zero waste, plastic free, environmental

First-timers guide to shopping at a Zero-Waste store

Zero-waste shopping is an exciting experience, even for the people who do it regularly. But, going zero-waste can sure be an intimidating task, especially if you’ve never done it before.

In this guide, we’re going to share our best tips and tricks for shopping plastic-free for the first time and give you the low down on what it’s actually like to visit a zero-waste store (it’s like being a kid in a candy shop).

Why Shop at a Zero-Waste Store?

If you have never shopped at a zero-waste store you may have some questions, and that is totally alright! We’re here to guide you through it. 

This style of shopping is a bit different from your regular grocery store – but, it is an electrifying and rewarding experience. 

While every store is going to be a bit different, there is a culture that exists there – and we can’t wait for you to become a part of it. 

Down below, we would like to share with you some of the top reasons we love shopping at zero-waste stores:

No Plastic:

This has to be the number one reason why we love bulk buying and refillable containers! Plastic is everywhere – and it is really hard to avoid. But, at a zero-waste shop, you can easily say no to plastic and still get the things you desire. You don’t have to simply imagine completing your grocery shop with absolutely no waste, plastic bags, pouches or films – you can just do it!

Doing Your Part For The Animals:

Piggybacking off of the plastic-free component – shopping zero-waste is one of the best things you can do for the animals. By cutting down on your waste, especially plastic, you are helping protect the land that these animals need to flourish. Keeping waste out of their homes, beaks, fins and bellies. 

Local Products:

These shops are usually a place for the community to come together. When visiting your local zero-waste store you might find especially local items that you wouldn’t have known about before! Whether it’s a vegan treat or something bespoke – these shops are where you’ll find it all (even the things you didn’t know you were looking for).

New Ideas & Great People:

When entering a low-waste shop, you will almost always be greeted with a smile. Looking for some inspiration or wanting to try something new? The team will help! Learn about new items, recipes and ideas all while doing your weekly shop.

More Than Food:

Zero-waste shops will often supply items that aren’t just edible. This can mean refillable laundry detergent, low waste period products, soaps, conditioners, toothbrushes and cutlery! Now, we can’t guarantee you’ll find all of these at every zero-waste shop – but it is always exciting when you do. 

Now that you know why zero-waste shopping is the right thing for you, there are a few things you need to do!

First-Timer’s To-Dos Before Heading to the Zero-Waste Store: 

One of the best things to do before you head on out is to get an idea of what it is you want to get from the store. Making a list can be super helpful, especially if you forget things easily or get a bit overwhelmed by all of the options. 

shelf, container, rack

Key Takeaway: Visiting your zero-waste shop is so much fun that you can easily forget what it is you came in for. 

When making your list focus on: 

  • Nuts and Legumes
  • Pulses
  • Snacks and treats
  • Dried goods like rice & pasta
  • Condiments and sauces 
  • Teas and Coffee  

These are the types of goods you will usually find at a low-waste or ‘bring your own container’ shop.

Preparing Your Containers:

The most important part about shopping at a refillable shop is the ‘refillable’ part. Before you can get started, you need to source some containers. 

We have become fans of reusing what we already have! Take a rummage through your recycle pile and see if there are any jars in there that have a secure lid. 

Some of our favourite reusable containers include:

  • Large instant coffee jars
  • Jam jars and nut butter pots
  • Plastic or glass bottles that held oils
  • Pasta sauce vessels 
  • Tupperware that you already own 

Now that you have an idea of what you can bring to the shop, it’s time to get them ‘store ready’. 

Prepare your tubs (bags, pots, jars etc):

  • Gather all of your vessels and grab your shopping list too! 
  • Give them all a good scrub before you take them to the shop. This will reduce the risk of cross-contamination. 
  • Label your jars with a marker so you know what’s what! Knowing what items you’ll add to each container is key. 
  • Try to keep the same items in similar jars. For example, if you have a plastic vegetable oil container that is now empty, refill that with oil again. 
bottle, container, glass

Visiting your local store for the first time:

It’s finally time to experience this fantastic moment! 

I feel so inspired every time I walk into a zero-waste store. Remind yourself to take a moment to soak it all in, have a browse of what they’ve got to offer, and don’t feel stressed. 

If you’re ever unsure about what to do, what a product is, or anything else, just ask. 

You’ll never walk into a zero-waste store where the staff aren’t the most helpful people ever! 

So what are the steps?

Each store will have a slightly different system, they will usually have a sign up to let you know the steps to take, but if in doubt, just ask! The team will be more than happy to help.

But more often than not, your first task will be to weigh all your empty containers – some shops will have a sticker that prints out, others you’ll just need to write it on the pot. 

Get filling! Take as little or as much as you’d like. That has to be one of the great benefits of zero-waste shopping. 

Once you’ve filled up all of your containers, simply weigh them again! This will allow the store clerk to calculate how much of each item you have in your jar. 

Now what?

You’re ready to go! Now that you know exactly what you need to do – you can venture off to your local shop. Don’t forget to bring a reusable bag, container and most importantly, to have fun whilst doing it! 

To all of our local Devon-based friends, if there’s something you’d like to see on our Refills on Wheels then please let us know in the comment section below.

1 thought on “First-timers guide to shopping at a Zero-Waste store”

  1. Karen Ceeney

    Hi there!
    This sounds wonderful!
    Where’s the nearest store to me please? (NP10 9DY).
    Kindest regards

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