In pursuing my goal of reducing plastic (and waste in general) I have needed to look beyond my local supermarket. Having said that, I am also well known for saying that I rarely “leave the shire” and will avoid doing so whenever possible. What can I say… I just hate traffic! So with this in mind, I had to work out a way to shop smart.
Our closest supermarket is Coles and on convenience I can’t really beat it. Their aisles are increasingly full of plastic however. Thankfully I have learnt a few tricks that has helped reduce my reliance on plastic even in here.
- Bring your own bag. Ok this is a given, but it had to be said as it really makes a huge difference. In addition to this, resisting the need to contain your fruit and vegetables in individual plastic bags will also cut down on your plastic.
- Get to know the self serve Pick and Mix section. Most supermarkets have them nowadays. Those areas where you can fill a bag with nuts, or dried fruit etc, weigh and print out a price ticket to be scanned at the checkout. These are a great way to avoid packaging and keep away from plastic. I am able to buy my dried beans, chickpeas, sesame seeds, cous cous, dried fruits and nuts from here. I just grab a couple of the brown paper mushroom bags and use those instead of the plastic zip lock bags provided in this area. simple!
- Use the Deli counter. If you are needing cold meats, fish and chicken, you can always get them from the deli counter rather than in the meat section. Bring your own containers and ask the staff to fill them rather than wrapping your items in plastic. Again a simple and easy thing to do.
When I can’t get what I need from my supermarket, I head to the market. For me, the easiest, largest and most regular market is the Queen Vic Market.
Queen Vic Market.
Most Melbournians will know how great this market is, even if it is a little touristy. I always knew you could get great fresh produce, meat, fish and clothes etc., but once I looked a little closer, I found many more little treasures. By buying in bulk, I only need to head into the market (and therefore out of the shire) once every 3 or so weeks.
The Queen Vic Organic Food Section
Please don’t be offended when I say that I don’t really buy into the whole healthier you by eating organic food thing. There just seems to be too little evidence that it is that much better for you. However… environmentally it is far far better. Unfortunately as we just can’t afford to eat organically I rarely went into this section of the market. That has changed now however with the knowledge of what I can get plastic free. There is so much more in this section than just organic fruits and veg.
The Queen Vic Organic Food Stall has bulk containers of various items such as tea, dessicated coconut, flour and sugar. Other products can also be bought here in cardboard packaging. From here I buy my tea (e.g. english breakfast, peppermint, chamomile), desiccated coconut and skim milk powder all of which are normally sold in plastic. Again by bringing your own containers it cuts down on packaging even further. They also sell rolled oats here though at $6 a kg, I am trying to find a cheaper alternative.
I used to wander through this section and think how wonderful it was but always thought I would only use it for special occasions. Not any more. I will let you in on my two favourite stalls.
The Traditional Pasta Shop
This place is amazing! While I make my own spaghetti and fettucine, I have failed too many times to try and make good gnocchi ever again. This is where I now get it. Bring your own container and you can get all the pasta you need!
Curds and Whey
For the best tasting butter and cheese, you can’t beat Curds and Whey. They are happy to fill my container with butter and basic cheddars that the kids just love and at a price comparable to the supermarket. I suppose the only down side is that as the kids love this cheese far more than the cheapest supermarket brand, they go through it that much faster.
Meat, Poultry and Fish Section
You will always get a great price here. Buying in bulk also means I only shop for meat etc once a month. While the cheapest prices are on the weekend and nearing the end of the day when stalls are trying to get rid of as much stock, I tend to head to the market mid week to avoid the crowds. Another plus is that you are more likely to find free parking in the surrounding streets thus avoiding the hefty parking prices of the market car park. Again by bringing my own containers, the stall holders just weigh and fill these. There are a couple of pluses for this:
- It is super quick to pop them into the freezer once home. Before I used to divide all the meats up myself at home which I thought was a bit of a pain.
- You are not left with a lot of smelly and bloody plastic bags.
By going mid week when the stalls are less busy they are happy to do this for you. I doubt they would be so happy to do this on the weekend however.
Fruit, Vegetables, Herbs and Spices
I love the colours and smells of this area. The fruit and vegetables are spread out over two different areas it seems so you will have plenty of choice. As the freshness ranges greatly you will also need to keep your eyes peeled. Even though I get Aussie Farmers Direct to deliver our fruit and vegetables on a weekly basis, there are a few things like mushrooms and herbs that always arrive in plastic containers. I can pick these up easily at the market while I’m there. Sweet!
Spices are also easy to pick up here too. Green Valley Spices (Stalls 36-40, B Shed) are a great way to avoid packaging. Like the tea at the Organic Food Stall, it is a self serve system. Bring your own bags or containers and you will never need to buy packaged spices again.
Odd bits and bobs in Melbourne’s West
Other items such as coco powder, rolled oats, bamboo tooth brushes etc I buy at our local health food store Replenish. Another local shop, Back to Basics refills shampoos, conditioners, washing up liquids to name a few.
So by using the supermarket wisely and shopping at the market I have not only been able to remove a lot of plastic out of our shop but as I am buying in bulk every 3 or so weeks, I have been able to cut down on the amount of supermarket trips with toddlers too! It’s a win win situation. If anyone has any other plastic saving ideas for the supermarket, I’d love to hear about them. cheers!