Zero Waste Shopping

1 Comment

One of my passions is reducing packaging. My life is far from totally zero waste but I do the best I can. That is all that any of us can do. What works for me may not be an option for you.

I buy most of my dry goods – seeds, nuts, flours, spices etc from bulk bins at Simply Good. It means that I can buy as much or as little of a product as I wish without any packaging.

The shop is about 50km from home so I do not pop in every other day. In fact, I generally shop there about 3 times/year and always combine in with a trip in the same direction (usually to Brisbane).

Tomorrow is the day as I am running low on several staples and I have a dental appointment in Brisbane. So, I have made sure the containers are clean and labelled. You can use the lightweight plastic bags provided at the shop, however, I choose to take my own bags, or better still jars.

The staff are happy to pre-weigh the jars before filling them and then the weight is deducted at the checkout. For this to work accurately the jars do need to be labelled.

When I arrive home it is a simple matter of placing the jars in their correct location in the pantry and I fully restocked until next time.

Do you try to reduce packaging? Do you have any tips or tricks for minimising packaging when grocery shopping?

The Cupboard was Bare – Not Really

Leave a comment

We arrived home early this morning after an overnight flight from Singapore.  I had pretty well cleared out the refrigerator before we left and shopping was the last thing on my mind this morning.  The house-sitters had bought fresh milk for us and GMan made a loaf of bread.

This afternoon I began to think about what we might have for dinner and I really was not in the right frame of mind to go grocery shopping shopping so I decided to make do with what we had on hand.  There were sausages in the freezer as well as some pre-cooked rice and diced raw onion.

I grilled the sausages and then sliced them up. Next, I fried the onion in the pan, added 1/4 teaspoon of chilli powder, sliced celery (from the garden) and a broccoli stalk which was also lurking in the freezer.  A can of tomatoes and 5 olives which was all that was left from a jar in the frig completed the sauce.  I added the thawed rice and sliced sausages and heated the mixture before putting it in a Pyrex dish.

2015-09-13 01I topped it with a mixture of grated cheddar and parmesan cheese mixed with flaxseed meal and ground pepitas and popped it under the grill for a few minutes.

2015-09-13 02Since we had not bought any fruit and vegetables today,  I served it with a generous helping of kale from the garden which I chopped and stir-fried with a sprinkle of chilli powder and squeeze of lime juice.

GMan and I ate one half of this tonight and the other half has been divided into 3 serves for my lunches this week.

Tracking 2015 – February

Leave a comment

At the end of January I wrote a post about tracking our spending for the year.

It is now the end of February and we have continued our diligence in order to create an accurate picture of our variable spending.

BudgetingThere was no more holiday spending and our grand total for February was $1,620.92 which is almost exactly $1,000 less than the total for January (excluding bookings for our holiday).  Many, but not all categories were substantially less.  This was not because of any concerted effort, but rather, is an indication of how our costs fluctuate on a month by month basis.

Food made up a much smaller proportion with a spend of $233 in February compared to $633 in January.

Most importantly, if the food and transport costs for the first 2 months of 2015 were averaged out over a 12 month period they work out to slightly less than the figure I put in our budget estimation late last year for the financial planner.  This makes me feel as though I have a pretty good idea of where our money goes and how much it costs us to live.  The proof will come later in the year if the figures continue to stack up.

Tracking 2015


Today is Saturday.  Where did the week go?  I am very busy at work so although I have been thinking about my blog that is as far as it went.

Not only is it Saturday, it is Saturday 31st January.  The final day of the first month of 2015.  1/12th of the year gone.  Have you already forgotten what you resolved to do better/differently/more consistently in 2015 already?

BudgetingOne of my goals was to actually track how much we spend.  We have never worked to a real budget – actually allocating a certain $ value to each item/category but we keep careful track of the regular bills – rates/insurances/phone/internet but is the variable spending that is more difficult to calculate.  I do not have a specific amount of money for groceries each week as I tend to bulk shop for dry goods and meat and buy perishable items on a weekly basis.  I need to average my grocery spending over at least 6 months to get a fair and accurate idea of how much we spend.

As I said it is the last day of the month and we have been shopping so there will be no more spending today.  The grand total of our variable spending in January was $5,134.53 – yes, over $5K!  Almost exactly half of that was airfares and accommodation for our Singapore holiday later in the year. So, $2,618.73 looks somewhat better.  This figure includes food, clothes, gifts, hobbies, eating out, entertainment, alcohol, car fuel and maintenance, haircuts, public transport, pets, medical/dental and incidentals.

Apart from the holiday spending which is really a one-off, the categories with the highest spend were food $623 closely followed by public transport $620.  This is really interesting because what finally prompted me to track our spending very carefully was that I wanted to know how much we would need to live a comfortable lifestyle on our terms in our retirement.  Giving up paid work is a few years away yet but it is important to budget for life without regular employment.  We will still need to eat when we are retired but public transport will cease to be an issue as all of that expenditure is related to our lengthy commute to the office.

Do you know how much you spend?  Working or retired?  I would love to hear your comments.

Zero Waste – Is It Really?


One of the things that I am really passionate about is waste – specifically packaging.  For many years I have worked hard to reduce what I bring into the house and while I am nowhere near the nirvana that is ‘Zero Waste’, I generally do a pretty good job.

Today we went shopping for various things.  One thing I bought was some sliced salami.  Whenever I buy deli meat from the supermarket or meat from the butcher I always take my own plastic container and ask them to put the meat directly into the container and to stick the price label onto the lid.  Most of the staff are really good and simply weigh the container before adding the produce.

