Green guide: Buying groceries with less waste

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When I first started going green I would wonder “what am I going to do about all of the stuff that I enjoy eating? I can’t buy yogurt, ice cream, toaster pastries, chips, none of the wonderful items that I have grown to love” As I move further and further into being eco-friendly I have come up with some neat alternatives for keeping the items that I enjoy in my life. It was definitely hard to figure out how to be more sustainable, while also maintaining the diet that I have become accustomed to; in order to come up with as good a system as my knowledge allows me to have. Now I would like to share them with you.

1. Shop at Farmers Market

I’ll be the first to say, I love farmers markets. They always have the freshest, most delicious crops of the season that the farmers have to offer. The best thing about a farmers market is that in most instances you can buy as much or as little as you want without having to worry about wasting food. Since it’s local and fresh from the farmer it cuts down on the amount of waste that you have to deal with versus buying those same things at a big box store. Especially berries those are a waste nightmare.

Click here to find farmers markets wherever you may roam!

Pro Tip: Buy more and preserve to keep your favorite items on hand during off seasons.

2. Bring your own bags/or don’t use any at all

Plastic grocery bags easily tear and end up in the landfill after a single-use. I have resorted to instead purchase both mesh produce bags and cloth grocery bags to carry my groceries to the car. Although, most days I end up forgetting them and just forgo bags in general. I will admit that can be a little inconvenient at a farmers market, but if I’m at a store with a cart then taking them straight home is always a better option then getting bags that I will just eventually throw away.

3. Buy in bulk

Reducing plastic waste is a very daunting task. Especially when you face having to give up things that you have grown to take pleasure in throughout your life. It took me many years to get to the quite imperfect level of green and I am today. In doing so I have learned quite a few tips to make this easier. One of them being, buy in bulk. You can get everything from honey to soap or even your favorite green tea all without any extra plastic. When I go to the bulk section of my store of choice, I always make sure to have at least half a dozen mason jars in tow, as well as my mesh produce bags, so that I can collect everything that I need without having to use any extra packaging. Not only do the mason jars make a great container to purchase the items they also make a great storage space once you are home, with no need to transfer to another container. All you have to do is go to the scale, that most bulk stores provide, and tare out the weight of your jar so that you have an accurate weight to give to the cashier, pick your item, then fill. It’s that simple!

4. Be conscientious about the packaging for items you cannot get away from

There are items, especially in Van life, that you cannot avoid. This inevitably leaves you stuck with some sort of extra packaging that you have to now find something to do with. In times like these, my suggestion is to think about your options when buying something that comes in plastic. Is there also an option that is packaged in glass or (even better) paper? Think about getting those items instead.


5. Go to a butcher

I don’t have a refrigerator so it is hard for me to have fresh meat on demand especially since I am a single person and all of the meat available at most big box stores are packaged as well as only coming in large quantities. Not only do I risk mass spoilage, but finding a way to recycle those styrofoam packages, talk about a nightmare. Heading to a local butcher is both a saving grace and a pleasure. Being able to pick my own cut of {meat of choice} is amazing. I for one get so giddy walking pass a well-stocked butcher counter. The option of selection is up there with eating, in my book.

Protip: Always ask to have your meat wrapped in wax paper (which you can use to bake on) or bring your own (preferably metal) container to have them tare out when purchasing your meat or deli selection.

6. For foods that spoil quickly consider buying freeze-dried instead

I started eating freeze-dried or dehydrated foods that would otherwise go rancid if I don’t keep them cold. Eggs, milk, broccoli, spinach, etc. By buying these things dehydrated I was not only able to enhance my diet substantially, but I was also able to acquire these things in bulk, meaning I don’t have to buy (read: throw away) as many containers substantially reducing my footprint. I am now able to cook so many more of the foods I enjoy without worrying about whether or not my ingredients are going to spoil before I am able to use them.

7. Learn to can or dehydrate

There is going to be an uphill battle in the war against waste. Two more strategies I have employed are canning and dehydrating the foods I can’t find vanlife eco-friendly compatible versions of. It takes less search and prep time than constantly searching for fresh versions of the same foods you can already have on hand.

8. Make your own

Things like applesauce, bread, and cheese are easy to make and don’t require much effort to do on your part. The best part is that when you make your own you are able to know exactly what went into those items meaning you know exactly what is going into your body.

9. Go cold turkey

As much as I dread saying it, some things just aren’t worth the waste they produce, in my opinion. Having to think about how to dispose of my waste without trash service has made me think long and hard about what I buy. I now question whether I actually need that juice, or if I can just drink some homemade sparkling water and eat a piece of fruit instead. Most days the answer is no. I’m no saint though, I do slip up from time to time. I’m only human after all. I make an effort to reduce my output in every aspect of my life. Every effort counts stem the tide is a step in the right direction toward healing the earth. Giving up items that I don’t need is more than worth it to keep the only planet we can live on alive and well so I can live on and enjoy it another day!


10. Write your favorite brands and ask for more sustainable options for your favorite items

So that you don’t have to deprive yourself or feel guilty for giving in to the temptation of that candy bar you so desperately need, consider writing an eloquent yet heartfelt letter to the company heads explaining your desire to continue your relationship with them while explaining your commitment to the earth and how those two things collide due to the amount of waste that their product contains. it may seem like a fruitless effort at first but persistence is key and if enough people write enough letters they will get the hint and eventually make a change for the better.


Thanks for reading my list, I hope it was able to provide a wealth of knowledge to you. remember to come back for more helpful tips on being a more eco-friendly you!

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