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Living life with good intention, loving with soul, and consuming with a conscience

Low Waste Eco-friendly Transitioning Tips: Groceries & Food Waste



Welcome back to the Low Waste Transitioning Tips mini-series! One of the first things that immediately springs to mind for many of us considering a more low waste/eco-friendly lifestyle is without a doubt our groceries and food waste. Although in my first post in this mini-series I talked about our consumer culture, it's hard to apply that so much to food as it's something we need to sustain ourselves and simply well, live! I'm also a big believer in enjoying food and not feeling remotely guilty about any of it so we will see none of that sort of negative ninniness here. When it comes down to being more low waste with your food and groceries, it's not so much the consumer culture you need to watch out for but more just approaching your decision-making in the supermarket etc. a little differently. So here's some easy tips to think about next time you're out or online doing your big food shop:

Look for products that are in glass or cans:
A nice easy way to immediately cut down on how much packaging waste you consume during your grocery shop is buying items that are in recyclable containers. Tin cans, jars, glass bottles, cardboard boxes etc. can all be locally recycled whereas items in plastic trays, bags etc. aren't so easily disposed of. Of course some items will only ever come in plastic packaging and that makes it unavoidable to have a totally plastic-free shop but, if you are purchasing something such as ketchup for example, opt for the glass bottle alternative compared to the squeezy plastic bottle. Some plastics used for food packaging can actually be recycled but it's worth familiarising yourself with whether or not they can be as it is usually stated on the packaging itself if it isn't recyclable. Another bonus to buying items in glass jars is that you can repurpose those after you've finished the food item. Think drinking jars for on-the-go hydration, storing ingredients like sugar, oats, seeds, using glass bottles as vases - there's so many possibilities!

Use reusable bags in every sense:
We're all aware of the push to use reusable carrier bags when shopping in general, but have you considered the single use produce bags you might run into in the fruit and veg or bakery/deli counter sections? Many items such as loose fruit and veg or even bread don't necessarily need a bag to keep them in but if you do want to use some for things such as deli counter cheeses, cold meats, bakery pastries etc., invest in some reusable bags for those items too! There are many great options available online and anything from net bags to beeswax wraps can be helpful. Most food stores and supermarkets are more than happy for you to use your own containers and bags as long as you ask in advance if items need to be weighed so your choice of container doesn't tip the price over!



Avoid plastic in store and overbuying:
I've already covered this more or less but, if you do not need to buy fruit and veg in plastic packaging, then don't. It's really that simple. Of course this is dependent on need, availability, and whether or not the store you are using actually stock plastic-free fruit and veg (looking at you, Aldi - you tend to have a lot of packaging and not a lot of loose items!). Sometimes loose fruit and veg can be cheaper but other times it can be more expensive. It's all about getting familiar with your local shopping options and making choices that suit your needs and how you want to tackle being more low waste. It's also important to not overbuy produce just because of the price tag or convenience. I used to be *so* guilty of this in the past and would do something like buy a big plastic bag of carrots instead of 3 loose ones because "the big bag was only £1.20 and that's the same price as the 3 loose ones!". That mentality is a fine argument if you actually intend to use all of those carrots, but if you're just going to end up throwing them out, save yourself the trouble and food waste by not even purchasing them in the first place.

Plan your meals:
Oh my goodness, I cannot stress enough how helpful this point can be for minimising your groceries waste. Planning and cooking your own meals instead of using a lot of "instant food" can improve your cookery skills, widen your pallet and knowledge of food, but also stop you from wasting produce. Planning meals ahead of your food shop not only stops you buying unnecessary extra items "just because you fancied it", but it also means you don't overbuy fresh produce that may go out of date in the next few days. Planning meals can prevent you from getting overwhelmed by the amount of produce you have at home and makes it easier visually to know what you have in stock and thus what you can use. If by the end of the week you've planned you have some things left over, you know you can include them in your next meal choice to minimise that produce going in the bin too. I've noticed a considerable difference in how much food waste is in my household since becoming stricter with meal plans. The only times I feel that food gets thrown out is when the devil on my shoulder has convinced me to have a takeaway and thus, fucked my plan up for the week. Which leads me onto my next point...

