At this point, you’re probably in the habit of bringing reusable grocery totes to the food store or farmers market to help cut down on plastic bags. But once you’re in the aisles, avoiding the sheer volume of other types of plastic on display can be more of a challenge.
Unfortunately, it’s next to impossible to avoid every bit of plastic in certain store areas, especially the produce section. But there are a few ways you can keep green shopping in mind by reducing the amount of single-use plastic that you bring home to your own kitchen.
Ready to embrace zero waste grocery shopping? Here are five plastic-free ideas to try.
Bring Your Own Mesh Bags
How many times do you reach for that giant roll of plastic bags in the produce section on your grocery run? It’s easy to end up using half a dozen or more to corral your lemons, avocados and Brussels sprouts. But lightweight produce bags made from mesh can eliminate the need for those single-use plastic ones. Bonus: Many mesh bags have drawstrings that keep them zipped up tight, plus they come in multiple sizes—and they’re machine washable too.
Scoop Out Bulk Items
Lots of grocery stores and natural foods markets have a bulk section for nuts, grains and dried fruit, so make a beeline to this spot rather than grabbing the prepackaged cashews or quinoa sold in a plastic tub. The same mesh bags or other reusable sacks you bring for your produce can be used in the bulk section too—especially for ingredients too large to slip through the mesh—so you can keep up your plastic-free shopping mission. Small reusable containers with lids are perfect for ingredients like spices. At the store, remember to place your empty bag or container on the scale first so you can tare it (zero it out) before putting your ingredients in, to avoid getting charged for the container weight. (The Faux Martha has a handy cheatsheet on taring.) At home, decant your loose dry goods into a set of airtight containers.
Choose Whole Ingredients
So many leafy greens now come in big plastic clam shells (we’re looking at you, baby spinach), and these containers are big offenders when it comes to zero waste grocery shopping. The greener choice: Go with whole heads of lettuce instead. The same idea works for carrots and celery: Skip the “hearts” and baby versions that are encased in plastic in favor of whole bunches. Next, store the veggies the right way to maximize freshness, and when you need to refrigerate cut vegetables, keep them in a smart produce saver.
Speak Your Mind
Don’t see a plastic-free version of the vegetable or dry good you’re looking for? Take a few minutes to talk with a store manager about it. If enough customers speak up about their preferences, especially at independently owned markets, the managers can often make changes in their purchasing orders.
Visit Farmers Markets
The vast majority of goods on display at farm stands and local green markets are fresh from the ground—there’s even dirt to prove it—not to mention they’re sold plastic-free. If you can swing it, make a habit of shopping at a farmers market for a portion of your list. You might not find every item you need there—only the produce that’s in season, of course—but the ingredients you do score will typically be fresher and more flavorful, plus they won’t come wrapped in plastic.
The more you shop with plastic-free alternatives in mind, the more the routine will feel like second nature. And if you want to adopt more green habits around the kitchen, try these all-natural, DIY cleaning ideas for everything from your cookware to your hardwood floors or these tips to make a more sustainable kitchen.