A Day In The Life: Bulk Refill Pantry Shopping

Used glass jars repurposed to hold food goods.

I love simple therapeutic pleasures. One of them is movies. God, I cannot get enough of movies. Good or bad. And I am happier when I have added a cold glass of local beer to that experience. Salty goods and pizza are my weaknesses. But I get a real kick from writing, especially this blog. You know what else? I am so pleased when I look at a pantry filled with newly bought goods. It makes me so happy.


I hope you all are.

Because I am so excited to introduce this new element to my blog. I will make sure to have a section of blog posts that are dedicated to regular, mundane, but necessary lifestyle duties, and how you can turn them into sustainable actions. I will dub these “A Day In The Life” series and they will feature detergent and beauty bulk refill shopping, my DIY health and beauty product tutorial, grocery shopping procedures, and a few other every day life must-haves and must-dos. I will store them here.

I dedicate most of my everyday moves and routines based on whether or not something is good for the planet and the well-being of my kids’ future. It starts with my pantry cupboard… groceries! We have kids and they eat! So does my partner. Heck… I love to eat. We love oatmeal for breakfast, raisins for snacks, dried apricots for kids’ lunches, pretzels for after-bedtime munchies, salt for seasoning, spices for jazzing up flava! But these all come in plastic and disposable packing! Ugh!

You know how people do monthly-ish “Costco runs”? This is my run. About once every 15-30 days I hit up my local bulk refill shop and giddily fill mason jars and sacks with a plethora of treats, snacks and bulk supplies. And I swear it’s easy! It’s so easy I do it in just 45 seconds. Kidding. But see how a 30-minute shopping trip can be seen in less than one minute.

Big thanks to The Stone Store who allowed me to record there. They are my main go-to place to buy dry goods and other fair-trade, organic, sustainable and no- and low-waste and/or local groceries. It’s just this easy to get your dry goods by shopping using reusable containers.

I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed. Are you not ready to commit to a full-on bulk refill process just yet? Here’s a simple concept to steer you: if it comes in plastic (i.e. brown sugar, spices, cranberries) buy it as a refill bulk item. That’s how I got going. And if it comes in paper like white sugar, go for it, and try to reuse that bag as much as possible. Start there!

The extra goodness? I can almost always promise the food will often be better quality, fair-trade, organic, tastier and of course, plastic-free.

So you want to start, but you actually don’t know how. Maybe you’re a little paralyzed by fear? You’re nervous. I get it! I was too.

Some basics before you get started:

  1. You need to own containers. Hit up thrift stores for used mason jars and other vessels like lunch containers, old mayo jars, coffee tins, etc. Or start collecting things you have at home like old jam and condiment jars, candy containers, pasta sauce jars, etc.
  2. Collect some bags too. At the end of the day, different needs for different packages. Corn chips do better in a glass jar and dried fruit works in fabric bags. Personally, I store everything in old glass jars, but I do use some old fabric bags for buying bread.
  3. Call and ask. Too nervous to start? Call the store. Honest, we eco nerds want you to join our bandwagon. We want to save the planet, so call and let us help you learn how to do it. It’s no big deal. No one is judging. Bulk Barn even has a program, that’s how cool it is! Don’t know who does it in your town? Call a health food store or dry goods store near you and ask for some direction. Once you’ve figured it out, this will be smooth sailing.

Here are the four steps:

  • Prep containers. Most places want your jars fully washed. I get it. It’s to prevent cross-contamination of allergens and contaminants. While you’re at home, wash the containers and make sure they’re dry before you leave because nothing’s worse than a soggy cookie. I always wash them the night before I go, but I know some people who wash them as they empty them.
  • Weigh them at the store before you fill them (called tare weight). Once you get to the store, don’t go scoop-crazy. First, make a stop with your friendly store clerk and get the containers and bags pre-weighed and marked. That way when you fill the jar with your desired good and you go to pay for it, you’re not paying for the weight of the jar. The clerk will subtract that weight.
  • Pick, choose and fill. This is easy. Bring a grocery list like anywhere else. Be a slow pourer and scooper. At first you might be shaky, so take your time not to get bulk product everywhere. I will admit, I thought people were looking at me when I first went. So I got the jitters, but then I realized, ‘I’m just buying chocolate chips!’ Sheesh!
  • Buy and eat! This is easier. Take your filled containers to the desk. The clerk will weigh the filled jar, minus the original weight of the empty vessel and charge you for goodness. Go home and devour.

Bet you didn’t think it was that easy. Look. Like anything else, you need to just dive in. It becomes second-nature once you’re full-tilt. Remember the first time you had to adult? That was tough! This is easy. After all, all you’re doing is pouring granola into a jar. It’s as easy as that!

Now go. Put this blog down. Grab your jars. Make a grocery list. I can’t wait to read your comments to see how this all went. Good luck, but you don’t need it.

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