Grocery Shopping Lately

Happy first day of the week and last day of the month! I thought I’d kick off the week by sharing what grocery shopping has been looking like for me lately. Definitely my habits have evolved and I’ve started to find a rhythm. I think I’ve pretty much figured out where I can get what with the least amount of waste. While I don’t necessarily have a set routine because my schedule changes from week to week, I do have my top four places where I go to grab the foods needed to feed our family. Through some research I have been able to locate alternatives to commonly wasteful products, such as plastic milk cartons, detergent bottles or bread bags and bulk has pretty much replaced most of our commonly packaged foods. While I’ve run into a couple road blocks here and there with regards to meat/seafood products and getting them placed into containers, I have at least located where I can get what seems like the best option (sustainable, humane, minimally packaged).  So with all that being said, let’s take a look at how things are looking nowadays…

At the Farmer’s Market:

I love going to the farmer’s market. While I should be going on a weekly basis, like most people I still run into conflicts many weeks with the times.  The days I do make it, I grab an assortment of vegetables and fruit from the various farms that are in attendance as well as eggs and sometimes meat products. When shopping at the market near my house, I’ll stock up on milk from Homestead Creamery (when its available), which comes in returnable glass bottles and is produced within 3 hours of my home!

At Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market

This particular shopping trip is a great look into the spread of products I usually stock up on whenever at our nearby local market. There is a good selection of local produce here and the bulk selection is my favorite as it has everything I really need – coffee (RVA brand), baking ingredients, beans, grains, nuts, seeds and and an amazing spice selection. Plus they have local honey, olive oil and both almond and peanut butter grinders.  There are also various cleaning and personal care products such as castile soap, lotion, shampoo and conditioner, though I buy so much castile soap that I’m thinking I should just start buying the large jugs that they use for bulk.  Awesomely enough, I’m able to pick up our bamboo toothbrushes here as well which means I can avoid having to buy them online.

Teenie drinks milk three times a day therefore I’m constantly needing replenishment so when I need it, I grab it from wherever I am going. I try to plan accordingly but I am not going to make an extra trip as this seems counterproductive.  Glass has replaced plastic jugs and cartons when its available.  Trickling Springs, which comes from within my region, is what I’ll grab when its available. If not, and this is often the case for full sized bottles of skim milk, I will sometimes grab a carton instead.

Cheese is a guilty pleasure in our house and comes home almost weekly in minimal packaging. This market has a fun local brand of goat cheese which we really like and of course, Brie is my life-force.  Beer and/or wine also wind up in my cart often and are usually local/Va brands!.

I’ll typically get ground beef (local, grass fed) and fish (sustainable) from here. Since getting it into containers is a no-go anymo’ I can at least have them wrap it in butcher paper. Downside: it tends to stick to the surface of whatever it contains. Upside: its not plastic.

At Whole Foods Market:

One of my other go-to places is a nearby Whole Foods.  I’ll usually do my shopping here if I’m going to be nearby or if there is something specific I need, such as a loaf of bread (so I can avoid plastic bread bags). There is a local bakery that I have been to before who was cool with putting bread that had not yet been bagged into one I brought with me but I’ve found the timing has to be right in order for this to occur. Once, I stopped in late in the day and all the bread had been bagged up (of course), so there were no loaves left to save from going into a plastic bag.

As of this shopping trip, I was able to get in-house roasted lunch meat put into my container without any conflict.  I was so excited about this option when I found it – I’m hoping that it doesn’t change like everything else has been lately.

Whole Foods has a good section with local produce so I was able to easily grab a few of these veggies while there. The bulk is not as extensive as it is at Ellwood but they do have hot and spicy nuts which my husband loves and anything that keeps him from buying single use snack products is a good thing.

This trip I picked up a couple of Twist brand sponges to serve as the replacement for the sponges I had been using. While they came wrapped in plastic (to maintain moisture per the company), these sponges are completely plant based and compostable! I did purchase my usual dishwasher detergent which comes in a 100% recycled plastic bottle.  However, plastic is plastic, so with some research I have discovered that Seventh Generation also has a powdered dishwasher detergent in cardboard which I will be trying out once this bottle has been used up.

