Monday, May 19, 2014

Getting ready for Zero Plastic Week: How do I shop for food???

Zero Plastic Week is fast approaching (June 9!), and one of the biggest changes I faced when removing plastic from my life was shopping for food.  So much of what is found in a conventional supermarket is packaged with plastic. So what can you eat??

The first thing you need to do is a find a store near your area that sells food in bulk bins. (Bea Johnson, from Zero Waste Home has a great app that will help you find bulk stores in your area) Whole Foods usually has a good selection, but often times small, local stores will also sell bulk foods.

After you find a store, you will need to put together supplies for your shopping trip.  Some suggestions, depending on what your local store sells and what you like to eat:
  • Grocery bags
  • Cloth bulk bags (These are the ones I have, but there are a ton on Etsy if you just search "bulk bags." Ecobags also has some)
  • Pint sized mason jar for freshly ground peanut butter (or almond/nut butter)
  • Bottle for bulk olive oil/vinegar (sadly they got rid of this at our store, but you may have it in yours)
  • Pyrex containers for cheese and meat
  • Paper and pencil or note application on phone to write down tare numbers and PLU's for food
Once you get to the store, the first thing you should do is go to customer service or the checkout and have them give you the weight for each of your containers and bulk bags so you are not charged extra.  Write this down so you don't have to do it each time you go to the store.

Fill your bulk bags up.  If you are going to the meat or cheese counter, make sure you are confident and straightforward with your request.  Ask for no additional paper if you can, because most of the time it is coated in plastic.

My list of bulk food PLU's on my phone
When you get to the check out, make sure you have your list of PLU numbers and tare weights handy so you are not holding up the line.  I think it's important to show that being plastic free doesn't have to be a hassle to you OR other people around you.  And that means being prepared.  I also try to group all of the things in bulk bags together on the belt so the cashier can do them all at once.

One other plastic free (or less-plastic) thing you may be able to find is milk.  Our Whole Foods sells milk in returnable glass bottles (the lids are plastic, but that's a lot less than a whole plastic gallon).  I bring a cooler with me for the bottles, and as we use them up during the week, I put the empties back in the cooler to go back to the store for next time.

At home, you can empty your bags into glass jars or containers.  Reuse empty jars that food came in, or use mason jars (the le parfait ones work well and are sturdy, if you find them on sale!).

Also, please don't forget about your local farmers market for plastic free produce.  The quality is usually better, there aren't any pesky produce stickers, and you'll get to know your local farmers.

Sign up for Zero Plastic Week here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Zero Plastic Week: June 9th - 15th (Get a jumpstart on Plastic Free July?)

I just heard about some awesome people in the Netherlands who are hosting a Plastic-Free Week in June. The premise?  Use no new disposable plastic for an entire week. (No plastic shopping bags, produce bags, throw away coffee cups, etc.)  If you are up for the challenge, here is their website and you can join the event on Facebook.

Not sure where to start?

  • Bring your own bags to the supermarket
  • Shop your farmers market for produce that has less packaging (I've found this especially helpful for finding spinach and cherry tomatoes)
  • Bring your own water bottle and coffee mug
  • Say no to straws, or bring your own glass or stainless steel one
  • Bring your own lunch to work or school
  • Make your own yogurt and beans (dried beans are cheaper anyway!)
  • Buy your bread from a bakery or make your own
  • Shop the bulk bins and use your own bags
  • Say no to disposable coffee pods!
  • Make your own cleaning supplies (and how to do laundry without plastic)
  • Use bar soap instead of liquid
(Martha's directions on making yogurt, which are super easy; a great recipe for homemade bread, I make this all the time; how to cook dried beans in the crockpot)

For more ideas, visit Zero Plastic Week's website, or Beth Terry's, or Plastic Free July's