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On Waste

I just got back from a trip to the store, where I tried to purchase as little packaging as possible. I bought a lot of stuff in bulk, and plan to re-use the plastic bags on my next trip.

I was surprised at how many things were available in the bulk section of one of my local grocery stores. I had only ever known it as “the corner of the store that smells like yogurt covered pretzels.” Turns out they have cereal, flour, organic cane sugar, pasta, a dozen different kinds of nuts, everything!

Similarly, I had only known the meat counter as “that thing that’s always closed by the time I get there.” I managed to get to the store early enough to actually purchase meat at the meat counter. The butcher laid my fresh ground beef on a little flimsy plastic sheet, and wrapped it inside paper.

I can compost the paper, so that’s (one flimsy plastic sheet) versus (plastic wrap, plastic meat tray, and funny sponge thingie that goes in the bottom of the meat tray).

The deli counter had several kinds of cheese for sale. I bought half a pound of some really good swiss cheese. She wrapped the slices in waxed paper (fine) then slipped it all into a little baggie (not so great). That’s only about a 25% waste reduction over the plastic wrapper from the loaf of Tillamook cheddar I usually buy.

But man, the cheese is tasty! And it seems so ritzy to buy pre-sliced cheese. And, to my surprise, it was quite a bit cheaper than the equivalent amount of Tillamook.

That was my biggest surprise: how much less this all cost me. I compared prices versus the pre-packaged equivalents, all of which were at least 50% more expensive.

I guess they don’t call it waste for nothing. You’re paying for that packaging. If you can buy the same thing without all the packaging, you’ll save a lot of money. That’s a pretty good argument right there, if you ask me!

The best news of the night: Food Pavilion in Anacortes has started carrying milk from a local dairy in glass bottles, with a $2.50 deposit. Fresh! Local! Organic! Happy cows! No waste! Amazing!

9 comments to On Waste

  • knitopia

    I love buying from the bulk section!

    Did you see the story that cows with names produce more milk than cows without names?

  • It is illegal to sell raw milk in Wisconsin, so a local farmer has started a deal where you buy a $10 share in his farm, which entitles you to buy his fresh, non-pasteurized, non-homogenized milk. Intriguing.

    Interesting that it was cheaper to buy without the packaging. Unfortunately, none of my local grocery stores have bulk food sections. It probably does not make ecological sense for me to drive and extra 50 miles round trip to shop at a store that does, right?

  • Great. I like the meat counter idea. We have been getting fish that way.
    Bins – I’ve noticed that it’s much cheaper. We get oatmeal-and the steal cut at that – for 62 cents/pound which is about 1/4-1/2 the price of packaged.
    As you say- a row of nuts- we buy walnuts, almonds, pecans- all at 1/3- 1/2 per pound cost of packaged. Thanks for the review- served as a checklist for me.

  • By the way, Winco has lots of bin food for those readers interested.

  • The only thing about buying in bulk is that you have to be able to use everything before it spoils. I was thrilled when we got a chest freezer because I started buying more meat in bulk.

  • I love bulk, but have to buy smaller quantities. Did you know that you have some of the funniest commenters ever!

  • My local stores must work differently for bulk that some commenters’. I just scoop out the amount I want into a bag. I often buy bulk so I can buy smaller amounts. Plus my nice storage containers are more airtight than the prepackaged boxes and fit nicely together on the shelves.

    I do need to remember to stick some of the plastic bags overflowing their drawer space in with my shopping bags so they actually make it to the store with me.

  • Erika

    I think we’re confusing two different uses of the word “bulk.” There’s the bulk food bins, which I shopped this week, where you scoop in whatever you want.

    Then there’s the Super Saver Meat Packs, where you get like 20 pork chops in one package. Or anything at Costco.

  • Debi

    I use the bags as poop scoopers, no purchasing poop bags on a liitle roll.