I've talked a lot about buying organic foods especially the "dirty dozen." I've talked about how to save costs on your grocery budget. But I think that I've neglected the necessary tools to go to the store with. Yes, there are things you should take to the store with you to be eco-friendly and things to avoid while out shopping.
There's a growing movement in health food and being green that involves avoiding convenience foods. It's called eating whole foods. What this means is basically avoiding all pre-packaged foods. That does include tv dinners, but it also includes many things that people don't think of as being convenience food like processed canned food (not the homemade sort), pre-packaged foods like hamburger helper, chips, crackers, condiments, and even pasta can be considered a pre-packaged food. Basically you want to make everything as homemade as possible to fall under this whole foods category. It's not as fast, but it is a lot healthier. I admit that I am not there yet. I have managed to avoid the pit falls of things like hamburger helper, but I realistically like my sandwich meat (yes, it's processed) and hubby likes his tv dinners. We're not perfect, but I do try to make more of my meals from scratch. When anything calls for a can of something, I try to see if I can substitute a fresh or frozen variety since those are considered better. For more info on the pitfalls of industrialized, processed food, please read this person's testimony.
Anyways...in order to avoid the trap of over-processed foods there are several ways to go about it. First of all, bring your own bags to carry produce in. You'll need a lot. I need to make some more myself. I've seen people avoiding plastic by putting some produce (like onions) directly on the conveyor belt. This grosses me out because there is no telling what kinds of things are on the belt from raw leaking meat to the chemicals used to clean it. Hence the reason to clean your produce like mad or bring your own bags. Better yet skip the belt and buy local produce. You'll still need your own bags.
Also avoid buying the canned stuff and go frozen or fresh. I buy frozen and throw it in a cooler in my trunk if I'm running errands. The bags made in the store usually have some sort of plastic insulation anyway, and you really can only use them one way. Plus I've noticed they are made in China. The cooler can be used for picnics etc.
Also I recommend canvas bags. This is experience speaking here. The cheapy, Chinese made reusable bags that stores sell fall apart after washing. Make sure that you have a sturdy bag that can be washed. I save the canvas bags Hubby or I receive from conferences or other events that they stuff with stuff. They work really great.
Glass jars are awesome. I reuse the jelly and spaghetti jars (yes, I know overprocessed, but I haven't the space for a canner). You can also invest in a good set of mason jars. You can use them for the bulk bin and avoid the plastic bags. Plus you can get only what you need which is great if you know you don't use flour a lot (like me because I'm not really into baking) or you know you lack the space (me again). I warn you my bulk bins do not nicely pour directly into my glass jars. I end up using one of my produce bags and dump the contents into the jar after that. That's my recommendation.
So here's what to take to the store or the local farmers market: shopping bags, produce bags, and glass jars. Happy shopping! Next week I'll talk about places you can grocery shop that don't involve a store.