Living with less waste – Bulk shopping

DSC_0185I’m making progress with my goal to live with less waste. One facet that I wrote about in a previous post is doing more bulk shopping. And I don’t mean filling up 17 store-supplied plastic bags and calling it good. I plan to go a step further and bring my own reusable bags to fill with bulk goodies.

The first (and pretty much only) step in this process is procuring appropriate reusable bags. I searched my house and couldn’t find any that were suitable. I’ve been given a ton of large shopping bags that I use regularly, but they’re not quite right for vegetables and bulk food. I checked out online stores, but they were more fancy and expensive than I needed. Then I remembered the bag of clothes in my closet I had set aside for donation! In it were five old/damaged cotton shirts that would make perfect bulk bags. Hell yes.

before1

Now I don’t claim to be a crafty kind of gal, but I do have my mom’s old sewing machine hidden away for the occasional hemming of pants or curtains (my sewing skills are limited to straight lines). My first bag attempt was useable, but ugly. I made the rookie mistake of completely sewing up the top hem, forgetting that the draw-string would need to go through it. Dang. After a bit of seam-ripper surgery on that one, I got the hang of it and produced four more of slightly varying shapes and sizes.

after

I had put off this project for a few weeks thinking I needed to buy string or bias tape for closing my bags. Not so! My grey shirt already had a drawstring along the bottom, so I just turned it upside down and closed up the other side. I was able to use the straps of the white tank as the drawstring on that one. For the others, I just cut a strip of the unused fabric, stretched it out, and fed it through the hem with a paper clip. Far from professional, but it works for me.

As the feeling of joy in my domestic skills washed over me, I quickly concluded that my creations must be tested right away. With help from the Bulk app, I found a market a few miles away that would surely have something I need. I had been to this market once or twice prior, but will now be a more regular shopper with my newfound thriftiness.

I was a bit overwhelmed at the site of all those bins and barrels full of interesting stuff. I don’t eat many grains, so the isle with about 40 varieties of rice, barley, millet, and quinoa was far less exciting that the neighboring isle containing candy and coffee. I hadn’t prepared a list, so I just filled up a few bags with food I knew I would eat: popcorn kernels, 85% dark chocolate squares, and shredded coconut. I made note of the skew numbers on my iPhone.

I asked the store employee cleaning up the area where to go if I need containers weighed before filling (in case I want to bring a jar next time). He told me that I should only use the plastic bags supplied by them. Hmph. I didn’t like that answer. So upon check-out, I asked the same question to my cashier, who said that I bring my containers to her first to get the tare weight. A managerial-looking fellow concurred that it was no problem at all. Less learned: If I don’t like the first answer I get, elevate the question up the chain until I do.

Since then, I’ve brought my bags to my local farmers market and filled them up with brussel sprouts, spinach, and asparagus. On each visit, I have to turn down my farmer’s regular offers of plastic bags. I’m sure he’ll catch my drift sooner or later.

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