Category Archives: Food shopping

RE-LEARNING HOW TO SHOP

One of the more challenging aspects of supermarket shopping the zero plastic way is buying cheese, meat and fish (vegans, you may wish to skip this section). Husband Pete is much better at this than I am. He will cheerily challenge whoever happens to be serving him behind the counter to use tongs for picking up produce and to wrap it in waxed paper instead of plastic bags, or to use the boxes we bring along. I myself, on the other hand, become all apologetic and give up far too easily if met with any resistance. I break out in a sweat as I watch them struggle trying to squeeze oversized slices of cheese into the box. Often the wrapping paper is not quite big enough or just keeps popping open and everything just takes so much longer and a long queue starts forming behind me… Awkward!

I much prefer shopping at local shops such as the bakery, the butcher, green grocer or the health food shop. For a start you can get good local produce but also the owners and shop assistants get to know you and are generally more flexible. Take Over Farm Market, for example, who have a stall at the Stroud farmers market as well as a well-stocked shop on the other side of Gloucester. This family-run business produce their own veggies, fruit and farm meat. They also sell loose frozen peas & fruit, fresh quiches, pies, cheese and all sorts of other goodies. Rob, the butcher at Over Farm is always happy to put produce into the boxes we bring along and just slaps a label on the lid (see pic). He has actually signed up to my blog – hello Rob!

For my local friends, here is a list of shops I use most regularly for basic items:

  • Kendrick Street Deli for ham, cheese and even salads in non-plastic tubs
  • Sunshine and Hobbs for bread, cakes, rolls
  • Merrywalks’ veg & fruit stall
  • Farmers market for olive oil refills, eggs, bread, veggies, local honey
  • Jollies for a great range of veg & fruit, local meat and bread (expensive)
  • Stroud Valley Project for cleaning liquid refills
  • Sunshine for plastic free toilet paper, shampoo soap bars and shaving soap bars

The link between food miles and plastic is obvious: local produce on the whole does not need to be wrapped in plastic because it doesn’t need to be transported and kept on shelves or in fridges for months on end. Good for us, the local economy and the planet.

ABEEGO WRAP INSTEAD OF CLING FILM

Imagine a material for wrapping food that is made entirely from natural materials and is washable, re-useable, multi-purpose and smells deliciously of beeswax… If you have never come across Abeego, do check out the lovely couple who invented it and the beautiful Abeego website. Widely available in the UK and worldwide, I have seen it in farm shops, kitchen shops, health food shops, even gift shops, as well as online. You can buy small, medium and large sheets to wrap around anything except raw meat. It keeps food fresh naturally and is great for wrapping bread and cheese for example, or for covering left-overs in the fridge. The sheets are pliable but fairly stiff from the beeswax so they stay in place where you’ve folded them. They are water repelling and don’t seem to take on the smell of the food. I adore this wrap because it is natural, beautiful and so practical. It is a bit of an investment if you’re used to buying cling film. Mine have lasted really well since I bought them a few months ago and I can’t see any use for cling film now. I think this is another great win for living without plastic!

Where to buy Abeego in the UK: http://www.asliceofgreen.co.uk/food-wraps-and-bags/

REFILL BRISTOL – A BRILLIANT IDEA

Talking to my friend Sarah who has a farmers market food stall that only uses eco-friendly catering vegware (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall take note!) I mentioned an idea of mine for Stroud shops and market stalls to display a prominent and recognisable sticker/logo to indicate that customers are welcome to bring their own bags and containers for refill. I thought of this because it can be daunting to repeatedly ask at the supermarkets and shops if they would mind putting the meat/cheese/whatever straight into your own containers instead of the shop plastic bags. A sticker or logo outside the shop would not only spread the message but also make a lot of customers loyal to the shop I think. The shop could even sell their own re-useale containers, much like they do with bags-for-life for example.

Just this morning then, my mother who lives in Bristol sent me an article about Refill Bristol, a practical campaign to make Bristol a refillable city: “Filling up your water bottle for free from one of our 200 Refill stations is an everyday thing. The aim is to reduce the amount of plastic bottles and bottle tops ending up in our oceans, whilst keeping you healthy, hydrated and saving you money at the same time! Participating cafes, bars, restaurants, banks, galleries, museums and other businesses display a round, blue sticker in their window, inviting thirsty passers-by to come on in and fill up their bottle – for free. Refill Bristol was a Bristol 2015 European Green Capital project delivered by City to Sea, a local CIC dedicated to stemming the tide of plastic to the oceans” Read more

Hallelujah!

BUYING UNPACKAGED FOOD

Week 3 or so and we are still going strong. Local milk is now being delivered in bottles to the back door (joy!) and we have discovered the Whole Foods Market. This is a chain of supermarkets where you can buy food loose or in bulk using your own containers or the shop’s paper bags and refill bottles etc. I absolutely love that shop – it’s sort of like a posh indoor organic farmers market. There are 9 of them in the UK, mostly in London but it is a very well known chain in America. At the moment I am mainly concentrating on food, household items and cosmetics. We still have lots of things in our cupboards that we haven’t had to replace yet and I am busy researching alternatives (toothbrushes, moisturisers, razor blades… a seemingly endless list of items). What I have learned so far into this experiment is: A) there are LOTS of things we have to do without because there are no non-plastic alternatives to my knowledge; B) we have to make lots of things ourselves from scratch to avoid plastic packaging; C) avoiding plastic packaging naturally results in eating seasonal & healthy food, reduced food miles, eating less processed foods, and it dramatically reduces waste and encourages re-using or recycling. Our proudest moment was when it dawned on us that we hadn’t taken the kitchen bin out for 2 weeks because there was only a tiny amount in it. And we haven’t bothered putting our bi-weekly recycling box out for collection either because it is also strangely empty.

GETTING STARTED ON MILK BOTTLES

On the 1st of May 2016, we begun the journey of avoiding all food and household items that have plastic packaging of any kind. In at the deep end. Went to the farmers market, a natural food supermarket, health food shop, deli, farm shop and an ordinary supermarket to see what I could get. I went prepared with my cloth bags, of course, and a number of small paper bags just in case. Managed to buy just over half of the items on my shopping list. The fishmonger at the market and the woman at the deli shop obligingly used my paper bags to wrap my items in. A few things I bought had cardboard on the outside but then turned out to be lined in plastic or wrapped in plastic foil (coffee beans, biscuits, tea bags, oatcakes, corn crackers). Very interesting exercise.

It must be difficult for shops to sell stuff in small quantities and keep it fresh – hence all the plastic/foil packaging. Also found out that the only butcher in Stroud has closed its doors! Next stop: wholesalers for bulk shopping and online shops to see what they have to offer. In the meantime I signed on to a local milk delivery service which has turned out to be a real joy and we love our milk man and the stylish classic glass bottles. I highly recommend this as a first step for anyone. Also made a batch of mayo, humus and taramasalata. Laughable how easy this is provided you have a food processor and can be bothered.