Reduce Your Grocery Shopping

by Liesl Clark and Rebecca Rockefeller

Do you want to shift to a life with less plastic and less waste in general? Wondering where to start? Feeling overwhelmed? We’d love to help!  

We’ve learned a lot about how to change our own habits and perspectives over the past three years, and we’d like to offer this bit of advice: Please, don’t try to do everything at once! Choose just one step, the one that seems the easiest or most appealing to you, and give that a try.Adapt our ideas as necessary for your own household and lifestyle and keep at that one first change until it’s second nature, or until you’re excited to add another.

Remember that joy and pride are much better motivating emotions in the long run than guilt and shame. Find one first step solution here that addresses something you’d be happy to change because it’s driving you crazy, or something that you’d be proud to accomplish. Find the joy and humor in taking control of your stuff, and celebrate every little change you make. Over time, these small steps add up and can have a profound positive impact.

The Zero Grocery Shopping Challenge: Looking for a family challenge that can improve your connections with your food, your neighbors, and Mother Nature herself? Take a weekend, a week, a month, or more and try our Zero Grocery Shopping Lifestyle tips. You won’t be able to grow and harvest from your own container or garden in a weekend, but you can find a local community garden and sign yourself up for a plot. For immediate gratification, take a walk around your neighborhood or nearby park to forage for some tasty things for a Saturday night salad. Obviously, going grocery-shopping-free isn’t possible as a long-term lifestyle for many of us, but even as a short-term experiment, it can be eye-opening in the best way, connecting you with local, seasonal foods and the people in your community in fun and healthy new ways.

Here are our Zero Grocery Shopping Lifestyle Tips. Give this challenge a try – Pick one thing to do and start with that:  

  • Grow/farm your own: If you have the space, grow a garden of greens and whatever else you love. This is viable for people living in rural, suburban, and yes, urban areas. The organization Urban Farming is a modern incarnation of the Victory Gardens that produced 40% of the US food supply during WWII, an exciting movement to bring food production to city lots all over the United States. Even where there aren’t vacant city lots to devote to fruit and vegetables, there’s another grassroots movement at work turning parking strips into vegetable gardens. If you don’t have a backyard or parking strip to plant, find a community garden and sign up for a plot. Fresh eggs are nutritious and delicious, and even city dwellers can get chickens. We raise bees for the day when we can actually harvest our own supply of honey for the year; beekeeping is another option that also works for urban dwellers (and the pollination help from city bees is much appreciated by urban plants). Whatever ground you plant in, the more you grow, the fewer trips you have to make to the store.

    Fresh Eggs From Happy Backyard Hens

  • Forage: We know it sounds crazy, but if you can learn what the great free foragable edibles are around you, you can reduce your waste by buying less. We’re proud to admit that a good percentage of our diet is from foraged food: blackberries, apples (although the town just cut down our favorite beach apple tree), water cress, nettles, bitter cress, oyster mushrooms, huckleberries, blueberries, chanterelles, salmonberries. Cities have foraging options, too. Here’s an article about foraging in Washington, DC,  a free PDF guide to urban foraging in Britain that also applies in general terms to North America, and First Ways is a blog guide to urban foraging written by a Portland, OR, USA resident.

  • Make your own: If there’s something you eat regularly, try to make your own so you don’t have to purchase the packaging along with the staple item. We bake all our bread, make our yogurt, and toast our own nut mixes. It’s a way of life so it doesn’t feel like a chore and our home-made staples are much better than what we find at the store. Really. Don’t believe us? Check out our Food Less Plastic Pinterest board for some basic recipes for staples and treats that you can make at home. Sure, it does take time to cook at home, but that’s time you don’t have to spend navigating the aisles of your local grocery store and hauling the recyclable and landfill waste to your curb or dumpster. Buy in bulk and cook in bulk and you’ll free time up for enjoying what you’ve made with your family.

DIY yogurt in small glass jars, ready for on-the-go eating, lunch bags, and snacks at home.

Please let us know if you give this a try – We’d love to hear what works for you, and what your local challenges are.

Got your own Little Red Hen? We'd love to hear about her.

Got your own Little Red Hen? We’d love to hear about her.

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