Zero Waste food shopping is a weekly activity for me. I go to the farmers market for my produce and use reusable organic cotton bags for items like nuts but for wet items like honey, olive oil, flour, and spices, I opt for jars to keep things organized and make cleaning simple.

Learn how I do it using five simple steps!

Step 1: Choose your Jar (I love mason jars because they have a standard weight, but you can also upcycle your own jars)

Step 2: Tare (pre-weigh) your jar. Why? Because when the cashier gets the jar, they can subtract the weight of the jar from the total weight, so you are only paying for what is inside. You can write the tare on your jar in permanent marker to make it easy to remember.

Step 3: Fill your jar and write down the number of the item you are buying. I like to keep a note open on my cellphone that has the item name and number to expedite the checkout process, plus it’s waste free!

Step 4: Tell the cashier the weight of your jar and they can deduct that from the total weight of the jar

Step 5: Say THANK YOU to the awesome store for letting you bring your own packaging!

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30 comments

  1. Perfect! Zero waste shopping is also a weekly activity for me, and the stores are always super nice when I bring my own jars! Thanks for this lovely post <3

    Love Gittemary

  2. I haven't heard the word "tare" for pre weighing the jar. Is it pronounced like what you do to a piece of lettuce, tear it for your salad?

    I haven't done this before but want to if I could only get myself organized.

  3. I also bring jars and cloth bags to shop. Most cashiers comment how great they think it is. Once in a while when I have to buy in packages, and thankfully it's not often at all, I just cringe at the waste. Cannot ever imagine shopping like that again!

  4. Hi! Thank you so much for all your tips and beautiful website. I try to focus on reducing my waste, but there are some products for which I don't find good alternatives. I'm a vegan, and I like to have some soy yoghurt, tofu or seitan sometimes. But I can only find those products in wrapped in plastics. What are your solutions for those products? Thanks!

  5. Thanks for your ideas and tips. I live in Germany and there is no market like this in my region. It is more difficult to buy unpacked things 🙁 I use cotton bags for vegetables from the local market. But things like oil, flour…you can only get in packages in the market.
    greetings, nadinie

    1. Thanks for the tip. I live in the south-west of Germany, to far to go there. Hopefully there will be more shops like this opening in the nearer future. 🙂

    2. I'm so jealous right now.Here in Germany we don't have one single shop like this near my hometown!Why?It's so frustrating!You won't believe the amount of waste at the end of the week!And i looove the mason jars…also have nothing like that!

  6. Still trying to find these zero-waste-awesome-stores here in Brazil…
    Frequently cashiers look at me and think I'm an ET only because I ask them not to put my groceries in plastic bags.
    But we keep trying, one step each day!

    Cheers from Brazil!

  7. Also still trying to find a grocery store in Chicago that will let me bring my jars! Every place I go that sells in bulk tells me I cannot use my own jars because of sanitation issues (as they hand me their plastic container that also cannot be reused – ugh!) Any and all recommendations would be SO appreciated. At this point I've taken to collecting the stupid plastic containers they require me to use and reusing the same ones over and over until I can find a better alternative.

  8. I've been following your blog for a long time and now that I am living on my own am excited to have my new waste free kitchen! I made a bunch of my own cloth bags, picked up some mason jars from a garage sale and weighed them ready to shop waste free at my local bulk food store. BUT turns out they will not take away the weight of the jar from your purchase so for some more expensive items that can add up to almost 5-10$ extra charge per item. 🙁 Do you have any other suggestions for light-weight containers that are not plastic?

  9. In my supermarket, they don't let me put food as rice or beans in jars. What can I do? Also, many things come packed in plastic. ..:(

    Pd. Thanks Lauren for your pieces of advice!

    1. We have the same issue here, I can't seem to find any stores that will allow us to reuse our own containers (except for beer growlers). I always get the same answer from most places, including very small specialty stores that will take their containers back to recycle but not reuse them, saying that the state won't allow it but I live in rural NY so clearly it is not the whole state. I try to buy most of our produce in from bulk bins but oddly enough most of the organics I find are packaged in plastic and conventional is bulk, very frustrating. We grow a small garden with all organic, but unfortunately that season is now coming to an end. We buy our milk in glass bottles and are able to find a few things like eggs from other people we know that we can reuse our containers.

      We clearly have the least amount of trash on the curb in our neighborhood but it is still frustrating to me how much we produce and I would love to be closer to zero waste.

  10. Still trying to find these zero-waste-stores here in Brazil…
    Frequently cashiers look at me and think I'm an ET only because I ask them not to put my groceries in plastic bags.
    I know only one place here far away from my city that is like this one you use to shop =(
    But I keep trying, one step each day!

  11. Looks so simple ! Actually we never tried to ask cashier to reduce the weight from our jar. We tried first to ask them to tare the balance and then to fill our jar … We know only one sort of store doing that Let's try again with similar store here in France

  12. I use a China Pen (kind of a big crayon for adults!). The one I have is made out of paper, wax, and cotton string so the wrapping can be composted. They can be found at most art supply stores. It writes on the tops of mason jars, as well as the muslin bulk bags that I sewed, and washes right off. It makes it easier to check out when my local co-op is busy (and they typically are). I feel bad if I hold up the line by reading the Tare/PLU to them. I'm fairly new to the zero waste lifestyle (about 5 months now) so I still feel guilty if I ask someone to do something extra for me!!! I think that's the part about this lifestyle I am still getting used to!

  13. I love doing this! I find that some places won't let me use my own jars for sanitation issues. Shopping this way definitely limits the number of stores I can go to, but it also forces me to be creative and make more things myself. Keep up the good work!

  14. Lauren, you have inspired me in so many ways to become a more conscious person. I do have a question for you though that I really hope you'll have time to answer.

    I love travelling and do so quite frequently. When you travel (especially by airplane) how do you do that waste-free?

  15. I always thought about not making trash since they put a trash land near my house and it was like each thing i consummed went to my own garden. But the impossible of the task took me to keep buying plastic things, like junk food etc, when i saw your blog it was like seeing my ideal for real, and you made me want to apply each of your post one by one into my life. 🙂

  16. I have been buying in bulk for the last few months and I absolutely love it. I wont go back to the old way. I have experienced some negative feedback about sanitation issues with using my own jars, but I just brush it off. Also, be wise about what size jar you use, if you only plan to get a small amount bring a small jar. The Whole Foods I go to, as well as Sprouts, only take off a certain amount of tare weight. So, I end up having to pay for some of the jar weight. So just be mindful of that and the store policies. Thanks for being a great inspiration Lauren. I'm really enjoying the looks I get from people when I go shopping.

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