Zero Waste food shopping probably sounds much more daunting than it is. One would assume it involves excessive preparation, a lot of hard work, and hungry days. This could not be more untrue. Zero Waste food shopping could not be easier for me. First of all I have a relatively regular schedule and know exactly what I like to eat so preparing a shopping list and thus shopping supplies is easy and predictable. Secondly, I bring my own jars and produce bags to the market and I buy in bulk so I leave the market with absolutely no packaging and can take the food from my reusable bag and put it right on my shelf at home.
When food shopping, I always bring around four to eight jars and two bags depending on what I am purchasing. See my post on Zero Waste shopping essentials for a detailed list. I keep one bag for jars, and the other for fresh produce like tomatoes or kale so that it doesn’t get squashed. This method also helps me save money. By thinking about the containers I will need, I also think about the food I will be buying which prevents me from making impulse purchases (however I always bring one extra jar because markets often have bulk items on sale and it is nice to stock up on things while the price is lower).
Shopping without purchasing any plastic is very easy once you get used to it, and then the process just becomes routine like setting your alarm before you go to bed. This experience was expressed in the documentary Trashed. It was stated that it usually takes a shopper about three times forgetting their Zero Waste or eco shopping supplies before they finally remember and prepare adequately, and after that it just becomes routine. The same thing happened to me. I used to go to the market three times per week because I was not prepared for what I was purchasing and did not plan ahead. This resulted in the use of plastic bags and the purchase of packaged products. I usually bought more than I needed and fewer of the things that I actually used. After two times of gauging how much I purchased and in what quantities, I was able to prepare for the market. Now I only have to go to the market once per week and do not buy anything in plastic because I utilize the bulk section of my market.
The photos below show my experience at Integral Yoga Natural Foods. My favorite market in the city! Integral has a huge variety of bulk foods ranging from amaranth to yeast and they even sell mason jars! I recently found out that the 4th Street Co-Op in NYC sells bulk oil and vinegar which I am not able to purchase at Integral.