How to shop without creating waste

Filed in Blog by on April 27, 2010 13 Comments
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how to shop and reduce landfill waste

how to shop and reduce landfill waste

I don’t know about you; but I love a good rummage through people’s kitchen cupboards.

This week I thought I’d show you how we shop. As you know, how much waste you create is determined by the choices you make before you reach the checkout.

The photograph consists of a weeks worth of food – all we added was some chicken, sausages (bought in our own containers) and a bottle of wine. We had cupboard things like rice, and a few tinned items already at home, along with stuff in the freezer.

I’m not sure how clear it is to you so I’ve done a larger image below, but you’ll gather most of the food we eat is fresh fruit and veg. We buy it either completely naked or in paper bags (which we reuse until they fall apart). We are fortunate enough to have a wonderful organic farm shop where we can get most fresh fruit, vegetables and salads.

We have some tinned items; namely salmon, baked beans, out of season fruit such as apricots, coffee, and little Miss Green’s favourite sweetcorn.

For the ‘fridge, we’ve got juice and soya milk in tetra paks and Mr G will buy a couple of litres of cows milk in a plastic bottle which can be recycled.Β  There is butter in a paper wrapper along with olives and cheese bought in our own containers from the deli.

Yogurt pots are washed out and posted to GHS where they are recycled.

The pistachios are in PP – number 5 which we also send to GHS.

The honey comes in a glass jar with a lid that can be recycled.

That leaves three naughty items in terms of packaging – the rice cakes, the sprouted seeds and the ryvita. These are the items we will be contacting the manufacturers about. If we can find out what the packaging is, we are empowered to find a way to recycle it. If they don’t know or can’t tell us any helpful information, it is exactly these sorts of things that will be returned to sender along with our standard letter asking them to change their policy. Mr G and I usually sprout our own seeds, but we haven’t got around to setting it up this year yet.

zero waste shopping

From this food and using up things we have in the cupboard we can eat for a week. Breakfast is usually fresh fruit, porrage made with soya milk and yogurt.

Lunch might be:

ryvita / rice cakes with cheese or avocados and salad
Home made vegetable soup and bread
beans on toast

Dinner might be:

Jacket potato with veggies and choices of fillings
Salmon with rice and vegetables
Chicken with vegetables

We tend not to have much of a pattern to our meals. Little miss Green’s appetite varies a lot; at the moment she is eating less. Mr G has changed his diet radically – more about that another time, so meal times and planning don’t really go hand in hand at Chez Green. I just tend to cook whatever needs using as it approaches it’s ‘use it up!’ moment.

So there we have it; it’s not rocket science to eat well and create minimal landfill waste.

This lot cost us about Β£60 and as I said, there will be fresh meat and wine to come.
By the time we’ve added in a few extras throughout the week – perhaps more yogurt and fruit juice it might even be a relatively frugal week for us! Anything less thatn Β£100 is good πŸ™‚

What about you? How do you shop to reduce your landfill waste?


About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (13)

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  1. Julie Day says:

    Mrs G – Could the Ryvita wrappers be sent/taken to the PCF in Southampton. I send my wrappers to them and they say they are fine with it. I shop looking at the symbols on plastic wrappers, inc fruit and veg, and most of them have numbers 4 or 5 on them which I can recycle at work. I try not to buy anything which isn’t recycleable.

  2. sandy says:

    Is the coffee in tins available in most supermarkets pleae ? We eat a very simular diet, except homemade bread instead of ricecakes.

  3. greenflag says:


    because i am new to the site hope you don’y mind if i ask a fairly direct question.

    is this site your job or a hobby?

    whichever, you are doing an inspiring job.

  4. Maureen says:

    My groceries look similar to yours, and about the same price, too. Great idea to reuse brown bags til they fall apart. I have been using them for starting the fire in my wood stove all winter, but now that spring is here, why not reuse them vs take to recycle center? I will indeed. πŸ™‚

    For yogurts, I buy 1 big container and add fresh fruit or juice rather than buy individual single serve pots. Also, b/c I’m an anti-BPA fanatic and there is only 1 company in the USA that does not use BPA in tins (Eden), I only buy tinned food from Eden’s thin selection (mostly beans, and usually I buy beans bulk and soak overnight). Everything else in a tin I go without b/c of BPA.

