corner shot of a produce section of a grocery store
Sustainable Living

Top 10 Ways to Make More Sustainable Choices at the Grocery Store

Attempting to make more sustainable choices at the grocery store at times can be daunting. Farmers Markets are usually only on weekends and some communities really don’t even have them.

Taking advantage of the rise of popularity to make smarter and more eco friendly choices, corporations are quick to label their food with false information to make sales. Amidst this topsy-turvy world of capitalism, we buyers are attempting to make more conscience choices that align with our beliefs.

I’ve compiled a list of 10 tips that have helped me make my trips to the grocery store more sustainable. Keep a few in mind and give them a try next time you shop.

1. Buy in Bulk

a women fills bags from home at the bulk section of a grocery store

Not all stores have these, but most health or even bargain stores do: dispensers where you can weigh various food items such as nuts, grains, dry fruits, and candies. A great way to take this even further is to bring your own bags to fill.

The bulk-buying strategy can apply to packaged food, too. If you’re going to buy packaged food and the expiration date is far enough away you know you’ll consume it, go for the bigger size. Smaller, multiple packages of certain items that can contain more waste than one unit.

2. Bring Your Own Reusable Produce Bags

fruits sit in a reusable produce bag on top of a table

Keeping these with your shopping bags is a great way to reduce plastic use in the produce aisle. They’re pretty inexpensive for the peace of mind and freedom they give you to have more control over your personal plastic waste stream.

3. Shop the Aisles Less

long narrow view of a grocery store aisle

When we think of going to the grocery store we equate it too shopping in aisles. Sure, it’s where you’ll find spices and baking materials you may need, but truth be told most products found in the aisles are packaged foods full of salts, sugars, unhealthy oils, and preservatives and fillers (aka scientific chemicals you may have fun trying to pronounce but are probably better off not consuming).

Packaged foods are also generally shipped from factories that don’t have the best practices when it comes to sustainability.

All of the more natural produce and meats are usually found around the perimeter of the store. You can cook these yourself, thus you can control what goes in it.

4. Opt for Local Products

vegetables sit in a woven basket with signs that imply they were locally grown

If it’s local that means it didn’t have to travel far to get to the store, meaning less fuel was burned. Also, when it comes to produce grown near where it will eventually be sold to the consumer, that’s one less reason for the farmer to use preservatives or raise GMO crops.

As an added bonus, buying from producers in your area strengthens your community instead of a company that would feed you poison if there wasn’t an FDA. 😉

5. Avoid Frozen Foods

side shot of frozen food freezer doors in a grocery store

Don’t get me wrong, if you want ice cream, by all means grab that carton! This tip is in the same fashion as why to buy fresh produce instead of packaged. When you bring your own produce bags and buy fruits and vegetables in the produce section rather than the packaged ones in the freezer aisle, it helps reduce your overall plastic waste.

6. Skip Pre-Made Deli Foods

two men smile behind the deli counter waiting for customers

Buying a pre-made sandwich on your lunch break is a standard modern convenience, but that’s one sandwich inside a plastic container instead of supplies to make several. If you got sliced meats and cheeses from behind the deli counter, they’re more likely to give you a paper/cardboard container than the pre made options.

7. Bring Your Own Shopping Bag

reusable grocery bag overflowing with fruits vegetables & bread

Not everyone is a fan, but this one is growing in popularity. Some areas have even mandated if you don’t bring your own bag you’ll be charged 10 cents for a paper bag.

Naysayers will complain, but personally I like this because not only is it great to be cutting down on plastic, I’d rather pay the measly 10 cents for something I can use as a recycling bin at home.

8. Do In-Depth Research on Labels That Claim to be Environmentally Friendly

toothpicks with common slogans on food labels sit on a table

This is a big one. Consumers are becoming more aware of what corporations have done in the past to the planet in the name of money. With that comes a savvy wave of buzzwords on packaging that make it seem like the company is doing their part, while really they’re still just trying to extract your dollars and things behind the scenes haven’t changed.

Some of these phrases and markings are regulated and some aren’t. The best thing you can do is research.

Surf the web for what others say and compare notes. Of course the internet is full of persuasion just like the labels we speak of, but my rule of thumb is to search multiple sites, forums, blogs, videos and whatnot; then compare stories.

We’ve written about a few examples over in this post.

9. Eat More Plant-Based Meals

assorted fruits and vegetables sit in a line on a table

I’m not going to sit here and tell people to go full vegan, but… the truth is out. Emissions are rising due to the consumption of meat from the methane cows produce. If Americans didn’t insist on meat for every meal it would make a substantial difference.

I’m sure you’ve heard it before: Meatless Mondays. While I admit I don’t participate every week, personally this idea helps me think outside of the box when it comes to making dinner.

10. When Buying Meats, Spend More On Quality Than Quantity

older butcher is showing a younger butcher pro tips

I refuse to judge a person based on their diet, and will happily have a meal with you no matter your nutritional beliefs or restrictions. But even though we physiologically aren’t carnivores there is one truth to consider about the relationship of humans and eating meat: The discovery of fire and hunting was most likely the beginnings of community and society as we know them today.

All I’m saying is, it’s deep in our DNA to enjoy this tradition. If you eat meat, choosing better meat is one way we can honor and respect it.

Personal opinion: eating meat isn’t fully the problem; factory farming is. Higher quality meats are usually treated with less preservatives, and there’s a greater chance the animal might not have been a product of factory farming. For me, there’s a lot less guilt if the animal had a healthier life – plus a healthier animal means a healthier meal.

While it’s definitely tough to remember your reusable shopping bag every time you head to the store, tweaking your grocery shopping routine to be more sustainable doesn’t have to be a major inconvenience. It truly is the little habits that can add up to a lower impact over time.

Similar Posts