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A Guide To Plastic-Free Food Shopping

A Guide To Plastic-Free Food Shopping

Written by Yoppie

14 Jun 2021

Locate the best supermarket...

Before arriving at the shop...

OK, I’m in the fruit and veg aisle. Now what? 

Let’s head to the deli counter. How do I buy meat and cheese without plastic?! 

This bakery section smells amazing... how do I get a loaf home without plastic?

Phewf! But wait, now for the rest of the shop...

Can I ask for help?

As you probably know, we’re big fans of reducing plastic (it’s why all our menstrual care products contain 0% plastic) but we know that going to the supermarket can be a bit of a challenge when you’re trying to avoid it - hello single-use plastic nightmare! 

So we thought we’d provide a helping hand to ensure your weekly (or daily) food shop is sans-plastic and pro-environment. Let’s start from the very beginning.

Locate the best supermarket...

You’ll want to start by finding the shop nearest you that offers the best plastic-free options. Your local ‘express’ shops probably won’t cut it, so do some digging. Which? published a review in 2019 of the UK supermarkets with recyclable packaging and those who have pledged to make improvements, so you can check that out to find the best options near you. 

There are also lots of dedicated refill shops popping up where you bring your own containers and stock up on a bunch of stuff with no plastic in sight. This great article from Pebble Mag shows plastic-free shops all over the UK. 

Before arriving at the shop...

Plastic-free shopping starts at home, because the more prepared you are before you hit the aisles, the better your choices will be. Start planning meals ahead of time, so you a) don’t panic-buy unnecessary items, b) can buy in bulk, and c) don’t end up throwing food away. 

You’ll also want to bring your own bags with you. Sorry to be Captain Obvious, but it’s always worth keeping in mind that the average person in England used to use 140 single-use plastic bags per year, and the plastic bag tax has already made a big difference to this, cutting the number by a whopping 86%. But from 2017-18 many major retailers sold around 1.75 billion plastic bags, so there’s still massive room for improvement. 

If you regularly forget to bring your own bags, make a point to hang them by the door, or fold ‘em up in your most-used handbag or backpack so you’re never caught short. If you do forget, purchase one of the store’s own bags-for-life, as these are always handy to have! 

OK, I’m in the fruit and veg aisle. Now what? 

Right away you’re faced with the ultimate dilemma; do I buy the plastic-covered pack of carrots (easy choice) or do I weigh out my own loose ones (slightly more time-consuming, but good for the environment). It’s time we say goodbye to the single-use plastic in this aisle, because the majority of it is completely unnecessary. 

Sure, it has its uses (some people lack mobility and may require something they can simply grab and add to their basket) but for most of us, it’s easy to start weighing out our fruit and veggies and take them home in a reusable bag or container. Instead of using those annoying rolls of plastic bags provided, opt for paper ones instead, or bring your own lightweight tote bag to fill with what you need. 

Let’s head to the deli counter. How do I buy meat and cheese without plastic?! 

It’s not widely advertised, but you can take your own containers to the deli counter to transport items like this. They will weigh your items the same way, but instead of wrapping it up in single-use plastic, they’ll put it in your own container. Supermarkets are making it easier to go plastic-free, with the likes of Morrisons, Tesco, Waitrose and more changing their policies to reflect their customers’ desire to ditch plastic. 

This bakery section smells amazing... how do I get a loaf home without plastic?

You can bring your own bags and reusable containers here too, and stock up on bread ‘til your heart’s content without taking home those flimsy plastic wraps. 

Phewf! But wait, now for the rest of the shop...

There are a few aisles where it’s unfortunately tough to shop plastic-free, as many things come in single-use plastic or plastic tubs. Luckily many brands are starting to get the message that consumers don’t want their weekly shop packaged in plastic, so they’re making changes for the better, plus new brands are popping up that have completely eliminated plastic from their processes. Score! 

In the meantime, look out for products that come in paper or cardboard packaging where possible, and don’t forget to squeeze them a little to see if there’s a sneaky added layer of plastic inside - don’t you hate it when that happens? 

Here are some other tips:

  • Switch from tubs of butter to the foil-wrapped kind to lessen your plastic 
  • Avoid individual snack packs and buy one large bag of the same thing (crisps, nuts, sweets, etc.). Portion them up yourself at home to save extra plastic 
  • For sweets, make use of the pick ‘n’ mix section! There are some great old-school favourites there, and you can usually take your own paper bag along to fill up 
  • If you buy a lot of milk, look into using your local milkman and requesting glass bottles, as in many cases they will pick them up when you’re done and reuse them
  • Look for other loose items that supermarkets have out, like dried fruit, nuts and seeds 
  • Buy the canned versions of foods that might otherwise be packaged in plastic, such as basic vegetables, soup, beans and lentils 

Can I ask for help?

Never be embarrassed to ask! Supermarket assistants have a much better idea of what stock they have, and probably already know the products with less plastic, so if you’re looking for a more sustainable option to replace one of your regular purchases, ask for advice on alternatives they would recommend. In most cases they will be happy to help you. 

Are you trying to cut down your plastic use? Let us know your tips and the steps you’re taking in our private Facebook group or drop us a note on Insta @itsyoppie. Don't forget that our personalised period box can get organic tampons, PMS supplements and more delivered easily and regularly through your letterbox with eco-friendliness built in, so you know you aren't adding to that big ol' landfill problem with your time of the month.

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