Food Undressed: Zero Packaging Shopping

Shawn Rykaczewski

For most of us, our weekly grocery shop is the source of the majority of plastic waste we generate. What if we could stop that? You might have read our article on Wednesday about reducing plastic in your supermarket shop, but what about going one step further? Enter nude shopping. Don’t worry, you get to keep your clothes on…

Riding the wave of last years “Plastic Free July”, many of us have already begun to try new methods of limiting our single use plastic waste. One method that has been catching on, in particular, is zero packaging shopping. When asked on the topic, Lizzie Archer, the president of Essex University’s Marine Conservation Society said, “If possible, buy your fruit and veg from a market stall, where there is no unnecessary plastic packaging if you bring your own bag. Even in supermarkets, aim to buy produce loose - I have a string mesh bag to keep them in before I get to the till. If there is a canned or glass jar version of the product you're looking to buy, choose these options over plastic as they are more easily recycled (and you could reuse your jar).”

Whilst a zero-plastic lifestyle is an admirable goal, it has yet to become accessible to everyone. Issues like food deserts and income disparity are often the gatekeeper preventing folks from gaining entry. On average plastic packaged produce is cheaper than their loose counterparts (crazy right?!), and whilst the plastic free options out there are growing considerably, it’s not going to be an easy ride. So before we move forward let me say, do what you can, but don’t break the bank if you can’t afford to fully commit to zero-plastic shopping. Every little helps and any steps you can take, are a step in the right direction.

“We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” - Anne-Marie Bonneau

With that said, let’s get to the tips to help you become a more conscientious shopper.

Start by finding your nearest zero packaging or bulk buying shop (keep in mind this might be a farmer’s market and not an actual store). If you can’t find a zero packaging store near you, try asking the supermarket if they have any problems with you bringing your own containers to buy from meat, fish and cheese counters, or bags to fill up with loose fruits, vegetables and bread.

Find a shop near you

Shopping “Go Bag”. Photo: Shawn Rykaczewski

Shopping “Go Bag”. Photo: Shawn Rykaczewski

Plan your meals, and then make a list of all the things you need to buy, and try not to deviate from it. This may sound like an obvious tip, but it’s a good one to remember. It’s often when buying things that aren’t on the shopping list that you’re more likely to end up with unnecessary plastic packaging and wasted food.

Create yourself shopping “Go Bags”, and leave it by the door. Fill your bags with jars, tupperware containers, and spare cloth bags. As you run out of the items you store in these containers, remember to place them back in your shopping bag, that way you can grab it and head out the door when you’re ready to get more groceries. Store a few “Go Bags” elsewhere. In your car, at work, at the gym. Wherever you might head to do your grocery shop from.

Once you’ve got to a bulk store, weigh your container, fill up, then weigh again. Many bulk stores stores require you to weigh items yourself before going to check out, but you should always weigh your containers before filling them - that way you don’t get charged extra. Record the weight of your items and the stock code in your phone. Some stores might even have labels which print out at the scales.

If you’re a bulk buying newbie, check out our bulk buying video for some top tips!

Bulk and zero waste stores have grains, spices, herbs and more! Photo: Pixabay

Bulk and zero waste stores have grains, spices, herbs and more! Photo: Pixabay

Why not try finding plastic free or refillable cleaning products too. You might need to track down a different store to the one you do your groceries in. Remember to bring a reusable jar or an old bottle! If you want to go completely waste free, why not try some DIY cleaning products, the ingredients for which you can buy in bulk and plastic free.

Making the change to a plastic free lifestyle is going to take a lot of habit-breaking, and forward planning on your end. Start small, by swapping out something you buy regularly, and keep doing it until it becomes a habit, then move onto the next item. Hopefully this article has left you feeling confident and ready to take on some plastic-free shopping of your own! You might even start to enjoy your weekly grocery shop...


If you have any other tips and tricks to plastic-free shopping you’d like to share, be sure to let us know in our Facebook group: Plastic Free Oceans

Check out our bulk buying video here

Can’t find a zero-packaging store near you? Check out Millie’s top tips for a plastic free supermarket shop here

This month, The Marine Diaries will be sharing our knowledge on plastic pollution to help educate the public about the impact of our actions on marine life, in the hope of promoting change. Together we can fight plastic.