Whether you get your groceries from the supermarket, farmers market, or local grocery store, there’s always room to cut back on grocery plastic- and tbh, we probably don’t act on it nearly as much as we could.
The culprit of our attention: Single-use plastic. This is basically any form of plastic packaging that is only intended to be used once before it is thrown away. It includes most packaging on paper towels and toilet paper, plastic cutlery, water bottles, straws, sandwich bags, the thin plastic bags often housing bundles of produce and much more. As you can see, disposable plastic has become a problem in the food industry.
Luckily, there are several simple swaps to cut way back on single-use plastic when stocking up on groceries. Here are just a few suggestions based on changes we’ve been working toward in our own weekly grocery runs.
1. Say no to the default plastic grocery bags at checkout
While there have been years of debate regarding the most truly sustainable form of shopping bag, the most eco-friendly option is always to use bags you already have lying around the house. If you are in the market for a new shopping alternative, we recommend reusable plastic bags made of recycled materials, or compostable canvas bags. Either way, gather a few reusables and keep them in your car (or by your door if you live in a city) and you’ll be prepared for even the most spontaneous grocery runs!
If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably forget your bags once in a while. And that’s OK! Consider opting for paper at check-out and recycling the bag when it’s no longer of use to you. If plastic is the only option, try to reuse the bags as trash can liners at home instead of just pitching them after one use.
2. Bring your own produce bags
Next time you’re loading up on your weekly produce, take a minute to look around at how much of it is wrapped in plastic. Even when it’s not, you’re sure to still find plastic bag stations every few feet. Then, think about how often you peel that protective layer of hard skin back before exposing the edible interior of your fruits (think banana, orange, mango, avocado, etc.) And even for those soft-skinned veggies (think potato, cucumber, carrot, onion, etc) and leafy greens, you’re most likely still washing and/or peeling before consuming, right? So, why do you need an additional layer of plastic to peel away? Oh yeah, you don’t.
A simple alternative to reaching for those plastic produce bags is to bring your own. Reusable mesh produce bags are affordable, take up virtually no space, and can be used time and time again. And when you forget your produce bags, consider just skipping a bag all together. You’re already carrying around those reusable grocery bags, anyway, right?!
3. Shop in the bulk section with mason jars
From nuts, to grains, to dried fruit and legumes, chances are you are at least occasionally purchasing items that many stores offer in bulk! If you haven’t started using them yet, market bulk-bins are serious. game. changers.
First of all, they usually save you a decent chunk of cash compared to buying the pre-packaged alternative. Second, they offer an opportunity to avoid unnecessary waste by bringing your own glass jars. Next time you’re shopping for any of these items, check if your local market or store has a bulk section. If it does, start bringing your own mason jars and get ready to save.
If you don’t have mason jars on hand, try to save and repurpose the next few glass jars that you empty out at home. From pickles, to olives, jalapenos, and jams, your fridge is most likely full of glass jars that can eventually be used for bulk-bin shopping.
Bonus: Stay tuned for our upcoming step-by-step guide on how to use your own jars in the grocery store!
4. Cut back on paper towel usage
I grew up with paper towels being a huge staple and something we ran through like crazy in our house- and to be honest, they still are a staple in my kitchen. If you’re in the same boat, know that I’m not about to suggest completely cutting these guys out of your life. Instead, consider a few ways to cut back.
The first and easiest way is to opt for select-a-size towels. When you don’t have the option to use less, you almost always use more than necessary. If you do have select-a-size, always grab less than you think you might need. You can always go back for more.
We’d also recommend setting aside some eco-friendly cloths for quick cleaning up around the kitchen, drying dishes, or your hands. We LOVE these and they have made such a difference in minimizing paper towel usage! If you don’t want to invest in a new set of cloths, old wash rags you already have around the house will work just fine!
What are you doing to cut back on single-use plastic in the grocery department?! Let us know in the comments!