Grocery Store Tourism

Bulk beans

When she got back from a recent trip to San Francisco, my friend Elizabeth showed me a picture of herself smiling big, arms thrown up in the air in excitement, standing in front of... a grocery store. I knew how she felt - it was Rainbow Grocery, whose bulk selection regularly leaves me jealous of my San Franscisco-dwelling friends. It offers bulk tortilla chips, seaweed, tofu, miso, ramen noodle bricks, nutella, pretzels... all that stuff that isn't typically carried in the standard grocery bulk aisle, which is heavy on the grains, beans, and nuts. (All good things, but where does that leave you when you need a tofu fix? Answer: plastic containers. Or once again slinking down the street to your favorite Thai restaurant.).

So, yes. Grocery stores have become legitimately exciting stops for us zero wasters when we travel. When I can, I always stop by a local co-op or grocery to check out their bulk section. Maybe I buy some snacks for the trip, or some things I can't get in Chicago to take home with me as souvenirs, or sometimes I've gone just to look around. I've purchased bulk red wine vinegar at the French Broad Food Co-op in Asheville, bulk olive oil at Willy Street Co-op in Madison (all-time fave grocery!), package-free dark chocolate bites at Good Earth in Indianapolis, and more. Even if I leave empty-handed, it always feels like a fun treasure hunt.

I like to do a little research before my trip to find out if there's a store I'd want to visit. I typically use this guide to bulk grocery shopping throughout the U.S. and Canada, but you could use this, too! If you're driving somewhere and will have the ability to bring liquids back with you, I'd suggest bringing a mason jar or swingtop bottle with you. And, of course, I always bring a few cotton produce bags (I use these) with me when I travel, but when a grocery store looks particularly great I might pack extras, too.

Do you guys do this, too? What have been your best finds? I'd love to hear.

PS. Do you live near any of my dream zero waste stores? The Zero Market in Denver, the Fillery in Brooklyn (not yet open), or, yes, Rainbow in San Fransisco? If so, lucky you!

Photograph of a few things picked up during my trip to San Fransisco last week.