If I can’t get to the Farmer’s Market and I know I’m going to be near Whole Foods, I’ll stop in to restock milk from the local creamery. Both Whole Foods & Ellwoods have unsalted butter in large blocks from the regional creamery.  Yogurt is often in my shopping cart as it helps to make sure teenie gets enough fat, calories and protein into her diet since we tend to eat a lot of produce and not a lot of meat.

This was the last trip where Whole Foods’ seafood department agreed to put seafood into my own containers.  I was told that this is due to them using a specific paper that retains the proper temperature. Besides fish, I do sometimes get ground beef from here since they have a local, grass fed option available but I haven’t tried in a while to get it so not sure if they will still honor my container requests.

Also I try to save the lone bananas when I can!

At Kroger:

I stop into Kroger probably at least once a week, or every other week if I can stretch it, to pick up La Croix (aka “foo-foo water” or the “foo” as I like to call it) for my husband as well as the occasional replacement of disposable diapers (we still use them at night  –  I get so little sleep I can’t chance a midnight wake up call because of a leak) and wipes.  There isn’t much else I normally grab because typically I have already stocked up at one of my other three locations at some point beforehand.

While this is the case, I recently had to stop in there for a quick shopping trip when teenie was sick and we needed to pick up a few replenishments (sick baby friendly foods, dinner, milk and “foo”) before heading home after visiting the pediatrician.  It was the first time I had been in a Kroger in ages (must have stocked up well enough on the “foo”) and and it was a little disheartening how little produce I was able to find that was local.  I managed to find locally grown heirloom tomatoes so I snagged one.  Most everything else from the produce section was at least organic and relatively package free, so not bad in that regard.  Sent in to get something for dinner, but not a fan of conventional grocer’s meat anymore nor the packaging associated with to-go products, I felt a little stuck.  It’s hard to make the best choice when the choices around you are so limited.  My decision was to grab enough shrimp to feed the hubs and I would simply eat vegetarian that evening.  I tried to take a stab at getting the nice chickadee behind the counter to put them into a container I had with me. At first she was like “oh yea!” but then she started to put the shrimp into a plastic bag.  When I told her that was what the container was for she said that she had to put them in the bag in order to weigh them, obviously making the container then pointless.  So she wrapped the plastic bag in plastic lined butcher paper and I was on my way.

Knowing he would need lunch the next day so I also grabbed some sliced turkey (not ideal but if I didn’t he’d probably get mass produced meat from somewhere else) and bakery bread.  I figured if I was going to get bread in a bag it was going to be fresh and it was going to be delicious! There are a few staples that always seemed to be in our fridge before I started to reduce packaging and one was this black bean dip my husband loves. Since I was there, he had me snag one.  After grabbing the foo and milk I topped off our cart with a couple other local products. I needed a nut butter and figured if I can’t ground it in the store (they only had plastic containers to put it in), then this local peanut butter would be the next best option from a waste standpoint.

My second trip this month was just this past weekend. I needed a couple of products that we had run out of to hold us over until I could get to one of my other spots.  Again the goal was to keep things as organic and package free as possible. Cheese is cheese for the most part no matter where we go so I picked up a couple blocks. The only brand of packaged chocolate I’ll buy is Endangered Species, who donates 10% of their net profits towards the preservation of wildlife. I also stocked up on some Virginia made applesauce and wine!  I needed more vinegar since I use this for cleaning so grabbed a jug probably at a fraction of what it might have cost elsewhere for the same amount of packaging.  And of course, I had to grab the “foo” (several boxes not shown).

I hope you enjoyed this peek into my shopping trips. Every week I still get a kick out of how much prettier my hauls look now than they did back when so much of what I bought was packaged in some way. There truly is beauty in simplicity.  🙂

xo, Erica