Before I set forth on my journey to zero waste, I never once utilized the bulk sections in grocery stores. I'd grab my cart, walk right by the overflowing bins of unpackaged food, and head straight to the middle aisles. I never once thought about using it or even took the time to look at what was in the bins. I always wonder why. Is it because I've let marketing control my shopping habits so much that I instinctively go to the food items that appear in commercials and grocery flyers? Is it because I have false beliefs about the bulk sections like cleanliness and convenience? What ever the reason, I think it's time to get the word out on how wonderful these mystery areas of our grocery stores are! These multifarious bulk sections are a HUGE part of my zero waste living and have many benefits other than just being package free. You can sample small amounts of new food without committing to a big bag, millions of pounds of waste are averted from landfills yearly, and sometimes you can spend less on the bulk item versus its packaged twin.
Shopping the bulk bins is incredibly easy and strangely fun. Below, are the steps that I take while stocking up on delicious package free goods.
1. Locate stores that sell bulk, package free items.Yes, I know, some of us are not as lucky as those who have access to stores with bulk sections. That is perfectly OK! This is not only a process for each and every one of us, it's also a process for our grocers. The more we demand to shop bulk, the more stores will adapt. It's amazing how much power we have as consumers. I used to work retail for 6 years so trust me, "The customer IS always right!" I saw first hand how our company would change how items were sold just to keep up with the ever changing shopping culture. If they didn't change, they would have lost profits. I will address later, other ways to minimize waste when having little to no access to bulk items.
2. Get Your Hands on Some Reusable Containers or BagsInstead of filling those flimsy plastic sacks with your bulk goodness, bring your own reusable containers/bags. Don't feel like you need to start spending a bunch of money on gear in order to attempt a zero waste lifestyle. You probably have plenty of acceptable containers in your house already. Mason jars work perfectly for bulk nut butters and liquids. For the dry stuff, I made small cloth cinch bags out of some scrap fabric I had laying around. You could also make bags from stained or torn clothing, old bed sheets, old curtains, scrap fabric, etc. However, if you prefer to get some already made, there are dozens of stores online that sell them.
3. Get the Tare Weight of Your ContainersTo avoid paying for the weight of your bags or containers, you will first need to get the tare weight while they are empty. Once you have that amount, write it down, and have that amount taken off of the total weight once the container is filled. (don't forget to weigh your containers with the lids on when you get the tare weight). Sometimes you can tare your containers yourself on the scales that are near the bulk sections or you can have customer service do it for you.
|Here, I'm taring the weight first. Once I removed my bag, the scale reported the weight as being -0.04. I then filled my bag and placed it back onto the scale to get the weight of just the product inside.|
4. Scoop!Scoop away!
5.Transfer Bulk into JarsOnce home, transfer your bulk bounty into jars for storage. Having bulk in jars makes it easy to see what item is getting low and needs to be replenished.
Shopping just the bulk sections instead of traipsing through the store trying to locate items, has cut my shopping time in half. I used to dread going to the grocery store but now I kind of enjoy it. My husband and I even argue who gets to fill the cloth bags with bulk items. It's funny how grocery shopping has become fun for us now.