How to Buy Groceries Zero Waste – And Reduce Food Packaging Waste

bulk food - zero waste

Spread the Sustainable Gospel!

How to Buy Groceries Zero Waste | Grab your Zero Waste Shopping Kits, because it’s time to go grocery shopping! Our kitchen is the number one culprit of trash production in our homes, so it makes sense that if we focus our efforts on this location, we will see a drastic reduction of waste. The waste you generate all stems from what you bring into your household at the end of the day.

First and foremost, this is not easy. In fact, it’s all dependent on your access, location, financial situation, and diet. By no means am I singling you out if you cannot achieve each one of these suggestions because it’s not about being perfect? I’m just showing you another way to get closer to zero.

Access is a major hurdle for most people so I have already written a post: 7 Ways to Reduce Food Packaging Waste Without Access to Bulk to cover ways to reduce food packaging without access to bulk bins.

If you are also curious as to where bulk locations are, check out my Bulk Locator Map.

But what the heck is bulk, anyway?

Bulk is not what you go to Costco or Sam’s Club to get. Bulk isn’t referring to buying large quantities of items. In this instance, bulk is referred to as food that is sold in scoopable containers without packaging.

zero waste dish soap refill

Bulk can range anywhere from dry goods to oils and vinegar – even soap. The bulk sections are generally in the health food sections of grocery stores. There is even bulk/co-op like shops that focus on natural, healthy, and local food. I have several posts explaining how to find these places like this on here:

Related: How to Locate Bulk Stores

Ok, so now that we have our basic terminology out of the way, let’s get started.

How to Buy Groceries Zero Waste

How to Buy Groceries Zero Waste

Fruits and Veggies

Most grocery stores have unpackaged fruits and veggies. You can also look for unpackaged produce at local farmer’s markets. I feel the farmer’s market is the best option considering most produce is local and in season.

I look forward to meandering through my farmer’s market every week. It’s just so therapeutic. There’s just this energy that breaths life back into me at the end of a stressful workweek. Also, look into CSA programs or community gardens for package free goodness.

Dry Goods

Bulk Pasta

This is where the bulk stores come into play. Take your own containers to the store (I personally use cloth produce bags) and fill them up with what you need. I get flour, sugar, beans, rice, oats, granola, trail mix, lentils, and more from the bulk bins.

For more info on how to shop in bulk, head over to my post: 5 Steps to Zero Waste Bulk Shopping. 

Once I get home, I like to store my bulk items in glass jars so that I can keep a visual inventory.

Related: Stocking a Zero Waste Pantry


Bulk Spices

Most bulk stores also have bulk spices. I feel that using small mason jars or reusing my existing spice containers work best.

Either tare your jar beforehand or have customer service at the grocery store weigh your empty containers before you fill so that the jar weight is subtracted at checkout. This will make it so you only pay for the product and not the packaging.

I’m also very interested in making my own spices so I hope to have some posts in the future explaining how to do that.

Related: 5 Spice Mixes You Can Make At Home


Yes, you can bake your own bread but this post is about how to “buy” groceries zero waste. So, I recommend keeping your eyes peeled at your local farmer’s markets, going to a local bakery, or seeing if your local grocery store will allow you to buy your bread without the wrapper.

Sometimes I go to a restaurant called Panera Bread to get mine. This goes for other bread-type products as well like bagels, rolls, and biscuits.

Meat, Eggs, and Dairy

If you consume meat and dairy, look for local butchers who farm sustainably. Bring a metal or glass container to have the butcher fill.

For dairy, again use your own containers at a cheese shop or deli counter. For milk, look for it in glass or consider making your own non-dairy milk.

For eggs, check out your local farmer’s market where you can return your empty cartons or find a neighbor who raises chickens and become best friends.

I will never judge or berate anyone for how and what they choose to eat.  I will, however, continue to suggest we consume less meat and dairy as a whole since the industry is incredibly wasteful.

Try implementing more plant-based meals into your routine. You’ll experience new flavors and recipes while saving money in the process! For more information on how factory farming is bad for the environment, check out this ARTICLE.

Liquids/Nut Butters

Bulk Agave

Many bulk stores also have oils, vinegar, syrups, and nut kinds of butter in bulk. Again, bring your own containers and fill them up with how much you need.

I, unfortunately, don’t have that luxury so I have to refer to my article: 7 Ways to Reduce Food Packaging Waste Without Access to Bulk and either make my own or buy in non-plastic packaging. For all of you who have the access, I’m so jealous!

Related: Simple Homemade Peanut Butter

Soap/Laundry Detergent

Again, access is limited to where you can buy liquid soaps in bulk. However, package-free, bar soap is more prevalent. I have a hard time finding laundry detergent in bulk so I make my own with the recipe HERE.

Pet Food

Bulk Pet Food

I do not have access to bulk pet food so I choose to buy mine in the largest quantity I can. There are a few stores here and there that do sell bulk pet food so, bring a large, reusable container and fill it up.

Related: Zero Waste Cat

All in all, I think the best thing to do when aiming to get your groceries package free is to keep your meals and shopping lists as simple as possible. When you pare down the number of ingredients each meal has, it becomes a little more manageable. At least that seems to be the case for me. I have a ton of meal ideas HERE.

This week’s homework!
  • Scope out your local stores to see what available bulk and package free options you have.
  • Put together a Zero Waste Shopping Kit of your own. It doesn’t have to be identical to mine.
  • Start implementing 1 extra plant-based meal into your dinner plan per week.
  • One by one, start replacing the items you generally buy in packaging with a package free option. (If for some reason it isn’t cost-effective for you, refer to my post: 7 Ways to Reduce Food Packaging Waste Without Access to Bulk.

Happy Zero Waste Shopping!




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