How to Shop Sustainably without Bulk Options

There is a shockingly large amount of people who don’t have access to bulk options or a dedicated bulk store. Personally, our local grocery store only has a small bulk section which basically only contains baking needs like chocolate chips, candies, and maybe a few spices. There is a bulk barn but it’s an hour away and environmentally isn’t always worth the trip.

Talking to a lot of other people trying to reduce their waste, there seems to be a lot of people in this situation and some that have zero bulk options.

It wasn’t until really diving into the issue and speaking to a lot of my readers that I realized what a complete privilege it is to have access to any kind of bulk groceries. 

Buying in bulk isn’t the only way to reduce your waste and definety isn’t the end-all-be-all of sustainability. There are lots of factors to consider when trying to reduce your waste at the grocery store. And it is totally possible to reduce your waste and your carbon footprint without having access to bulk bins.

how to shop sustainably without bulk options

How to Shop Sustainably without Bulk Options:

1. Choose metal, paper/cardboard, or glass

These materials are a lot easier to recycle and are infinitely recyclable meaning they can be recycled time and time again and always made into something new. Plastic can almost always only be recycled once. And chances are the plastic packaging that your food came in has already been recycled and cannot be again making it trash. 

While recycling should always be a last resort, it is, in my opinion a better option that buying in plastic that ends up in a landfill.

Try optiong for ketchup in a glass bottle instead of plastic.

2. Buy the biggest size

Not only is this usually the cheapest option, but it’s better for the planet. Buying the biggest container will mean you have to restock less and you’ll end up using less packaging. For items you tend to buy and use frequestnly, try getting the biggest container and fill up smaller containers at home such as vinegar, oil, rice, oats, and so on.

3. Repurpose packaging

Things like glass and metal are my favorite to shop in not only because they’re recyclable but because they can easily be repurposed as well. Jars and great for holding bulk foods (or the foods you bought in the biggest container!) and I store almost all of my homemade lotions, products, and DIYs in jars.

Read: Ultimate list of zero waste cleaners

Tin cans are always great for crafts, storing random small things or for planting herbs indoors!

4. Look for naked produce

While there are some grocery stores out there who wrap every. single. thing. in plastic, my hope is that there are still a lot that have at least SOME naked produce. Try to buy a head of lettuce rather than a bag of pre-chopped lettuce.

And either bring your own produce bags or just don’t use any at all! Avoid those thin little plastic baggies like the plague, they’re terrible and I hate them with a passion. You should be washing your produce anyway (a little vingar and baking soda goes a long way) so it shouldn’t matter if you don’t use a bag.

5. Buy Local and in-season food

Avacados do not grow here in my little corner of the Canadian prairies. While I will pick some up occasionally, I try not to make it a habit because I know they have to travel a LONG way to get to me. The carbon emissions to get an avocado from it’s native land and over seas to me is ridiculous. This is why buying locally grown foods is so important and a huge part of reducing your carbon footprint.

Buying in-season food is also important. It takes a lot more energy and resources to immulate the environment certain foods would need to grow on their off-season. 

Read: How to eat seasonally 

6. Eat more plant-based

I won’t tell you to go vegan. While I believe it plays a major part in healing our planet, I know that it’s not accessible or attainable for everyone. What I can do is encourage you to eat more plant-based foods and meals. 

The meat industry is a huge contributor to climate change and deforestation. By simply cutting meat from your diet for one meal a day or one day a week will actually help significantly. 

Remeber, we don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly. – Anne-Marie Bonneau

Related reading: 

Zero Waste Series: Your guide to a zero waste kitchen

Zero Waste Series: How to have a zero waste bathroom

Zero Waste Series: Zero waste laundry routine

Thank you for reading! I hope this post is helpful is showing you how to shop sustainably without bulk options! I always say zero waste living doesn’t have to be hard or expensive, all it takes is a little conscious thinking. 

Please don’t forget to share this post and follow me on Instagram for daily low waste living tips!

how to shop sustainably without bulk options



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