Zero Waste Grocery Shopping

What is Zero Waste?

Zero waste is the idea that we should stop creating so much dang waste. Instead of filling landfills with single-use disposables we can use durable items for decades, repurposing them at the end of their life cycle to create a circular economy.

circular economy visual
Credit: The Source Bulk Foods UK

Obviously, massive structural changes are required for a circular economy to actually happen. For now we can make changes on the individual level, like how we shop for food. After months of working to reduce my waste I’ve finally documented what a typical trip to the grocery store looks like for me.

A Sunday Shopping Tripcat under a reusable shopping bag

No matter where I’m shopping I always have a reusable bag with me. These bags are for sale at most grocery stores, or you can just ask my parents for some since they have a million. This is one of the easiest ways to keep plastic out of landfills and the ocean. (If you do use the plastic bags, bring them back to the store to recycle them, don’t put them in curbside bins.)

zero waste groceries

Buying in bulk with cotton or mesh bags is one of the best ways to cut down on packaging and waste. Tons of basics are available package-free at my local market, like nuts, beans, grains, and some sweets. They even have baby spinach without the plastic bag, so I guess I should start eating it. On this day I bought some granola which I’ll put on top of smoothie bowls.


I transferred the granola to an old pasta sauce jar. Glass jars are wonderful for storing dried goods, making cold brew, and transporting lunch to work. They are also the topic of this fun podcast. (I identify with the defendant.)


Plenty of foods don’t need additional packaging, they are kept safe by their tough and hearty outer layer. Throw them into your bag and let them roll free. Cardboard egg cartons can be composted or recycled, but avoid the Styrofoam and plastic ones.


Some foods are harder to find without packaging, so try to choose glass and paper when you can. For foods packaged in plastic, ask yourself if they’re really necessary. I had a craving for these Tofurkey sausages but definitely didn’t need them. The simplest thing we can do to cut down on waste is stop buying stuff we don’t need.

TLDR Tips:

  1. Use reusable shopping bags
  2. Use smaller reusable bags for produce and the bulk section
  3. Pick glass packaging over plastic when possible
  4. Don’t buy stuff that you don’t need
  5. Be kind to yourself as you try to be kind to the earth

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you start trying to lower your impact. Your mom will share a video on Facebook of a turtle swimming in a sea of plastic bags, and you will feel hopeless. Try not to worry too much. There’s no such thing as truly being zero-waste, but we can feel empowered by making sustainable changes.

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