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How to routinely shop package-free

Nowadays, it’s more common to hear or read something about low-waste lifestyles. However, sometimes the thought of trying to switch lifestyles can feel overwhelming and daunting. Where do you begin? One of the best ways to reduce single-use packaging in your home is to buy grocery items that don’t have any packaging at all. This may sound like a big change, but it doesn’t have to be! We have broken down the steps for how to consistently shop package-free.

Identify which items you can buy package-free. The best step to start with is going through your kitchen and identifying items you typically buy from the grocery store that you could buy at a refillery instead. A refillery is a new term that refers to stores where you can refill a container rather than buying a pre-packaged item, such as Bulk Barn. Not sure what products are available to refill? Check to see if the store has a website or make an in-person visit! Grab a notepad or make a list on your phone and explore the product selection. Walk down every single aisle (or scroll through every list) and make a list of the items you sometimes have in your own home. You don’t need to buy anything just yet, make the list and then return to your kitchen.

Break down the list and decide what to buy. At the moment, you should have a long list of all the things you saw at the store that you typically buy – whether you buy them all the time or only on special occasions. Break the list down into two: the items you always have, and the items you sometimes buy. This will help to decide what you should buy first. (Remember: you don’t need to buy everything at once! You can choose just one or two items to start.) An example of a list could be:

Staple items:
Coffee beans
Baking soda

Items you sometimes buy:
Chocolate chips
Baking ingredients
Chocolate almonds

Get the jars. Now that you’ve separated your list and chosen the items you will buy first, go through your stash of jars and/or other reusable containers. Choose ones that appropriately fit the volume of each item you would like to have. For example: you may want a very large jar for coffee beans, but a smaller container for salt. Choose them strategically to limit how often they need to be refilled, while still staying fresh. If you don’t already have jars at home, check out the local thrift stores which often have a great selection. Remember – you want vessels that seal tight to keep the items fresh.

Buy the items. Return to the refillery, whether it be Bulk Barn or elsewhere, and purchase the items on your list. Now, you have two options. Option 1: Bring enough reusable sandwich bags to get the volume of the items you want. Fill the bags at the store, then return home and empty them into the jars. If you’re using a reusable plastic bag, there is no need to weigh them beforehand as they are very light. Option 2: Bring the jars with you, and have the cashier weigh them before you start filling them. The cashiers at Bulk Barn are used to people bringing their own containers, all you have to do is walk up to the register and ask them to weigh them for you. They will use an erasable marker and record the weight of each container on them so that you don’t end up paying more for your items. This option is easier because you can get the exact amount you need, but clunkier as you are transporting jars which may be fragile. Once you have gotten all of the items on your list, proceed to the check-out.

Set up the jars. Congratulations! You have done it. Now, you can find places in your kitchen and home to set up your jars. If it suits your style, they can make for great kitchen counter pieces that can act as conversation starters with visitors.

Refill. When the day comes that your jars are getting low, all you need to do is make a trip back to the store. Again you have a couple options: bring the jars with you or bring reusable containers or bags. Whichever method you prefer, be sure to choose a reusable vessel to truly avoid waste. And remember, you don’t need to refill everything at the same time.

Pro Tip #1: If you want to limit how often you need to go back to the store, consider getting a back-up container or jar to store a second supply of the item in. For example, do you use a lot of flour? Consider a smaller jar for the counter and a bigger container to keep in the pantry so you can refill as needed.

Pro Tip #2: Pay attention to how quickly you are going through your items. If some things are going stale before you eat them, consider switching them to a smaller container and buying less. If some items are running out way faster than the others, consider switching to a bigger container or buying a back-up stash.

Learning to live a low waste lifestyle takes time. It’s a learning curve and nobody is perfect. Following these steps can help make the journey a bit smoother, and cut down on a lot of waste right off the bat!