I began thinking critically about the everyday items I buy each week at the grocery store around September when I started to transition more and more towards being plastic-free. Like most students, my life is a balance between trying to eat healthy and work hard and then eating my stresses away with sweets. We are all trying our best. Its exam time now. Nothing a few bulk chocolate chips can’t fix. It’s going to be all good.
You know what isn’t all good? Foods packaged unnecessarily! Foods for sale that have unnecessary plastic packaging when you can get the same food in a plastic-free manner! So I am going to tell you how I really feel and we’re going to go through the grocery store together so that you can make choices sustainable for yourself.
Before hitting up the grocery store, make sure you have your reusable bags. For produce and bread, many people have mesh produce bags. However, i just reuse the same two plastic produce bags each week, plus I usually put all my fruits and veggies in the same big bag. Your cashier won’t mind, I promise.
Onto food. Now I love dipping carrots into hummus, it is one of my fave study snacks! But baby carrots are actually just silly-looking large sweet carrots which are cut, scraped and rounded before being cutely bagged up. Why is this annoying? Well you could just buy normal (or even organic) carrots, put them in your reusable produce bags and then cut them yourself at home! This is A. cheaper and B. plastic-free! If you buy carrots every week (which I do), you would save 52 bags of useless plastic from going to landfills each year, get an arm workout from chopping your own carrots and improve the overall aesthetic of your snack life.
The pepper four-pack also grinds my gears! Not only is that plastic useless, you can just buy peppers separately! The pepper four-pack also only has teeny tiny peppers and one time there was a live moth in an orange one! (ask me about this later, it’s a great anecdote) Now I just bring my own bag to stock up on peppers and try to follow the same principals for boxed greens, as well as all the other fruits and veggies I buy each week.
Next up on my smackdown list is a personal issue I happen to have with the Rideau Loblaws. Why Loblaws Rideau do you not have a bulk food section! I complained about this in my Zero Waste Challenge piece as well. Usually I get my bulk food items (ie. lots of choco chips, b-sug, almonds, flour, quinoa, pepitas, pb, etc.) from Herb and Spice and use jars instead of plastic bags. BUT if I something last minute for a recipe, I am forced into buying pre-packaged stuff which is SO unnecessary and then I also can’t get the exact amount I want. I have already contacted Loblaws about this huge inconvenience to my life, as well as the environment’s. I’m so over it. Can we get this issue trending?
I also give you permission to buy the delicious freshly baked bread or bagels or buns that come in a paper bags or that you can put into a reusable bag yourself! It tastes better than the plastic-bagged mass market bread, usually contains fewer additives and is often cheaper!
Now, I drink soy milk and use the silk almond coffee creamer, so the bagged milk issue doesn’t directly impact me. However, it is crazy that we put our milk in disposable, plastic bags rather than a recyclable liquid-holding device such as a carton or jug! (once I heard an American hilariously refer to it as “moose milk”). I recognize that with bagged milk you can get more moo for your moola, but switching to a carton milk or better yet, a non-dairy milk, is a small price to pay for the sake of the environment! Even J. Cole drinks almond milk now! Get on board!
Briefly and while we are on this topic, a common recycling misconception for the Ottawa region is that milk or juice cartons go into the black bin with the other mixed paper items when in fact, all cartons go into the blue bin with glass, metal and plastic. You can find info about the city’s recycling policies here.
There are a couple other supermarket switches you can make to get the packaging for the food you typically buy to be recyclable. Boxed pasta instead of pasta in a plastic bag. Rices in a box instead of rices in a bag. Spices in a jar instead of spices in a plastic bag. Are we seeing a pattern here?
Finally, if you’re looking for an exam treat, instead of buying individually-wrapped ice creams, just go for the whole tub! Also PSA: Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy pints are now available at the Rideau Loblaws! They are minimally-packaged, mostly-recyclable and SO GOOD!
Go on, you deserve it! (and so does the environment). And good luck with exams!