7 Tips for No Waste Grocery Shopping at a Supermarket

7 Tips for No Waste Grocery Shopping at a Supermarket

When you depend on your supermarket for groceries, package-free shopping isn’t easy. Use these tips next time you go grocery shopping to reduce waste.

Everything that comes into the kitchen must go out of it in some way. Whether that’s food being consumed, metal cans going to the recycle, food scraps and cardboard into the compost, or other things that are thrown in the garbage. Of course, the majority of these items come into your home when you go grocery shopping.

Being conscious of what comes in will help you eliminate the problem of what to do with the waste. Have a plan the next time you head out to the supermarket to help reduce your kitchen waste.

While having a bulk store close by would be wonderful, that isn’t the reality for most of us in the United States (me included). That leaves us going to dedicated grocery stores and the supermarket.

Originally Published On: September 28, 2018

Last Updated On: September 24, 2020

Planning Your No Waste Supermarket Run

Have a List

Make yourself a grocery list, and stick to it! Plan your meals so you know exactly what food you will need between now and your next trip to the grocery store.

When you have a list, you aren’t as tempted to buy a bunch of random groceries, ones that are probably packaged and processed. It also helps to group your list into categories. Again, when you are back and forth around the store because you forgot things, it’s easy to grab a few others along the way.

Two cookbooks, a cell phone, a piece of paper with a grocery list, and an LED tablet all on a wooden surface

Comparison Shop

Just because you have always done your grocery shopping at one store, doesn’t mean you always have to go back there. We have a neighborhood Walmart practically in our neighborhood, and do most of our shopping there, but not all. There have been a few items that I know I can get without packaging at our HEB that isn’t available at Walmart.

Yes, it can be a pain to go to multiple grocery stores. I try to keep a list going of what I need from my non-regular store, and go for at least a month at a time. It isn’t too inconvenient then, and I can get what we want without the extra waste.

Shopping a Supermarket with No Waste in Mind

Shop the Perimeters of the Supermarket

I’ve heard this saying many times, and it’s mostly true. Shop around the edges of the store, and try not to buy much in the middle. In most grocery stores, the edges will have the produce, dairy, juice, deli, and bakery.

When you are shopping for the items at the perimeter, most of them are not packaged. Or, at least, they shouldn’t be. I still don’t understand why so much produce comes in plastic packaging, but we try to buy as much of it loose as we can.

Buy in Bulk

While having a store with bulk options that let you bring your own containers would be wonderful, it’s not available everywhere. I found bulk bins at a local grocery store, but they don’t allow you to use your own containers and have to use their plastic bags which defeats the purpose.

Instead, buy packaged items in the largest amounts possible. Just make sure you don’t buy too much that it will go bad before you finish it. For example, we always buy the largest family-size boxes of cereal that we can find. It gets transferred to an air-tight container and we always finish before it gets stale.

7 Tips for No Waste Grocery Shopping at a Supermarket

Look for Reusable Containers

There are many groceries that you can’t avoid purchasing in a container unless you have a bulk store nearby. For those items, my next priority is to look for a reusable or recyclable container. There are so many ways to reuse glass jars, so those are a great option.

I recently needed to get more peanut butter for our house when I went grocery shopping. While my husband loves Jif peanut butter, it comes in a plastic container. Right next to it, and for the same price, is peanut butter in a glass jar. He was unsure about the change but said the new peanut butter is still good. When we are done, instead of a plastic container we will have another glass jar that we can repurpose.

Never Stop Learning

Try Something New

This goes along with what I just mentioned about the peanut butter. Sometimes when you try to purchase groceries without packaging, you may be forced to try something new.

Embrace this! Embrace the idea of trying a new food or a new brand or a new variety. Children learn most from watching, so show them that you are willing to give something new a try.

Talk to the Store Manager

Most store managers are more than willing to talk with their customers. Explain to them what you are trying to achieve and (nicely) where the store falls short for you. I’ve heard of some asking to bring their own containers for deli meat and cheese rather than using the plastic bags and have been given the green light.

Your Turn

  • What are your tricks for grocery shopping with No Waste in mind?
  • Do you shop the perimeters of the store?
  • Have you ever talked to a store manager about how their store is run (whether good or bad)?
  • Do you make a list and stick to it or go without a plan?

More No Waste Kitchen Ideas

22 thoughts on “7 Tips for No Waste Grocery Shopping at a Supermarket”

  1. We have been trying to buy more in bulk and comparison shopping. I’m going to start trying the other tips you mentioned as well. Thank you!

  2. I am such a stickler for having a list in hand when I go to the store. I plan out meals and what meals will be leftovers. We’ve gotten pretty good at keeping our food waste to a minimum over the last year or two. Love your tips here about shopping the perimeter especially.

  3. Omg so many great and helpful tips!!! I always go shopping with a list! It’s the best way to not buy unnecessary things. It’s crazy how much less you end up purchasing when you aren’t buying everything you grab!

  4. I always use a list when grocery shopping. I hate when food goes to waste but I never thought about packaging much. I will have to make sure we buy loose produce more often.

  5. These are great tips. I love the idea of being no waste in the kitchen. We rarely buy prepackaged food and usually stick to the perimeters as well.

  6. I’m with you in the not understanding why the produce comes in plastic packaging!! Here in Switzerland is the epitome of ridiculous! The regular produce comes in bulk, but the “Organic” produce (which it is supposed to respect the environment more) comes in plastic packaging!!! I usually go to the green market to buy the produce or we go self-picking (spring summer, of course) we make progress in reducing our waste, small but steady.

  7. We’ve started using reusable fruit and veg bags for loose items. Rather than getting the pre-packaged ones. Not the best but it helps. Currently, we’re on the lookout for the grain place so we can possibly get them into reusable tubs too.

  8. Having a grocery list is a habit I already have for a long time. It’s so faster with it! And no unnecessary items in the basket. However I have to admit that I don’t try new brands or food, which I definitely should start doing 😊 Thanks!

  9. So many great tips here! I’m a senior in college and I just moved off-campus into an apartment this year, so it’s the first time I’ve really had to grocery shop and cook for myself. My complex doesn’t recycle, and seeing how much waste my roommate and I go through on a weekly basis is definitely unnerving! I would love to incorporate some of these tips, especially buying things in bulk in reusable containers! Most of the grocery stores around here shut down their bulk areas because of Covid, but they’re starting to come back now! If a busy mom can make no waste shopping work, I’m sure I can too!

  10. I used to go to the supermarket without any plan or lists and often we accumulate lots of waste. But Ive learned my lesson

  11. BEing conscious is important. It helps eliminate waste in the kitchen and you can do this by meal planning. I love making a list of all the things we need for the week and go grocery shopping

  12. I actually do the opposite of bulk shopping. Things go bad very fast where I live, so I make sure to buy only enough just for that week. Of course, some things I bulk shop happily – like rice and pasta.

  13. Once I’ve made my list, I plan the route that I take through the store — which isles to go through, and in what order. It’s almost robotic now, but it makes for fast shopping. No wasted time looking through those “tempting” isles… 😉

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