While I knew that making the decision to eat less meat would be better for the environment, I never realized how the way I bought groceries impacted the planet. I have always brought my own bags to the grocery store and, just like any other person, thought this was enough. However, I realized that I was subconsciously purchasing a lot of single-use plastic every time I bought groceries. Over the past few months, I’ve made a conscious effort to change the way I shop. Shopping more sustainably and consciously is a lot easier than you might think! Some of these tips might even save you some cash!
Buy in Bulk
Although bulk shopping was limited for almost a year due to COVID-19, bulk stations have reopened! I personally like shopping in bulk at the Isla Vista Food Co-op and stocking up on my favorite pantry staples. I bring my own jars to cut down on plastic — plus, bulk shopping saves me money in the long run. Buying in bulk is great for students with busy schedules who don’t have time to grocery shop multiple times per week. Currently, I have bulk jars of chia seeds, brown rice and pasta in my pantry.
Be Mindful of Packaging
When in doubt, look for glass or aluminum food packaging. I love buying sauces in glass jars, such as pasta sauce or salsa, since I can rinse them out once they’re finished and use them as bulk containers, plant propagation jars and more! Glass and metal can be recycled indefinitely compared to plastic, which has so many different varieties, most of which aren’t actually recyclable. Most grocery stores carry a wide selection of items in glass or aluminum packaging and they are usually only a few cents more expensive than plastic-wrapped items.
Bring Your Own Bags
This sounds a little obvious, but have you ever thought about bringing your own bags for unwrapped produce? I love bringing mesh produce bags or reusing older plastic produce bags at the grocery store when buying my fruits and veggies. Additionally, this hack helps prevent me from buying too much produce that might spoil in the fridge since I can choose the exact amount I wish to buy. Produce with peels, including bananas, squash and citrus fruits, can sit in your cart without a bag.
Shop With a List and Keep Your Kitchen Organized
When my shelves and fridge aren’t organized, I tend to overbuy since I forget what I have at home. Keep your kitchen clean rather than cluttered so you can always see the ingredients you already have!
I also always bring some form of list with me to the grocery store so I can stay focused. The grocery store is one of my favorite places and I know that without a shopping list, I’d buy many things that I don’t even need. Shopping with a list helps prevent food waste!
I wish I made more of an effort to visit the farmers market and shop at smaller markets! There are two amazing farmers markets near Isla Vista: the Camino Real Marketplace Farmers’ Market on Sundays and the farmers market on State Street on Tuesdays! For a complete list of farmers markets in Santa Barbara, read more here.
Supporting local farms is great for the community, plus most farm stands do not wrap their produce in excessive packaging! Most of the items sold at farmers markets cost less too!
Remember that it’s very difficult to be a conscious shopper all the time. Many essential grocery items are packaged with plastic or materials that cannot be easily recycled or reused. Don’t beat yourself up for buying a package of tofu wrapped in plastic or a carton of milk with a plastic cap. However, doing your part by purchasing some items in bulk, shopping from local vendors or only buying items you need are great ways to shop with the environment in mind.
A version of this article appeared on p. 12 of the September 30, 2021 print edition of the Daily Nexus.