2012-07-29 02However, sometimes it can be challenging and you have to constantly watch what is happening or otherwise you can be easily blind-sided.  We have had instances where my request was followed and then they wrapped the whole container in miles of cling wrap or put the meat in a plastic bag before putting it in the container – AARGH!!  Today the young girl clearly had no idea how to establish the tare weight of the container so she spread a plastic bag on the scales, placed the salami on it and then tipped it into the container I had provided.  I chose not to say anything as it only causes distress to all concerned.

Also, there was not enough sliced salami in the display so she got more from the coldroom  and sliced it.  The piece she retrieved was wrapped in clingfilm and this was removed, discarded and a new piece re-applied when she had finished slicing it.  The display trays are covered with cling film also.

So, by taking my own container and refusing plastic bags and outer wrapping, can I regard this as zero waste?

Buying dry goods from bulk bins creates the same dilemma because although you buy them loose from the bulk bin they have been decanted from some sort of packaging.  At least it is usually a large quantity such as 25kg of flour or sugar so there there is less packaging per kilo.

I still buy my cheese from both the supermarket or the local factory where I can get 2kg blocks but they are still wrapped in plastic.

2012-07-29 04When I buy fruit and vegetables I always make the choice to buy loose produce that I can put in my own tulle bags that I made even if it is more expensive than the pre-packaged option.  A good alternative is a Farmers’ Market, though you do have to check as some stalls do package things into plastic bags.  It is a matter of being committed and voting with your feet as to where and how you shop.

Yandina Markets photo

The only true zero waste shopping is what I can collect from my own garden – eggs, avocadoes, citrus fruit, spring onions and parsley was the haul for today.

2012-07-29 05Do you try to avoid packaging when you are shopping?  Does this influence where you shop and what you buy?

Shopping At Home


In years gone by the phrase ‘shop at home’ usually referred to mail-order catalogues.  This meant that you could peruse the pages for your choice of everything from underwear to saucepans.  It was a service provided to people who lived in remote areas.  Imagine the excitement when the carefully-chosen and long-awaited parcel arrived from the city stores (Myer and David Jones) to families on outback properties.

Shopping in the comfort of your own home was also a driver of many ‘party plan’ and catalogue businesses.  These included Tupperware, Avon and Nutrimetics, to name but a few.

More recently, much of this shopping activity has been surpassed by buying online.  I have bought things online, but usually only after considerable research.  It makes shopping easy, so easy in fact, that I think some people have accumulated much more debt due to the ease with which they can part with their money or more likely, credit.

My shopping at home, today, was none of these.  I merely walked downstairs to my store-cupboard and replenished supplies which would otherwise have necessitated going to the shop.

2012-07-11 01This morning there was no cereal nor much psyllium husk which I have on my cereal.  So I headed to my cupboard and picked these two buckets.

2012-07-11 02Here are my pantry containers refilled.

2012-07-11 03This afternoon I ‘shopped’ again – this time for raisins and sultanas as I wanted to make a boiled fruit cake.

2012-07-11 04Having a store of staples means less trips to the shops which in turn saves time, petrol and opportunities to spend money on other items.  It makes sense to me to have a supply of goods on hand in case of a range of possible emergencies or disasters.  As well as food I keep a supply of other items such as toilet paper, toothpaste and soap.

Do you keep a stock of foodstuffs or other items?

Holiday Eating


One of the biggest holiday budget killers can be food, especially if you find yourself eating out.  It does not have to be high-quality restaurant dinners either.  Coffee and cake for afternoon tea or a sandwich and juice for lunch – it soon adds up.  $5 or $10 here and there can quickly add up over a couple of weeks.

After our road trip in the middle of the year to NSW and South Australia we decided that it is definitely worth it to pay a little extra for self-contained accommodation where you can cook your own evening meal as well prepare food for travel/sightseeing the following day.  A couple of nights we stayed in basic motel rooms and found that we ended up spending more by the time we had even a basic pub meal.

As I mentioned in a previous post, it has been a little trickier this time as we were travelling internationally.  However, we brought a set of the bare minimum of our picnic set.

It all packed into a small cloth bag.  The bag was the ‘packaging’ from the last set of sheets that I bought.

We brought a few bags, including these ziplock bags which have proved to be very useful.

Avoiding packaging has been a bit of a challenge but I feel that I have done the best I could under the circumstances.  The supermarkets here have bulk bins of various items so we managed to utilise the ziplock bags to buy cereal as well as nuts and dried fruit for snacks.  Bread has been my downfall but I have kept any bread bags to pack our sandwiches in for our lunches as well as finally using them for rubbish bags.  I have also bought meat on styrofoam trays covered in cling wrap from the supermarket.  It has reminded me of how much packaging I actually avoid at home by making our own bread and taking our own containers when buying meat from the butcher.

These are some of the groceries we have bought along the way.  The scrambled eggs, baked beans, chicken and pasta meals have meant that we could budget for some special meals as well.

We have eaten out a few times and really enjoyed the meals.  The Thai meal we ate in Christchurch was excellent and the food highlight of our trip so far was our meal at the Harbour Light Bistro in Nelson.

Holidays are not all about the food, although The Duke may beg to differ.  We have enjoyed being able to take a couple of tours which, although not cheap have been really interesting and good value.  I have already told you about the one to Farewell Spit and yesterday we went on the Mailboat Cruise on Queen Charlotte Sound.