3 Steps Towards Low(er) Waste Grocery Shopping

Hey Friends! Today we have a special guest blogger sharing with us a few easy ways you can start making your trips to the grocery store more sustainable. Michelle Hettmann is one of my all time favorite Instagrammers for all things sustainability so I was thrilled when she agreed to share a little of her wisdom with us. If your on Instagram, be sure to follow @lowwastewednesday for all things sustainability. Alright, enough from me. Let’s meet Michelle and hear what she has to share with us today!

Going from waste to no/low waste is a journey. And it takes time and commitment. But it is totally possible! And can even be fun. I started my low waste journey about a year ago by committing to not use plastic bags in the grocery store. Then I took small steps from there, one at a time, and now my grocery shopping is 95% plastic free on a regular basis. I recommend using these steps as a guide. Most importantly, I recommend taking them at your own pace and extending lots of grace to yourself along the way. Write them down (on a recycled sheet of paper, of course), cross them off once you’ve tackled one, and then move on to the next. Step-by-step. One-at-a-time.

STEP 1 : Bring reusable shopping bags

Yes, yes, if you follow Lizzy’s blog I know you probably already have reusable shopping bags. But do you actually use them when you go shopping? Every.Single.Time? It’s easy to forget and then swing by the grocery store on the way home from work and use a plastic bag. “It’s just one bag. And I’ll reuse it for the trash can in my bathroom…” Fifty bags later and you have a pile that you’re taking back to the grocery store to recycle because you have no use for that many plastic

CHALLENGE: Choose a period of time where you WILL NOT use plastic bags. I
suggest six months. Keep those reusable bags in your car, your work bag, your backpack. And if you forget them, guess what?! You get to juggle all your items to get them out to the car. No cheating! For six weeks. I bet it only takes you three to get in the habit of bringing your bags.

ENCOURAGEMENT: When you get to the check-out counter and they say, “Hi. How are you doing today??” Say, “Great, thanks so much. I hope you’re doing well, too. Also, I don’t need a bag with all this; I’ll just carry it!” If they forget as they’re ringing it up (it’s habit!) simply say, “Oh! I actually don’t need a bag!” It can feel awkward and rude to make the cashier take something out of the bag once they’ve already put it in there. But it’s okay! Be nice– explain yourself– smile– extend grace. I’ve only had one person ever be super annoyed with me (& I think she was just having a bad day– I thanked her profusely and everything was alllll good). This habit will help you be able to level up to step two.

STEP 2: Bring reusable produce bags!

First, get some reusable produce bags. You can get them on Etsy and support local low wasters in your area! Or you can make your own if you’re feeling really crafty!Then, follow the same steps you did in step 1. Also, don’t feel like everything has to go in a bag. I put most of my veggies directly in my cart and then just make sure I wash then when I get home! I mostly save my bags for things like roma tomatoes, green beans, brussels sprouts, and other things that are likely to get away from me and make a mess at check-out! They fold up easily, so I always have some tucked in my bag/purse, along with my reusable bags. Once it becomes a habit, you won’t
even remember the days when you used those silly single-use plastic produce bags!

STEP 3: Re-design your pantry & meal schedule!

This is kind of a create-your-own step 3 that uses what you learned from steps 1 & 2. When I started trying to re-design my pantry, I chose one or two items at a time that I wanted to try to figure out a way to buy/make low waste. The first thing for me was rice. I used to buy the “boil in a bag” type of rice but realized how inefficient that was. So I started buying in bulk and then cooking twice the amount I needed and freezing half of it (my freezer is ALWAYS full of stuff
that will go into next week’s meal prepping). Then I decided that I would commit to no more canned beans. With a lot of internet searching, I’ve been able to figure out the best ways to prepare meals from items like these in bulk bins. What followed was a commitment and excitement to find all the things I could in bulk: chocolate, olive oil, vegan gummy worms, trail mix, protein powder, grits, salt, sugar, nuts. I re-designed my thought process and my schedule around these items. Now I cook primarily only with foods I can find in bulk or that include
vegetables I can get with no plastic.

What I’ve learned is that this can feel exhausting and overwhelming. And that’s okay. I’ve also learned that there are times I feel embarrassed or want to stop because this isn’t the “cool” thing to do. But here’s my take: It’s okay to be unapologetic about your commitment to sustainability. People will see your passion and follow your lead. Before you know it, people will be coming to you with all their sustainability questions. It’s a great, green life!

Most importantly, remember you are never alone on this journey! Happy low-waste Wednesday, and every day!

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