When I go into a grocery store these days my stress level increases. Not only does the prospect of racing through aisles, sorting through a myriad of prices, ingredients & products make me queasy, but adding to my anxiety is the wondering how each product is made and how it came to me. What do I then do? Well of course, I study the packaging. If an item comes in plastic, a warning siren goes off in my head: this product has a problem.
I’ve put together 10 of the best suggestions for avoiding plastic at the grocery store. If it motivates you to give up just one product I will feel that I’ve succeeded in reducing plastic in the world.
1)SWITCH OUT ONE PRODUCT: One day I went shopping with the goal of not buying anything in plastic packaging. I came home with fresh veggies & bulk rice, beans & nuts plus a dozen eggs. No milk, no bread, no fish or meat, no ketchup, or snacks. Well, needless to say my family was hungry that week. Since then I’ve heeded the advice of my friend and neighbor who did something similar when she decided which items to buy organic: Think of the top 10 items you buy weekly and change your habits on just one (or more if you are feeling strong). Switch to a glass jar or buy bulk rice instead of the kind in plastic bag or pasta sauce in a glass jar instead of plastic
2)USE REUSABLE BAGS: We are all in the habit of using big bags to tote groceries home with, but what do you do with the collection of smaller bags that are used throughout the store? Invest in reusable grocery & veggie bags. Instead of plastic produce bags, I use mesh bags that are easily washed for produce and bulk purchases. They go right back into the car after use so I have them for the next time. No plastic bags for me. Our town has now banned plastic bags & so has Cambridge MA, San Francisco, NYC and many other cities! It’s coming to a town near you so get your reusable bags ready.
3)Look for alternatives. I used to buy ketchup in a plastic bottle. Now, I’ve found a tastier brand that comes in glass. Pasta sauce, salad dressing – if it’s on a shelf there’s probably a glass-packaged option. You’ll be surprised at some of the alternatives out there. Look at the packaging as well as the product.
4) Think outside of the Coop: Buy your eggs from the bank. NO! What am I saying? A bank doesn’t sell eggs right? Well at least mine does. Situated conveniently in the same area as the grocery store, I zip over to the bank for a dozen FRESH eggs. I even return the previous egg crate to be reused. If that’s not an option, switch from eggs that come in plastic or Styrofoam carton to the ones in cardboard. Then use the crates for a fire starter, art project, or recycle bin.
5) Don’t buy what you can make: Bake a few loaves of bread and keep them in your freezer. Make your kids jello instead of buying in plastic cups. Make your own ketchup, chicken stock, pasta sauce, salad dressing – they all take minimal effort, taste better, and are healthier choices.
6) Buy a larger container of things that come in tubs & use your own storage cups. For example, buy a large yogurt and send your kids to school with a reusable container instead. You can do the same with nut butters, hummus, jams/jelly, and more. Do you need string cheese, or will a block of cheese cut up into smaller portions work?
7)Make a commitment not to buy bottled water. This is the dumbest thing Americans do. There are water fountains everywhere. Bring your own cup or water bottle. According to Brita, the water filter company Americans throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles every year.
8)Buy in bulk: Rice, beans, nuts, granola, flours, grains & even candy are sold in bulk. Each of is generally packaged in plastic wrap that cannot be recycled. Instead, use those mesh bags and bring home this less expensive alternative, at an amount that is right for your family. Now you’re saving money and the environment at the same time!
9)Make a commitment to join in #plasticfreejuly. Sign up now and you’ll receive a reminder and tips when its time. http://www.plasticfreejuly.org/
10)I know it’s tempting to eat your way through yummy store samples but be mindful of those plastic onetime use cups. Ask it they can give it to you on a paper napkin or ask management to try for paper cups instead.
I want to wish you a Happy & plastic free 2017 and best wishes for a greener you! Tell us what you do to avoid plastic. What are your tips? How about asking not to take those annoying elastic bands?