Grocery Shopping Without Bulk Options

Grocery shopping without bulk

If you've tried to go zero waste, there's one thing you already know: in many ways, it's all about what you can find in bulk near you. I've experienced the joy of finding things I need in bulk and the frustration of not having access to other things package-free.

We probably all wish our bulk options were a little bit, or maybe even a lot bit, better. And yet, there are so many places where bulk grocery options are truly nonexistent. Maybe there isn't a bulk aisle near you; maybe there's one in your city, but it's too far from you to be a viable option. I'm fortunate to have the time and money to be able to prioritize bulk shopping, even if it means going out of my way to do so (which it often does), but not everyone's in the same camp.

So, this summer I'm excited to be partnering a with a few other zero wasters from around the country to share how to shop lower-waste at some of the bigger chain stores where you might already shop.

Throughout the summer, I'll take you to three local Midwest grocery stores that aren't my typical zero waste go-tos, and we'll talk through the choices I made and how I stayed low-waste there. Then, at the end of the summer, I'll share the breakdown of what I've learned about how to think about shopping zero waste sans bulk, with hopefully lots of nuggets of advice you can tuck away for your next trip to the grocery.

If you're not in the Midwest, don't worry! We've got ladies from all regions of the United States on board. Take a peek at the line-up:

-East: Meredith of Meredith Tested will be profiling Trader Joes', Costco, Hannaford Supermarket, and Wal-Mart.
-South: Manuela from Girl Gone Green will be going to Aldi, Publix, Thrive, and Wal-Mart.
-Midwest: That's me! I'll be taking you to Kroger, Jewel-Osco, and Wal-Mart.
-West: Andrea of Be Zero will be featuring Lucky's, Safeway, and Wal-Mart.
-Pacific: Kathryn of Going Zero Waste will be visiting Target, Grocery Outlet, and Wal-Mart.

Before we start, know: I'm a big fan of shopping locally and small. Farmers' markets can be some of the best places to find package-free produce, and if you're choosing produce wisely it can be affordable, too. For example, tomatoes in June are pricey, but tomatoes in the August glut are less expensive. Plus, many markets accept and match SNAP benefits (if you live in Chicago, here's a list of which Chicago area markets do). It's good to keep food dollars in the community, with farmers and co-ops and smaller stores. That much is for certain. But if that approach doesn't work for you - time, money, transportation, the constraints of geography - that in no way disqualifies you from being zero waste. It just means you may have to get a little creative at your supermarket.

Do you struggle with finding access to places where you can shop zero waste-ish? What have been the biggest challenges for you? If you leave them in the comments below, we'll tackle them together. Back later this week with the next installment!

Pictured is my current grocery shopping kit: a Baggu bag bought secondhand, as well as cloth produce bags from Dans le Sac and Simple Ecology. You can find more thoughts on what to pack when you go to the grocery, here.