How to do a plastic free food shop

Did you know almost a third of plastic packaging used by supermarkets in the UK is either non-recyclable through standard collection schemes or difficult to recycle? Then there’s the packaging that can be recycled yet people choose to throw it in the bin instead.

Some supermarkets are taking steps in the right direction. A few months ago, Morrisons announced that all their fruit and vegetable bags will be compostable by spring 2019 and all single-use carrier bags will be removed from the shops by March 2019. And Iceland made the announcement that its bananas will be sold in a recycled paper wrapping instead of plastic by the end of the year.

While these are all steps in the right direction, we can’t just sit around waiting for the supermarkets to change everything for us. There’s lots of ways that we can take control of how much plastic we consume when we shop right now.

  • Take your own produce bags

A lot of fruit and vegetables comes already come outer layer of skin that acts as packaging (onions, turnips, potatoes etc) yet you still see people walking around the supermarket putting a single onion in a plastic bag and a couple of potatoes in another. Most of the produce can just be placed in your trolley and washed when it’s taken home, but reusable cloth bags are a good option if you want to keep things wrapped up. They also work well for products like bread which you can also pick up loose in some shops like Lidl and the Co-op. 

  • Shop in bulk

If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere with a bulk buy shop, then it’s one of the easiest ways to pick up food without all the unwanted packaging. You simply take in your own produce bags, jars or even old takeaway boxes and the staff will simply weigh them for you to fill up as much as you like. Depending on the shop you can find everything from rice, cereal and pulses to pasta, chocolate and even shampoo.

  • Shop around

Did you know Morrisons are the only supermarket to sell cucumber without any plastic wrapping? Yet if you were to buy one in Tesco or Sainsbury’s then it will come wrapped in plastic. Depending on where you live you may have access to multiple supermarkets (I have a Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Co-op, and two Lidl branches within a 10 minute walk of my flat) so it’s worth visiting a few different places to find out what plastic free products they all sell.

  • Make your own food

Not only will making your own food save you money and be the healthier option waving goodbye to all those lovely additives, but it’s a good way to go plastic free. A lot of ready meals up in black plastic packaging which cannot be recycled so making your own vegetable chilli instead of picking up microwaveable version will significantly help reduce plastic ending up in a landfill.

  • Check out your local farmer’s market

A farmer’s market is the perfect place to pick up lots of loose fruit and vegetables which are also in season. It’s also a great way to support your local community. You can easily take along your own reusable bags to fill up on all the fresh produce without the packaging.

  • Plan your meals in advance

We’ve all been there when there’s no food in the fridge and we need to pick up a quick bite for dinner on the way home from work. Unless you live close to a big supermarket or bulk buy store, then it often means making do with smaller convenient supermarkets that often don’t have lots of package free options. If you plan your meals in advance, then it allows you to stop impulsively buying food in packaging because it’s the easier option.

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