Sustainable Living: Shopping Bulk with Reusable Containers

In our Sustainable Living series, we look at how tenants and homeowners are changing their apartments to be more sustainable.

Bulk items, such as loose oats and nuts, are often packaged in thin single-user plastic. Like all plastics, this packaging is not biodegradable and usually takes 400 years or more to break down. Additionally, plastics decompose into toxic particles, and microplastics travel in the air and are deposited in ways that harm the environment.

How can you reduce your plastic usage and move closer to a zero-waste, eco-friendly lifestyle? Here are some tips for shopping with reusable containers to reduce your plastic packaging waste.

Wide-mouthed storage jars

When going to the grocery store, bring some weck jars with you. Weck jars have wide-mouth openings, rubber seals, and glass lids. They come in various sizes, and their shape makes placing your goods into them while shopping super convenient. Weck jars are also suitable for storing and freezing liquids.

Other storage jars

Wide-mouth Mason jars are also handy to store your food while grocery shopping. They can hold many kinds of items and keep a tight seal. They can also withstand being heated and sterilized repeatedly without damage, and their glass can be easily cleaned. You can remove loose ingredients like grains from their original packaging and pour them into clear Mason jars. 


Although you’ve brought your containers to the grocery store, how do you get your bulk food into them without making a mess? Bring a set of funnels with you to prevent your goods from spilling all over the supermarket aisle (and perhaps yourself) when you transfer them to your containers.

Cloth reusable bags

Canvas, polyester, or nylon cloth bags are eco-friendly and hold more items than regular grocery store plastic and paper bags (which are usually flimsier than reusable bags). They’re also much more comfortable to carry, so you can more easily transport your goods without worrying about your bags coming apart and your bulk goods spilling. Your supermarket might sell them, and you can find many reusable cloth bags online.

When shopping for a reusable cloth bag, look for washable bags. You should wash your bags regularly for basic hygienic purposes – they carry a lot of food, which means microorganisms can grow in them without regular cleaning. You may also want a bag with a drawstring or something to tie it closed, as food can occasionally spill out of unsealed bags. 

Use additional plastic bags you already have to take everything home

After getting your first reusable bulk food containers, you may still have many plastic bags from your previous grocery runs at home. Don’t throw them out if they’re not damaged; reuse them. Bring additional plastic bags to fit all your groceries on large grocery runs. If you’re transporting heavy grocery items, then thicker, large plastic shopping bags are better.

Can I use these bulk storage items for fruits?

You might struggle to fit fruits into jars and cloth bags, but they should be fine in your plastic bags. Alternatively, fine-weave or mesh bags can be great for fruits. Choose containers that both suit your food and the environment to work toward the zero-waste lifestyle you seek.

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