the minimaList: grocery shopping

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Reusable produce bags from Flip & Tumble

I went grocery shopping alone on Sunday night.  While this might be a regular occurrence for most people, it was the first time in nearly three years that I had gone to the grocery store without either one of my kids.  And let me tell you, it felt like a little piece of heaven.  So good, in fact, that I might start grocery shopping every Sunday night and consider it a little date with myself.  It was so nice not to have to tell anyone to “stop touching that,” or “keep your hands to yourself,” or “stop calling your brother ‘marshmallow’.”  Yes, it was divine.

We’re trying to be minimal with our grocery shopping, both with the amount of money we are spending, as well as taking into consideration the amount of room we have to store the food before it is consumed.  Recently, we’ve switched grocery stores – from Costco to another local grocery chain.  It was just too easy to spend over $200 on each trip to Costco, and we would find that a couple of days after we did a bit shop that we didn’t have a lot of ‘real’ food left.  We have a tiny kitchen, so we have to be a bit strategic with what we are buying and how often we are shopping.  We have very little room for storing food, but I don’t like to open the cupboards and find nothing there – unfortunately, I don’t find that to inspire me to cook much of anything at all.  We don’t plan our meals in advance, but we do have a loose plan for what we are shopping for every week.  We don’t eat out very much and we have two boys to feed in addition to ourselves (one of whom is a very picky eater).

Here’s how we take minimalism into account at the grocery store:

  1. Shop on the perimeter of the store – It’s easier to shop only the perimeter of the store, where all the most simple, healthy and least processed food items are located.  There is literally no room for junk food in our house – primarily because my children will choose it over real food (every.single.time.), but also because we don’t have the physical space for it.  I would estimate we are buying about 90% of our groceries from the produce (fruit & veggies), meat, and dairy (milk, eggs and cheese) sections of the store.
  2. Choose items with no packaging or as little packaging as possible – Choosing food with less packaging or as little packaging as possible is the right choice for the environment, but it’s also the right choice for your health.  Chances are good that the food you find at the store that is packaged up the wazoo isn’t really that healthy for us anyway.  We try to buy mostly fruit and vegetables – it’s good for us and there’s no packaging to send to the landfill.
  3. Walk to the store or take public transit – I found this one out the hard way.  I took the car to the store on Sunday and it was a bit of a headache.  I find it more enjoyable to walk to the grocery store than to drive – when I had the car I had to drive to the store, find the right parking lot for the store (it’s underground, so not as simple as it might seem), try to not lose my parking ticket while in the store, and then remember to get my parking ticket validated on my way out of the store.  Walking in the fresh air is a lot more relaxing, it’s free, and it’s better for the environment.  And it doesn’t take as much brain power.
  4. Bring your own reusable bags – I know reusable shopping bags are pretty popular these days, but it bears repeating that they are so much better for the environment than their plastic counterparts.  I’ve found now that I am in the habit of remembering to take reusable bags with me whenever I leave the house, it’s not a big deal.  I much prefer the reusable cloth bags to plastic, and they’re less likely to break too!  I even invested recently in a handful of reusable bulk/produce bags from Carebags, a Vancouver-based company.  I love that when I get home I don’t have a million extra little plastic bags from the items I bought in the produce or bulk sections of the store that now have to find their way into the garbage.
  5. Do not buy anything in the check-out aisle – The product placement in the check out aisle is a marketer’s dream, and we’re all the perfect target for impulse purchases as we stand waiting for the person in front of us to check out.  If you’re looking to save money, this is one good place to start not buying.

Taking all of these things into account, we’ve found it’s possible to keep an appropriate amount of delicious, healthy food in our home, as well as save on our grocery bill and save waste from the landfill.  I’m planning to start visiting our local Farmer’s Market regularly when it opens in June – I’ll be walking there and taking my reusable bags with me!

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