Do you really need that takeaway?:
Don't worry. I'm not about to suggest that getting a takeaway is the devil incarnate, but something I've thought a lot more about recently is the excessiveness that can come along with it. We all know takeaways can be pretty expensive and therefore many of us see them as a "treat" - including me - but something I've been thinking about more and more is the fact that I often over order due to deals (remember what I said about the supermarket store deals earlier?) and how much effort is involved in getting it to my door. Delivery options such as Deliveroo with bicycles isn't so bad but, when you consider that someone jumps in a car or on a motorbike to bring you a single meal to your door, when you're trying to have a more eco-friendly impact on your environment, it does make you stop and think "what the fuck am I doing?!". Of course everyone gets a takeaway at some point, but if it's local - maybe go and collect it. Don't have them as frequently. Or even go out for dinner instead if it's an option.



Eat less meat and dairy in your diet:
This point is always a common one when promoting a more eco-friendly diet and for good reason. Although I am still a meat-eater myself, over the past year especially I have made a conscious decision to eat a lot more vegetarian and vegan meals in my weekly meals and it's *such* an easy change to make. Meat is expensive for your bank balance but also for the environment. The meat and dairy industries produce 60% of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and even the meat and dairy products with the least impact are still more environmentally harmful than the least sustainable vegetable or cereal agricultural growing. Meat and dairy production create greenhouse gasses but also use a lot of water and land resources that of course, could be better used elsewhere. I'm not suggesting that everyone becomes vegan overnight because of course, that's a) hypocritical of me and b) completely unrealistic due to an array of reasons such as dietary requirements, accessibility, financial constraints etc. but choosing to take part in meat-free Mondays for your evening meal or dabbling in plant-based milks or yoghurts? That is something attainable that if everyone participated in, could have a huge positive impact on the environment. It has also totally widened my knowledge of food, recipes, tastes, textures, and health. Even making better, more informed choices when it comes to your meat can help. It was only yesterday that National Geographic published an article suggesting switching beef for chicken can half your dietary carbon footprint which is such a good stepping stone in the right direction to becoming more eco-friendly.

Support stores who make the pledge:
Over the past year or so, supermarkets have come under fire for either their packaging choices, sales of certain products (like items with palm oil as an ingredient), amongst other things. Therefore it's important to support all stores - major chains and independent - who have made a pledge to make low waste changes. These could be changes they have already actioned that you agree with or something that they're working towards. Either way, it's good to acknowledge pledges to show stores that these are changes that we want to see and that they have the support of the general public. Some great recent changes and pledges have been Morrison’s becoming the first supermarket to banish single use plastic on their fresh produce and Waitrose have just opened their first store that has bulk buying sustainable options for anything from grains, fruit and veg, to beer and wine! I always suggest shopping locally for fresh produce if and when you can as it's important to support local suppliers and their trades (it also minimises consuming produce that has clocked up air-miles/pollution/a carbon footprint count due to transport) but of course, if your local supermarket are making positive steps and changes - give them your backing!



Bulk shop if you can:
One last point in terms of shopping - if you can buy bulk, absolutely do it. I'm not talking bulk as in amount (we've already discussed how those "bargains" can actually be pretty wasteful), but more like the zero/low waste store kind of bulk. Unfortunately the "local" low waste bulk store for me is actually a train ride away so I can't really use it, but if you live close by to one or you can plan time to go to one if it's convenient or you have a friend who is happy to help you carry your goods home, you should jump at the chance. Buying from bulk stores means you can buy a range of products - from shampoo to pasta to cereal and more - and not pay for any packaging or labels because you take along your own containers. Bulk stores are of course low waste and eco-friendly due to this fact and you can often save money in the long run as you can buy large amounts of your favourite ingredients and products.


That's it for this instalment of my low waste eco-friendly transitioning tips mini-series! Hopefully these few pointers can make shopping and food prep just that little bit easier and you will hopefully see results in no time. To check out other transition tips, click here


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