Make Sustainable Grocery Shopping Work For You: 3 Tips To Save Time & Headache

May 18, 2018

It’s incredibly challenging trying to do right by the planet all the time and consistently make the most environmentally-friendly decisions. I reckon I probably spend around 80% of my brain power (not even kidding) questioning if I’m making the most sustainable choice and researching how I can be better.

We know that the pressure is on big time to live more harmoniously with our environment, prevent further deforestation, climate change and support an ever-growing population without killing, like, all the birds and bees.

There’s only so much you can do in a broken system and it’s important to know that that’s okay. You’re only human! But collectively, our purchasing power counts for a lot and making ethical choices creates ripples of positivity that spread far and wide and stimulate change for good. But before you have a meltdown (which can feel imminent when you’re trying to tick every single sustainable square), here are some tips for easing the pressure and freeing your mind for other pursuits.
Today we’re discussing grocery shopping. Our lives are wildly different when it comes to the clothes we wear, how much we travel and where we live, but one thing we all have in common is that we sure gotta eat. Of course we all have slightly different intolerances and dietary requirements, but we can all agree on a few ground rules, I think:
1. Eating a diet consisting of mostly plants is the healthiest.
2. Eating local produce has been shown to also be healthiest, most economically an environmentally-friendly.
3. Buying loose or package-free rather than wrapped in singe-use plastics is incredibly beneficial for the planet.

3 Best Tips for Sustainable Grocery Shopping

Considering the above, it’s only logical then that the bulk of what you purchase each week should be locally-grown, loose fruits and vegetables. Ideally, you want this to account for about 60% of your overall grocery shop. Source a local market or produce shop and purchase what’s in season and looks the tastiest. Don’t worry too much about sticking to recipes exactly, because often our fruits and veggies can be interchanged very easily. No kale? Opt for spring greens or chard instead. No broccoli? Try cauliflower. No tomatoes? Try sweet red pepper. This openness to experimentation will also fire up your sense of creativity in the kitchen. And who knows, you might have just found the secret to making that favorite recipe of yours even better.
Buying local produce also decreases the chances that it’ll come packaged in plastic. The aim is to still have dirt on your potatoes! The closer they’re grown to home, the more nutrients are retained and the more nourishing your meal will be when it’s served up on your plate. Also, eating locally supports local farmers and decreases pressure on in-demand cash crops imported from many miles away (think of the air miles!)
Next up are the non-plant perishables. These are things like non-dairy milk and butter, yogurt and bread. These likely make up another 20% of your grocery shop. Ease the stress by seeing where you can replace numerous items with something multipurpose. For example, instead of purchasing sweetened milk for your morning coffee and unsweetened for cooking, could you simply bite the bullet and only purchase one kind of better quality which does the job for both? We know all the excess sugar is terrible for us anyway! Then, are there things that you could make yourself. Could you make your own bread or oat milk or maybe even homemade yogurt? The more things on this list that you can DIY from ingredients coming up in the third category, the easier your weekly shop will be. This also means you’re going to be eating more whole foods and reducing your consumption of preservatives and unnecessary filler ingredients that do us no good.
The final 20% slice of our pie chart is allocated to the non-perishables. These are things like grains, flours, dried pulses, oils and canned goods. I find that the easiest way to purchase these is in bulk, about once a month. I head to my favorite bulk store with many jars and tupperware containers in tow and zoom around scooping and sealing to my heart’s content. These are things that you won’t use up quite so quickly, so it’s much easier to do a once-a-month or even once-every-two-month shop for these items, especially if you don’t have a bulk store right on your doorstep and have to travel a little bit to get there. The benefit, then, is knowing that you can rest assured that you’ve got the basics for all the meals that you love making right there in your pantry. Doing this bulk buy means you won’t have to panic buy overpackaged dried goods when you spontaneously fancy a chickpea curry or chocolate chip cookies.
We can’t be perfect. It’s truly impossible. But we can try our best and most importantly plan ahead for all of those unexpected things that life will inevitably continue to throw at us. It’s the best self-care technique I know: looking after future you. Meal plan, but be open to flexibility and work with what the seasons provide for you. Stock up when you have the time and experiment with what you can make yourself. Then sit back, eat like a queen and feel the stress melt away as you nourish your body.
 Make Sustainable Grocery Shopping Work For You: 3 Tips To Save Time & Headache

What are your favorite tips for streamlining your weekly grocery shop? Do you also prioritize loose or seasonal produce?

Also by Kat: Get Smarter With These 5 Mind Tricks To Improve Memory (& Ace Everything)

Related: Save Major Money *And* Get Everything You Need. 4 Tips To Win At Grocery Shopping

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Kat Kennedy is an Arizona-based physiology doctoral student and holistic health advocate writing about science, health, and her experiences as a third culture kid and global nomad. She's @sphynxkennedy everywhere.


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