    The only other thing I do differently is make my own fruit juice and nut milk with my juicer and compost the pulp.

  5. Karen says:

    Yesterday I took my own bottle to Tavistock Market in Devon to buy good olive oil from the olive stall.

  6. Karen says:

    Why do you need all these paper bags ? It is easy to keep a canvas bag for veggies only.

  7. Mrs Green says:

    @Julie Day: Thanks for that, Julie – I didn’t know PCF would accept the Ryvita wrappers – problem solved then!

    @sandy: Hi Sandy, you can buy expresso coffee from Lidls – it’s their own brand or Illy, in most large supermarkets. See this post for more details on the Illy:

    @greenflag: Hi Greenflag. I don’t mind your question. I would LOVE to be able to say this is my job, but alas it is a hobby – one I’m very passionate about πŸ™‚ If you have ideas for how I could make this my ‘job’ please let me know! πŸ™‚

    @Maureen: Hi Maureen, it does sound like we buy similar foods. I don’t go as far as making my own juice or milks, but I have looked into it. I do make fresh orange juice for Little Miss Green. You sound very dedicated to eating whole foods – I admire that.

    @Karen: Hi Karen, great news about the olive oil! Did you get a discount on that for using your own packaging?
    regarding the paper bags, yes I could use a canvas bag; I think some of it is habit and a little OCD creeping in πŸ˜‰

  8. Magdalena says:

    I used to get Wasa instead of Ryvita because it came in paper wrappings. Our local store in the “Swedish Colony” used to get the traditional rounds, which I loved. I haven’t found it here in Ontario. I bake our own bread. We have way too much waste, as far as I’m concerned, but I don’t pay for the groceries, so can’t say much. When I shop on my own, I re-use the paper mushroom bags, and even the plastic produce bags. We can recyle these with pastic grocery sacks. (Although I rarely have any since we have canvas bags in all vehicles and baby buggies now.) Too much in North America comes in plastic overwrap! I could get paper wrapped toilet tissue in the States, but not here, unless I can get it commercially from an institutional supplier. When we lived on our own, I never bought anything in a container that couldn’t be recycled or burned in the woodstove. I think I’ve upped the recycles coming out of the household here, as well as cutting down on the waste – if only we could compost!

    The Liquor Control Board of Ontario has a policy of taking back everything that leaves their store – bottles, corks, overwrap, shopping bags, boxes, even receipts – for recycling. Their signs say that they get back almost all of it.

  9. Karen says:

    I did not discuss discount on the olive oil as I was pleased to be able to buy a small amount to try rather than buy a big bottle and find I did not like it. I am going to use it for bread making.

  10. Mrs Green says:

    @Magdalena: I’ve never heard of Wasa; I’ll look out for that. it sounds like you are doing as much as you can, but it must be frustrating for you. The Liquor Control Board of Ontario sound to have things well under control – that sounds great!

    @Karen: Ah, I see. Well I hope you like it!

  11. Jessica says:

    What a wonderful post, I love seeing pictures of people’s food! Time Magazine had a great photo-story, showing people with a week’s worth of food all set out on a table…

    I noticed a huge drop in waste when I really centered on a plant based diet. I have to go to different stores, though. When the coop is not in season sometimes it is hard to find things like hot peppers in the grocery store that aren’t wrapped in a tub of styrofoam with plastic. πŸ™

    I also spend a lot of time carefully planning meals and making a very precise shopping list. This has made a huge difference, not only am I spending a lot less at the grocery store, but my food waste has gone way down, too. Now at the end of the week the ‘fridge is actually empty because there was a specific use for everything I bought, and we eat leftovers for lunch. So double plus, save money and waste less. I also bought a freezer, so now I can freeze leftovers or freeze a big batch of vegetable soup made from random leftover veggies. Also, at the end of the week if I have any leftover fruits and veggies, I throw them in the juicer and we have delicious fresh juice! And the pulp, you can make crackers from that! It’s like a whole ecosystem πŸ˜‰

  12. Karen says:

    I have today helped the Olive stall recycle. I have taken 2 of their containers the olives come in. They have a good seal so I will use them to carry homemade soup to my static caravan on the Cornwall coast. I am sure I will come up with other ideas that need leak free containers.

  13. Mrs Green says:

    @Karen: Brilliant Karen; hopefully they will be taking note of your actions and suggesting others do the same πŸ™‚

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