It’s safe to say this pandemic is affecting our lives in a multitude of ways.
From the way we have to keep our distance from loved ones, to the way we have to plan around potential product shortages in the grocery store--it’s been tough.
Since many stores aren’t allowing reusable grocery bags, produce bags, or containers into the building for fear of carrying germs, we've had to get a little creative with the way we shop.
It’s understandable; but it doesn’t make it any easier to digest having to sacrifice our eco-friendly practices for the supermarket’s plastic bags to stay healthy.
Luckily, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here are some ways that you can still be zero-waste (or as close as possible) with your groceries during this uncertain time.
Skip The Bags -- Put Your Groceries Straight Into the Cart
Yes, you heard that right. The best way to avoid plastic produce bags is… Well, to not use any.
Instead of (guiltily) placing your carrot bunch into that flimsy green bag, we recommend a simpler solution: throwing that baby right into the grocery cart.
Is your mind blown yet?
To some, that may be baffling and even seem unhygienic. Considering how dirty the grocery carts and conveyor belts are, how many hands it’s changed and the germs it might carry--aren’t we trying to avoid that?
Of course we are. But if you consider just how many grocery stores have started cleaning their carts and conveyor belts on the regular due to this pandemic (indeed, entire guides have come out for businesses), it’s a whole lot safer now to put your groceries straight into the cart without any protective bag.
Still nervous? We also always recommend washing your produce before consuming it - whether you've used a bag, or not. Simply spray it down with a good vegetable and fruit wash. There are a multitude of brands you can purchase from online--or you can make your own. All you need is vinegar, lemon juice, and water in a repurposed spray bottle!
As for the question of what to put your groceries in once you have them purchased, it’s simple! Just request that the cashier put your items right back in the cart with no bags. Will you get a funny look? Probably. But the person behind you might see what you've done and decide to do it too. And that, my friends, is how a domino effect works. Keep your reusable bags in the car so you can easily bag your own groceries in the parking lot.
What If I Get My Groceries Delivered?
Some of you--particularly if you have a high risk immunity--may feel nervous even just going to the grocery store--and that’s okay!
If you've been getting your groceries delivered, it's a little trickier to stay green… But definitely not impossible. Since the delivery people are required to use bags for your groceries (and it makes sense, a variety of groceries loose in the back of a car can get… messy), be sure to request paper bags and no produce bags in the notes for your order.
While not the best of options, it will do for the time. Besides, your paper bags don’t have to be single use! We like to use them for crafts with the kids--because we can always use a new activity to keep them entertained. Am I right?
Here are some other awesome ways you can those paper bags too!
Produce Delivery Services
Did you know there are services that will deliver organic produce right to your door? And if you're a busy entrepreneur mama like myself, this will be your saving grace.
Usually specializing in the freshest of produce from local farmers, it’s a great option if you find yourself going through a lot of produce in a short period of time and want to avoid making more trips to the store than you have to.
Produce deliveries typically come with no extra packaging and in boxes that can be recycled, composted, or set out for pickup with your next delivery (they'll also take the cold packs back, too). Plus, many of them offer pantry and additional cold items as well.
Our current faves are: Imperfect Foods and Full Circle Farms (enter code: EMIL1785 for $15 off your first order). We've been getting these delivered weekly to cut down on our grocery store trips. Use our links above for a discount on your first orders.
Don’t Buy What You Don’t Need
Maybe this goes without saying but… For some, it doesn’t.
With the shortages of food, cleaning products and basic necessities, it can be easy to panic--in fact, it’s natural to do so. Biologically, our bodies are telling us to store what we can, however much we can get: leading to packed refrigerators... and empty grocery stores.
But it’s important to recognize that this response is not logical. It’s emotional.
We are scared. The pandemic has created a lot of anxiety about what the future may hold. Some of us may be wondering when the next time we’ll see a family member will be, or when we can go back to work, or even the next time our kids can play in a public park.
Of course it’s emotional.
Breathe. Take stock of what you have and what you can manage. Stocking loads upon loads of produce that you won’t finish before it goes bad won’t help anyone (and certainly not your wallet, for that matter).
As part of an eco-friendly community, it’s important to take care of ourselves, yes; but also important to be conscientious about the products we’re using or not using. Maybe the beets you were convinced you needed last week have now gone bad, so they didn’t really serve their purpose, did they?
Figure out what you actually need. Try writing out your grocery lists in terms of meal prep: how much do you really need to feed your family? Which fruits and vegetables will last longer than a couple of days?
By all means, if you see a product on the shelves that's been out of stock for awhile and you’re really needing it, take it.
Our point is that even during this difficult time: we can still be the best versions of ourselves.
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From our previous blog post, "Zero Waste Grocery Shopping", here are some more easy ways to keep your shopping green:
- Buy items packaged in glass, metal, or cardboard, instead of plastic
- Eat more produce & other naturally package-free items
- Use paper bags for bulk bin purchases
- Grow your own produce
- Shop at your local farmer's market
- Compost & recycle