How to grocery shop

May 17, 2016

The Beginner’s Guide to Zero-Waste – The How To’s


Alrighty friends, last week we learned about WHY it’s important to shop Zero-Waste. Today, I’m going to go through my exact HOW TO’s on the subject.

Keep in mind, I’m no professional. Just a passionate person with an urge to lower her carbon footprint. This alternative way of shopping is slowly becoming more and more mainstream amongst likeminded individuals, and therefore, more easily accommodated. It took a while and more than a few phone calls before I found a bulk food store that actually allows me to bring in my own jars and bags. Most other bulk food stores won’t allow outside packaging with the fear of contaminating their products. Which is kind of silly if you think about it. Anyone at any time can go in and sneeze into their bins… but I digress. Papillon Foods, located in Plaza Pointe-Claire on boul St Jean near highway 20, has since become one of my favorite places to go. They accommodate me easily without the rule that most other bulk food stores enforce. Not to mention all the other amazingly mindful products they have in stock. Everything from vegan “meats” and “cheeses” to hormone free beef. It’s quite the utopia for the new age consumer.

So first, even before I shop, I make a game plan. I go through meal ideas with my family to see what tickles their fancy for the next few days. I also think up alternatives, just in case they happen to be out of a single ingredient. I come up with a list of items I need and know that I will eventually need. Just like any other shopping trip.

Second, I check through the list for things I know I can make myself. So much we buy is just for ease, but if we started to make things on our own, so much can come of it. Better health is on the top of the list. I can never tell what’s in the food anymore. I read through ingredients and can’t pronounce half the list. And really, why does tomato sauce have a list of ingredients the size of my hand? Tomatoes, onions, spices and whatever else you have laying around. There, THAT’S what should go into a tomato sauce.

Another positive, of course besides overflowing our garbage bins every week, cooking brings a sense of accomplishment and brings people together. When my fiancé and I cook together, we completely zone out from the everyday stress. Take the time to joke and talk without so many distractions. I know so many people who also use it as a binder with their kids. Teaches them important life skills and co-operation. And let’s not forget the taste! Fresh is always better. I’ve never once had anyone counter that! Ever!

Third, I count every single item on the list that I know the store has bins full of (this came with time, the more I go, the, more I know what they have as a selection). Count them up, and match the number of jars, lids and bags to what’s on my list. The best thing I’ve done for myself was the purchase of all my litre size and 1 cup size jars. The variety really does help. I’ve also made a whole bunch of reusable, washable cloth bags for the same reason. The only difference would really be how lightweight the bags are, but both are important to bring (molasses doesn’t handle the same way in cotton bag as black beans do).

Fourth, before I leave the house with my list, jars and bags, I always make sure to have 2 more things with me:

1- A wide mouth funnel. This I’ve learned from experience, trying to fit a flour scoop into a jar without making a huge mess is tedious. A wide mouth jar ensures that everything makes it safely to the jar instead of all over the floor, my hands, my pants and anything else it could stick to.

2- A dry-erase marker to mark what’s inside the jar. I only use this because I had one laying around, eventually I’ll update my system using chalk and chalkboard paint to label. I’ve shopped a few times after forgetting it, and it’s just awful. If it’s a small load, you’re golden but if you have 3 different types of rice or spices with similar looks, trying to decipher between them gets rough. Mark it down. Save yourselves the headache.

Fifth, once you’re at the store, it’s important to remember to pre-weigh your jars. The way the store handles this is super simple. Go to the front cash, ask them to pre-weigh and they will. BOOM! Done! They’ll take a permanent marker to mark the bottom of your jar or bag with the weight. So when it’s full, they take the measure of the whole product and deduct the weight of the jars.

Sixth, now here’s where it gets fun. YOU SHOP! Using the funnel, just fill up your jars with the scoops provided at each bin. Mark down what’s inside and then go back to the cash for checkout.

This style of shopping is super easy! Following these guidelines, I’m confident that anyone can do it! Happy shopping!

PS. A few doors down from Papillon Foods is a bulk candy joint (Ryan’s Candy) with the same concept! Can I get a WOOT!?

---- Dawn Francom ---- 2019-01-27 20:37:07