Shopping is ground zero for de-cluttering your life and reducing waste. However, it’s hard to focus on wanting less when you’re in a store stocked with multimillion-dollar marketing schemes geared at enticing you to want more. This guide will help streamline your grocery shopping experience to keep your pantry looking pretty while reducing food and packaging waste.
WHAT TO TAKE WITH YOU
1| Tote Bags
Do you hate that mass of plastic or paper bags collecting under the kitchen sink? Switch over to reusable tote bags instead. It’s more sustainable for the environment and they’re often cute enough to wear casually. A large straw tote is sturdy and supportive for carrying groceries on your shoulder. Carry one or two smaller reusable totes in your larger tote just in case you need it. Also, pretty much all retail will refund you 10 cents for each reusable bag you use.
2| Bulk and Produce Bags
Instead of buying prepackaged products that create unnecessary waste and take up additional space in your cupboard, use reusable bulk and produce bags to protect your purchases. These are simple, usually small, canvas, cotton, or even mesh reusable bags that take the place of those pesky thin plastic bags in the produce and bulk section. If you’re crafty, sew 100% cotton pillowcases into small sacs or repurpose dust bags that come with purses.
3| Mason Jars
Take a mason jar along with you for certain grocery items like flour that may be too fine or too wet for your bulk bags. The best part is, they can go straight from the grocery store right into your pantry. Whether they’re all in the same style of jars or an eclectic mix they add organization and design to your kitchen.
4| Grocery List
You can bring this however you like. Maybe you prefer to write your grocery list in your handy dandy notebook or on a notepad app on your phone. Check the list off as you go and use it to record tare weights of your mason jars.
WHERE TO SHOP
Big box retailers that sell everything are a trap waiting to happen unless you have strong willpower and conviction. Avoid the unnecessary temptation on regular grocery days. Chances are you’ll find all your grocery needs at these other options:
1| Local Farm
Sign up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) with your local farm for a weekly produce box. Buying produce through CSA rather than grabbing year-round vegetables at the grocery store reduces the urge to buy in excess. Think about those bananas that spoiled on the countertop just because you saw three displays of them throughout the grocery store.
2| Farmers Market
Another way to reduce the urge to buy unnecessarily is to shop at the farmers market. You’re eating fresh food that’s based on what’s grown locally which can limit offerings to what’s in season. Don’t know what to do with the vegetables in the farmers market? Chat with the farmers to learn how to cook them or learn new recipes. Knowing more about your food creates a makes you less likely to waste it or buy it without the intention of using it.
3| Stores that sell bulk.
This is not extreme couponing where the goal is to get as much products as you can possibly get at once. Increasingly, more stores are adding bulk sections where you can buy as little or as much as you want of certain products like rice, grains, flours, pasta, beans, cereals, trail mixes, and nut butters. They’ll often also sell bulk herbs, spices, teas, and coffee too. If you’re lucky they may even sell refillable shampoo, conditioner, hand soap, dish soap, and even clothing detergent in bulk.
HOW TO SHOP
Refrigerators have grown 15-20% since the 70’s. All that white space in there makes us want to fill it with food instead of just purchasing what we know we will eat. Have a clear idea of what you need to buy. Keep it real with your self. Sure, that squash looks delicious but will you really get to stuffing it this week?
1| Plan your meals for the week.
Grocery shopping for a shorter period of a week helps to keep purchases intentional and realistic. Assess your pantry and fridge to see what you already have that can be included in future meals. This reduces the risk of spending money on what you already have. Consider recipes that use similar ingredients so products can do double the duty. For example, potatoes can be used for fries on burger night and mashed potatoes to top a shepherds pie another night.
2| What not to shop for is just as important.
Sometimes, a recipe calls for a handheld mixer or blender that you may not have. Your initial impulse may be to go out and buy the missing appliance even though you’re only planning on using it for one recipe. If you're not a frequent baker or smoothie maker try borrowing what you need from a friend or family member instead.
We can put it off for a day or two with leftovers and brunch dates, but grocery shopping is pretty much inevitable. As minimalists, we can make conscious decisions to reduce excess in society by the way we shop for our groceries. This shopping guide is just a foundation. As you learn more about the different foods you buy and their far-reaching implications you may adopt methods that best suits you.