what’s inside your zero waste grocery tote?

Welcome to another installment of zero waste home management. I am your host, Elaine Tucker. 

Today we’re taking a look inside my tote bag. I carry this tote every time we hit the grocery.

Step 1: get a tote to hold totes. 

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^^^ As you can see everything you need will still fit inside the tote bag that you already take with you. you take totes to the grocery, right? ^^^

Step 2: put this stuff in it.

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^^^ so here’s the stash laid out. Various containers, bags & my important erasable crayon ^^^

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^^^ so here we can see two other totes that fold up inside the original tote. in the top left hand corner we have lightweight, plastic containers that come in 3 sizes and fit inside one another nicely when empty. these are my bulk item containers. i’ve used the same ones for at least 6 months now with washings in between store trips.  i procured them at market district because that’s where i do most of my bulk shopping but whole foods also has a bag system if you’d rather go that route. I think the plastic containers are easiest and stack in a pantry nicely. You can also see my produce bags peeking out but we’re not ready for you yet, friends  ^^^

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^^^ now we are! fabric produce bags top right hand corner, a saved produce bag does just as well, a reusable plastic bag delegated to rice items since we buy a lot of that at one time and my saved coffee bag for the self-serve whole bean department ^^^

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^^^ my take-out containers center stage. these are used at the deli for meats and cheeses and occasionally for bulk pasta and OLIVES! Bottom left-hand corner is my refillable liquids container for olive or canola oil or balsamic vinegar. i also have a refillable honey bear that didn’t make it into the pic ^^^

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^^^ and this little guy is my secret weapon. it’s my erasable crayon pen so i can write the PLU #s on the top of each container. I’m often letting others borrow it as there is always a shortage of pens in the bulk items section. Any washable marker would do ^^^

are you thinking this looks like a lot of work? like any other habit, once you’re used to it, it doesn’t take much extra time at all. in fact, i save time in the grocery now because i’m not going into the center aisles. everything i need is in the perimeter.

the workability of this systems lies somewhere between turning the car around when you forget the totes and saying “yes, i’ll take paper” when you’ve run out of room in the totes and have some overflow. i’m dedicated enough to make the effort but flexible enough to let it go if i need to use a plastic produce bag every once in a while. plus, you only forget the tote 2 times at the most. after that it’s engrained in your memory FOREVER.

and i didn’t make all these changes at once. i started small and kept adding measures gradually. if you don’t think you can do all of these then focus on the ones you can. I started with the reusable totes and containers for the deli counter and it has progressed from there. it’s about progress not perfection. i personally believe it’s my job as a consumer to make sure i’m making ethical choices. a whole lot of throw away plastic is not ethical for me. so i’ve made progress where and when I can.

have i inspired you yet? please feel free to leave a comment if you do your own zero waste grocery shopping. if anyone has an idea that i’ve left out please leave it in that comment section.

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6 thoughts on “what’s inside your zero waste grocery tote?

  1. I actually don’t think this looks like a lot of work at all! It looks like it might make my life SIMPLER. :) I have a sack of fabric bags that are in my front closet, and I grab a couple on my way out the door, but it would be much simpler to have them ready to go in a fabric tote on the door handle. And I never thought about using a Ziploc for bulk foods. I wash and reuse them all the time, would make sense to use it for bulk items.

    Produce bags I don’t even use a bag at all usually, but I’m sure the cashiers would appreciate it.

    Anyway, great idea! Going to get one together myself!

    • thanks! so glad to hear you don’t think it looks like a lot of extra work. it really is not and it definitely is a lot simpler to not have to deal with all the ridiculous food packaging! congrats on the efforts you’ve already made and good luck with future implementation. I’ll continue to post efforts from our home. thanks so much for stopping by!

  2. Hi! Fellow Columbus mama here :)

    I LOVE your posts on your zero waste pantry and this post is especially awesome because it’s so helpful and really does seem attainable! I switched to reusable grocery bags years ago (and I’m so glad to see that they’re becoming more popular!) and I really should take the next step and start using reusable produce bags. I try to use as few of the plastic kind as is realistic, but tossing a few reusable bags in my grocery bags would be a great move towards less waste! I just wish my grocery store had bulk bins. I shop at Kroger and I actually can’t think of anything they sell in bulk bins… anyway, we’re supposed to get a Whole Foods close to us next year and I’m sure they have great stuff in their bulk bins! We also hit Raisin Rack sometimes, but it’s more of a specialty run than a weekly occurrence.

    Thanks for sharing your zero waste ideas!

    • thanks for reading and your comments stephanie. I would suggest placing a request with your local store to start carrying more items in bulk bins. you never know where you will plant a seed of change :) also, i started my efforts near stores that didn’t do much bulk but still felt like i saved a ton of waste by just bringing my own reusable produce bags and containers to the deli. i also started to notice things that i hadn’t thought of as bulk before, such as the olives at the antipasti station or the fill-your-own-bag coffee station. I realized that if I brought my own containers for those I’d be saving on two items of waste a week, which adds up. { we eat a lot of olives ;-) }

      thanks for stopping by momjeanz and continue with your efforts! hope to hear from you again.

  3. Hi. I just read your guest post on Five Little Homesteaders and dropped by here with Colleen’s link. I get out the door just fine with my reusable bags. I also keep some fabric ones (a friend made for me) in the glove box of my car. I just never seem to remember to bring bags for produce and bulk foods. The market by us that is a Kroger affiliate is being remodeled and I’m hoping for the sweet bulk foods section that a similar store in Boulder has. I’m not holding my breath because of the clientele differences. However we do have a Whole Foods, and a Sprouts nearby that has a halfway decent bulk section. One of these days I’ll get my act together.

    • welcome to momjeanz! crossing my fingers that you’ll get a sweet bulk foods section near you as well. i implemented a little bit at a time so any amount of progress at any time is commendable! i invite you to visit momjeanz often for further zero waste updates.

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