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How to Put Together a Zero Waste Shopping Kit

When Josh and I decided to take the plunge and try Zero Waste, the very first thing we did was put together a bulk grocery shopping kit. 

We realized very early on just how much waste is tragically created in the packaging of foods – shrink-wrapped cucumbers, meat bundled up in styrofoam and plastic wrap. You get the picture.

Following the lead of many amazing Zero Waste bloggers before us, I immediately went to putting together our bulk grocery shopping kit. So, I pulled out a beautiful reusable tote that was gifted to me a few years prior and set out to locate some containers I knew I would enjoy for a long time.

Today, I can honestly say it is one of the best Zero Waste moves we’ve made yet. Shopping with reusables has seriously cut down on how much garbage our household produces.

Here’s how we designed our kit, and how you can too!

Design Your Zero Waste Shopping Kit

1) Plan out your Zero Waste pantry.

Pre-Zero Waste, we were overwhelmed by a pretty eclectic collection of pantry items. The reason being, we usually shopped based on this need to eat exactly what we wanted, when we wanted it (versus what we had). 

Let me just say, that’s a pretty privileged way to run your menu. I don’t recommend it. Today, we operate more on a planned basis. Every Sunday afternoon I sit down at the kitchen table and work out our menu for the week, based on what we have in stock and the items in our fridge that need to be eaten or they’ll spoil.

I keep only a few jars for rotating pantry staples:

  • Pasta
  • Grain
  • Bean
  • Lentil

Then, the next time I shop, I choose a new version of that food type! One week we may have penne; another, orzo. It keeps things tidy and helps us avoid overstocking things we’ll never get to eating.

Your homework: Consider the pantry staples you eat and enjoy on a regular basis. How many jars will you need to meet your needs? What size is appropriate for each? 

2) Find a set of jars that suit your needs perfectly.

I had a lot of fun selecting our pantry jars! I knew right away that I wanted a product that was glass, high quality, made of individual, recyclable parts, and beautiful enough to display in an open pantry. That’s why I chose Weck jars!

Here are a few other options worth considering:

  • Glass Mason Jars like Ball or Kerr – An American standard, round shape, country style, budget-friendly, proper for canning.
  • Glass Canning Jars like Weck or Le Parfait – Both European brands, round shape, elegant style, higher end, also proper for canning. 
  • Plastic Pop Top Containers like OXO – Square shape, easy to stack and store together, seals well, higher end, not good for canning. 
  • Anything Else You Come Across

Your homework: After you’ve done your research, buy the jars you want! Will you need to use them for canning? Will you want to display them in plain sight?

3) Grab a reusable tote or basket to take shopping.

Honestly, this is pretty straightforward. Look around the house: do you have an extra tote bag around the house that would serve your grocery shopping needs? Just make sure it’s sturdy, feels good on your shoulder, and has a lot of room to carry goodies.

Your homework: Find or buy a reusable tote that you can take to the farmers market or bulk bin store. Don’t have one at home? Get excited: it’s time to go shopping!

4) Purchase (or make) some reusable produce baggies.

I’m sick and tired of flimsy, plastic, roll-off-the-rack produce baggies. They’re frustrating to open, and they ultimately just get thrown away! Poke around online till you find some reusable produce bags that you like. I recommend choosing something that is lightweight and made of natural fibers.

If you really want to be considerate, choose some that are sheer so the cashier can read item numbers through the fabric. I made my own out of some leftover cotton cloth that I had in my sewing stash. Super easy! 

Your homework: Get some reusable, washable drawstring bags that you can use to organize and carry produce while you shop. Make sure you know their tare!

A Few Bonus Tips:

  • Give yourself every opportunity to make this habit stick. Keep an extra reusable tote in your vehicle, or set an extra by the front door so you won’t forget.
  • Have an extra wine tote lying around? Use it to transport reusable jars on grocery day! It will help keep the glass from clinking around.
  • Store a good-sized container in your car and use it to carry leftovers home from a restaurant. No more styrofoam to-go boxes!
  • Keep a chalk marker in your bag and use it to mark item numbers and tares on your jars if you’re in a pinch.

I absolutely love shopping with my bulk grocery shopping kit. It’s so handy! Do you think you’ll try it?

Heather Cowin

Wednesday 22nd of March 2017

For those who might be interested, Classico regular size pasta jars are Mason and you can reuse them with standard size ball jar lids. I asked people to save these for me and used them for kitchen storage like what is shown above. They work really well for a whole host of kitchen staples.


Thursday 23rd of March 2017

That's a great idea! I didn't know the two worked together.