder, baking soda, salt, flour sometimes, cornstarch, cream of tarter, etc.), rice, and beans. I also get my shampoo, dish soap and castile here. Sometimes I’ll get candy if I’m having a stressful week and am not feeling strong. I like to browse the aisle slowly periodically just to see what’s new, and I’m always finding something I’ve never noticed before.

Meat counter

Here’s our meat counter. If Mr. Plastic is behind it, I cry. But otherwise everyone is really cool about filling my container. P.S. This weekend at the meat counter (Mr. Nice Guy, thank heavens), a man was watching MNG put pork in my container, and he was all, can I ask why you do that? So I told him. About reducing my trash output, bringing my container for meat, and pointed out my bags for produce and jars for bulk, and then I told him how great MNG is about filling filling containers, and MNG was all, eh, it’s nothing, so he’s even nicer than I thought! And then Question Guy was like, thank you, that’s interesting. He may have been sorry he asked at that point. 😉 The end.

Maple syrup and yeast. And supplements or something?

Our maple syrup and yeast is hidden in the natural foods refrigerated section. I don’t have to get either very often, but I appreciate the availability very much when I do!


I get my coffee from a local roaster, but if I had to pick a Plan B, it would be the coffee bins. (Oh crap! I just realized I forgot to take a photo of the organic coffee and tea! Well, it’s like this, only with jars, and it looks a lot like the herbs and spices set up.) Actually, I have used this as Plan B.

The bonus that didn’t work out: I discovered the store had bulk dog food a few weeks ago, but when I went to take a photo, it was gone. I wonder if it’s a supply issue (trucks can’t get through in the snow and ice) or if it’s a demand issue — can’t say I’ve ever noticed anyone with bulk dog food before. Anyway, regardless, I’m slightly more bummed out than I should be, considering I don’t even have a dog. I just like options is all.

So that’s my grocery store. Not perfect — I still haven’t been able to convince the bakery department to put items in my bags, and we don’t have “serve yourself” bins to circumvent the no — but not terrible, either. I’ve mentioned this before, but anyway, once I started working with what was available to me instead of trying to fit my old shopping habits into a new zero waste lifestyle, it’s been a lot easier. Add meal planning to the mix — I still can’t believe that’s working so well — and I feel like I’m really getting somewhere.

P.P.S. Not zero waste, but Sunday we actually had sunshine and a high of 41ºF. I sat out in the sun and felt like I was sweating. It was awesome. Another snowstorm is predicted for Wednesday, but I’m in denial about that.

Next up: Zero waste at the office. It’s not quite as pretty.