An Uncomplicated, Eco-Friendly Tweak To Your Grocery Routine (& A Free Bulk Bin Grocery List!)

Every Monday I step into our local food co-op with my three-old beside me in her wrong-footed shoes, pushing my clanging cart full of empty glass jars, and smiling.

This small act is one of my favorites of the week because it reminds me caring for the planet doesn’t have to be complicated.

Every Monday for at least the last 3 years I have been in my Monday grocery run routine.

For years, I bought our weekly food and household items from the popular chain grocery stores, I didn’t even know shops such as a food co-op or refillery existed. Once I discovered them, I began experimenting with buying noodles, oatmeal, dishwashing soap, and shampoo and conditioner from their bulk bins. I only felt comfortable bringing 3 or 4 jars in at a time.

Even though I wanted to make the switch to eco-friendly shopping habits, I was intimidated.

I felt awkward. Not very many people were doing this and everyone was giving me the side-eye as I tared my mason jar and scooped in my cashews.

It felt criminal to carry in my own containers (instead of using the flimsy plastic bags) and start helping myself from the bulk bins.

Perhaps most of all, I felt like I was being an inconvenience to the clerk who had to manually input the tare weight and PLU code of each of my jars at the register.

Now, though, I proudly rattle my way to the bulk bin aisle on Mondays, welcome any watchful eyes (there aren’t any!), and proceed with the following three easy steps:

  1. Tare the jars (if they’re not completely empty)
  2. Write down their PLU codes (if they’re not already written on the sticker on my jar).
  3. Scoop in our favorite refillable products. (Scroll down for your free printable grocery list!)

And every week, people make a comment. It’s usually sounds something like:

“Oh, are they letting us bring in our own jars again?”  (Yes, COVID regulations are over! I’ve been back to using my own jars for over a year now!)

“How do you tare your jars?” (Super easy! Weigh it on the scale in the bulk bin section and write it on the stickers or tape provided. ) Note: I always have a master list of all the PLU codes of our usual items with me.

“I love that you are refilling all your own jars. I’ve been wanting to do more of that too!” (I love doing it! It’s been such a fun routine!) 

Once I started down the refill path I was hooked! This small change gave us momentum and helped us look for more ways we could respond to the climate crisis and reduce our waste as a family.

It only takes a few minutes to receive a mini-education. Simply do a search for “no-waste facts on plastic” and you will find eye-opening articles like this one, “Fact Sheet: Single Use Plastics” to motivate you to make changes in your lifestyle and routines.

-Virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form (with the exception of the small amount that has been incinerated).[5]

-Five trillion plastic bags are produced worldwide annually. It can take up to 1,000 years for a bag to disintegrate completely. Americans throw away 100 billion bags annually– that’s the equivalent to dumping nearly 12 million barrels of crude oil! By switching to reusable shopping bags, we can eliminate that waste– which amounts to about 307 bags per person.[7]

-When plastics end up in landfills, they aren’t harmless. They break down into tiny toxic particles that contaminate the soil and waterways and enter the food chain when animals accidentally ingest them.[14]

There are endless ways to begin living more sustainably and it can feel overwhelming and impossible to figure out where to begin. When we really start to dig into the climate crisis, it doesn’t take long to see every facet of our life needs adjusting. For me, trying to lessen my family’s reliance on plastic containers felt like a manageable and impactful next step.

Over time, and with repetition, our Monday morning shopping routine has transformed. We went from merely pushing a cart through the aisles, mindlessly gathering up food wrapped and stored in plastic, to consciously refilling our jars with all our weekly staples inside.

Imagine if we all made a few tiny tweaks to our well-worn ways and began to consider eco-friendly alternatives to our grocery shopping? I hope you take a moment to figure out a workable next step.

Perhaps it is starting to save old glass jars, locating the nearest bulk bin refilleries in your area, and making some simple swaps in your pantry! (Here’s how we began.)

Also, I’m excited to share with you a free printable Bulk Bin Grocery List (I wish I had one of these earlier).

Rummage through your cupboards and see what all you can refill instead of continuing to buy over and over again. The PDF is a collection of all of our favorite seeds, nuts, snacks, dried fruits, baking essentials, and pantry staples!

Print it out, share with friends, and let me know if you have any questions!








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