Today I went zero-waste shopping at bulk heaven—Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco.
If you’ve never tried it, zero-waste shopping may sound like an intimidating prospect. But if you live near a store with a good bulk section, really, you need only get organized and bring along some zero-waste shopping gear.
Before I left this morning, I:
- Checked my list of bulk foods I had run out of;
- Packed my homemade cloth produce/bulk bags into my cloth shopping bags; and
- Packed glass jars of various sizes into my cloth shopping bags.
This little bit of planning resulted in a tiny amount of trash—five twist ties. If I had bought each of these items in packaging as I had always done in the past, I would have eventually thrown at least 16 packages into the trash, but probably more, as I bought several pounds of pasta and stores usually sell one-pound bags or boxes of the stuff. And most of that packaging would have consisted of plastic, which never breaks down.
N.B. At the store, you (or customer service depending on the store) weigh the jars on scales, write the tare on a sticker on the jar, then the cashier deducts the weight of the jar from the overall weight of the jar plus the food. You pay only for the food in the jar.
I bought the following organic items (starting at the top left in the pic above, then sort of snaking around):
- Dry cat food. I had never seen bulk cat food until I found it at Rainbow. Maybe a pet store near me sells it. I’ll have to look into that. My poor Baby Cat has irritable bladder syndrome and needs expensive prescription cat food, which is packaged in plastic unfortunately, but Bootsy can (and does) eat anything. So I get him this and reserve the Rx stuff for Baby Cat.
- Whole wheat flour. Rainbow carries several types, but I chose the medium ground for my whole wheat sourdough bread. I bake Michael Pollan’s country loaf recipe from Cooked, which he bases on Chad Roberton’s Tartine loaf.
- Baking soda. I’ve been thinking of writing an ode to baking soda, an unsung hero of simple living. I use it for baking, cooking, cleaning and washing my hair.
- Cornmeal. What a deal this was. The large jarful in the top right cost a whopping $1.11. Because it is organic (like everything else I bought), it’s also GMO-free.
- Cornstarch. My daughter MK wanted this for something, probably stir fries. She’s an awesome cook. For a family camp this week up in the Sierras, she planned a menu for about 25 people—breakfast, lunch and dinner—and has been cooking it (and milking goats too!).
- Flaked coconut. I had said I wouldn’t buy coconut anymore because it’s not local, but I need some sort of kitchen vice. And it tastes great on Irish oatmeal with raisins, chia seeds, hemp seed and so on.
- Coconut sugar. A put a little of this on my Irish oatmeal also.
- Farro. A blogger I follow, Hilda of “Along the Grapevine,” recently posted a delicious-looking vegan burger made with farro, and I have never tried cooking with this grain, so I picked some up.
- Rye flour. This is also for my sourdough country loaf.
- Earl Grey tea. I drink a lot of this.
- Bittersweet chocolate chips. I accidentally forgot to tare the jar. That’s too bad because these were one of the more expensive items I bought. But the cashier made a good estimate of the weight, based on my other jars.
- Orechiette pasta. I accidentally left the bulk door open too long and filled my bag up more than I had intended. We will eat it all though.
- Farfalle. Mostly for Charlotte, my younger daughter.
- Cajun cashews. Holy cow these are hot. They’re very tasty too. And made with only a handful of real ingredients.
- Bulk sponges. Yes, Rainbow sells loose pop-up sponges with zero packaging. Just when I thought I couldn’t love the store more, I found these. I knit a couple of dish cloths this weekend, inspired by one of Mommy Emu’s posts, but I grabbed a couple of these sponges anyway. We will use them.
I still have two cloth produce/bulk bags to give away. They’re very nice. If I have convinced you to give bulk shopping a try and you would like these (and you live in the U.S.), please fill out the contact form below.
[Update! The bags have all been spoken for. Thank you to everyone who emailed me.]
See you in bulk heaven!