The other day I was unloading groceries on the kitchen counter. It’s a bit of an ordeal because I have to take all my mason jars from the pantry to decant my bags of dry goods into them, and take the produce out of their little reusable baggies so I can roll them up with my Envirosax bags.
But, by ordeal I don’t mean that I hate it. I actually realized just then, I’ve come to absolutely love my food-getting routine because I have it pared down to an Eco-friendly science at this point, and I save a lot of money. It’s one of only a few things I have a sense of control over in my life. However, what it isn’t, anymore, is convenient. At least, not when compared to the way grocery stores want you, and lead you, to shop. And that, too, gives me a sense of rebellion I have grown to be addicted to (starting with one itty bitty thing will make you want to examine everything else you do in life, and improve them all.)
So, because it’s awesome to be a tree-hugger, and because I’m getting pretty good at it, I thought I would share some of my greener ways (I promise it’s more worth it than painful). I am starting with my grocery routine. Here are some ideas:
- Ditch all disposable bags. This is the obvious one and most people are using reusable bags these days. I have been using the same set of Envirosax I got on Amazon for several years because they hold a lot, are really cute, roll up small, and are washable. A set of 5 is around $35 and I use them for everything! But you can take it further and reduce the use of the thin, disposable bags for produce and bulk items, by bringing your own reusable bags and containers. I use small muslin bags for bulk items like beans and grains, and thin mesh bags for produce. Extra hippie points if you make your own from old fabric items, but I purchased mine at an Eco shop (locally made by someone way cooler than me).
- Reduce other packaging. Bulk bins are the way to go, even if you don’t bring your own containers. The packaging is still less, and it’s far less expensive. I think dry beans are about 1/5 the cost of a can of beans (serving for serving). Most grocery stores will allow you to use your own containers for things like spices, as well. You weigh the container first, then when you are checking out your items you have them subtract the container weight. Easy! And while you will spend something like $4 for a small bottle of most spices in the spice aisle, you will pay cents for bulk equivalents. You will feel like you totally robbed them the first time. I use these containers for spices, and you can see my post here about it (three years later, a different kitchen, and I still love my system).
- Figure out a good food storage system. Of course, if you buy in bulk and use your own bags, the stuff you buy won’t come in its own package. Investing in food storage containers is crucial to saving money in the long run. I use canning jars for my dry goods and it’s perfect. You can keep using them forever.
- Buy local. In the summer I go to the Farmer’s Market to get lots of things, and there is no down side to it. It’s cheaper, it’s healthier, it supports your local community and farms, and nothing has to be shipped from across the country. Plus it’s wayyy more fun than going to a grocery store. Also, I’ve recently starting participating in a local co-op for produce and bread. Every Saturday I pick up my box, and it’s a real bargain. If you have one in the area, give it a shot!
- Have things delivered. We also have our milk, eggs, cheese, and Greek yogurt delivered from a local dairy only 1 mile away. Everything is hormone-free and local. The eggs are cage-free and organic. Between the dairy delivery, and produce/bread pickups, I don’t go to the store very often anymore. It saves money (less impulse buying) and time.. which totally makes up for the excess time I spend container-wrangling.
- Eat mostly veggies. Factory farming is bad for the planet. You can’t reuse or recycle much of the gross packaging from meat, either. Eating more plants and less meat will save money and resources.
- Buy versatile products. When a recipe I want to make calls for an ingredient I don’t have, I Google substitutes for it before buying it. It’s likely I already have something that will work. Pantry staples are pretty versatile. Also, some products are just worth every penny because you can use them in place of so many expensive alternatives. I’d never used coconut oil until about a year ago (Skinny Bitch in the Kitch recommends it for many recipes). I’ve since discovered it’s great for greasing muffin tins/bread pans when baking, as a facial moisturizer, as a leave-in hair conditioner, as lotion (in a pinch), as a mouth wash (really!), to remove labels from things (like its own jar when you want to reuse it for something else!), as a sun screen.. the list goes on. No jars of random, unused (or once-used) products.
- Compost the scraps. All the veggies peels, apple cores, celery ends, etc, can be composted if you have a garden (even a flower garden). This goes above-and-beyond the grocery store trip, but is worth mentioning!
There are probably lots of things I didn’t think of – so let me know if you have other good tips!
Finally.. a challenge! It’s been a long time since I’ve done one, so I thought April 1 I would begin one for the fun of it. Starting April 1 (for one month) I will be doing a buy-local challenge. That means only buying from locally owned/operated establishments, and eating in local restaurants that feature, where possible, locally-made products. That was a mouthful, but I am stoked. Who’s in?