zero waste shopping in the ‘burbs pt. 2

I’m still learning to navigate this zero waste grocery shopping thing. I’m lucky to have a store with a crazy huge bulk section, but some items are nearly impossible to find without driving to 4 different stores. Ain’t nobody got time for that. So, I just do what I can, and will often just not buy something rather than drive around for a better alternative. So far, the world’s continued to turn.

I already wrote some about my experience trying to do zero waste in the (non-California) suburbs and thought that maybe I’d keep posting some of the successes I’ve had in case it helps those of you who, like me, don’t live in a region with unlimited hippie options.

Sometimes, it can just be so frustrating. The store I do most of my shopping, with the great bulk section and all, had one brand of juice in glass bottles, and it happened to be organic and affordable. My girl loves her some juice, so I was super happy to find this option without going to a health food store and paying $5 for a quart. But then they stopped carrying it. In fact, they removed the tiny “natural foods” section entirely from their store because they were losing money on it (I asked).

Anyway.. this is their juice aisle:


I walked the whole aisle, tapping on every bottle, hoping one of them was glass. Not a single one. (Some in aluminum cans, yes, but only tomato and pineapple). So many options, and yet not an option for me. I now look at the aisles of the grocery store in terms of landfill space. For those juice bottles alone, that’s a lot of planet real estate. 😦 Needless to say, I went home juice-less.

I went shopping just before lunchtime, and my growling stomach reminding me midway through that the only breakfast I had was the stuff Hannah rejected on her plate and some luke-warm coffee. I was in the bakery vicinity and saw this:


Basically every store with a bakery has a pastry case, I think. I never get pastries, but I thought I would see if they had paper bags to grab a few bagels. Nope, just plastic. For some reason I was about to ask permission to use my own cloth bag, but then I decided to just do it. I felt so clever and rebellious. Naked bread! (Plus they sell sandwich rolls – good to know for next week). (PS the checker didn’t even care about the bagels in the cloth bag).


When I got home, I whipped up a veggie sandwich on a bagel, and it was quick and delicious and zero waste. This seemed like such a victory because it was fairly instant gratification (admittedly the only sometimes downside of zero waste is you have to A) plan ahead, or B) fail!  It’s nice that there’s an option C) Get bagels.

Here was my grocery haul (the upper-right bag is just my bag-o-bags):


This is pretty typical these days. I couldn’t avoid one can (condensed milk for my DIY coffee creamer). And I found organic and non-GMO seeds right there in the grocery store to finish up my spring seed buying (I got the rest yesterday at a local seed swap).

In Zero Waste Home, Bea Johnson’s tip for avoiding twist ties or stickers at the bulk bins is to write the PLU code directly on the bag with a washable crayon. I’ve yet to try that, but I will try to remember that next time!

It’s hard to believe I can find so many words to say about grocery shopping; thanks for hanging in there! Feel free to comment with any other tips you may have!


4 thoughts on “zero waste shopping in the ‘burbs pt. 2”

  1. Good on you. I write the bin number in my phone 🙂 or I rely on the cashier to know their codes (bad shopper :O )

    1. I’ve done that with my phone as well, but sometimes I’ll get 4 or 5 items, and my bags are muslin so I have to open them at checkout to remember which is which. :/ I need a better system.

  2. Did I miss the part where you tell us the name of the store? I’ll be in the Utah suburbs soon and would love to be able to do some zero waste shopping while I’m there. I realize the state is huge but if it’s a chain maybe there will be one not too far away from where I’ll be visiting 🙂

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