It’s confession time.
I used to be a terrible food shopper, and quite honestly, sometimes I still am.
Walking mindlessly from aisle to aisle, filling my trolley with convenient and high energy treats, not taking the time to consider the impact on the environment (or my body), or the amount of single-use plastic I was supporting to find itself in landfill or in our oceans.
This mindlessness had to stop. I began educating myself. I googled reusable products. I baked and cooked more wholesomely. I went to one of Kate Meads’ Waste Free Parenting workshops. I followed Eleanor Ozich, Sarah Wilson, and more recently Buffy Ellen who all continue to inspire me everyday to live life more simply and ethically.
Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t been ‘reborn’ as an ethical, sustainable ‘hippy’ who is making perfect choices at every crossroad. But, I have been developing awareness and educating myself when it comes to my consumer choices. As a result, I have developed some tangible, affordable, and time efficient strategies which have helped me to become more ethical.
Wherever you prefer to shop for food, whatever your budget, whatever your lifestyle and meal plan for the week – here are my five simple tips you can adopt into your food shopping routine to become a more ethical (and happier) food consumer.
Also, be sure to read right to the end of the blog post to get the link to our Fair Trade Freebie.
#1 HAVE A GIGANTIC SUPPLY OF REUSABLE SHOPPING BAGS IN YOUR CAR (+ IN THE PRAM)
So, the obvious, right? I know as hubby reads this he’ll rolling his eyes as it’s such a simple tip that everyone is already doing. But, whenever I look around at the supermarket I see so many people using plastic bags. I’m convinced that not all of these people would choose plastic bags as the ‘transporter’ for their consumables by preference.
More than likely, the reason is that remembering to put reusable bags into the car is the last idea on your mind. Not to mention if you’re constantly switching your car with your other half, and taking turns at who picks up the shopping each week. The car switch-a-roo caught me off guard so many times.
First world problems, yes. But, it’s a worldwide problem that needs to be first on our list to change.
I mentally bashed myself the first few times when I had every intention on taking my canvas, yet forgot.
If you’re finding yourself in this predicament:
- Have an oversupply of reusable bags. Load up both cars with a heap (and the pram with one).
- Keep your bags in the same place you keep your keys for the car.
- Move the bags back to the car as soon as you’ve finished unpacking.
- Put a recurrent reminder on your phone to put the bags in the car right before shopping time.
- Write ‘remember bags’, at the top of your shopping list.
OK and if all these fail and you still manage to get to the supermarket without them, ask yourself, is it really worth burning more carbon to drive home and retrieve your dusty canvas bags? Although, I do highly recommend going back for your wallet if you’ve forgotten that. Guilty.
On a serious note, if and when you forget your reusable shopping bags, take a big breath, stock yourself up with more reusable ones while you’re at the supermarket, try again next time, and recycle any plastic bags you picked by using the soft plastic recycling bins. You can recycle soft plastics at supermarkets like Countdown, New World, Four Square and at the Warehouse. Check out the link here to find your closest bin.
After I had mastered remembering my shopping bags routinely for food shops, I also made the decision to stop using those suffocating fruit bags. Visualise those cylinder reels of plastic which require the dexterity of a surgeon to tear off and open.
Instead of summoning my fruit to plastic doom, I’d have liberated oranges and onions rolling around in my shopping trolley. Meanwhile the checkout operator would be rolling their eyes at my chaos as they attempt to pass me a plastic bag.
So I knew there was a better, ethical way, and I was determined to find it.
#2 USE REUSABLE PRODUCE BAGS
Reusable mesh bags have re-established order to my shopping trolley. I recommend Pouch Products Produce Pouches and Green Collective Goodie Bags which are both made from a durable, stretchy, virtually weightless mesh fabric, strong enough to hold 3kgs of fructose and fibre. They are the ideal temporary home for your fruit and veggies and they are also great for making cheese, nut milks, or as a simmering pouch of herbs and spices for mulled wine or casseroles.
I also avoid purchasing fruit and veggies that are conveniently packaged in plastic. Carrots, potatoes, capsicums, and tomatoes are becoming familiar companions of pre-packaged plastic. Or, (my personal favourite), the dreaded avocado trio that sit in a plastic and polystyrene coffin, that are cheaper than purchasing three single avocados.
Sometimes being ethical comes at a cost; but, the bottom line is that supply is driven by demand. Each time you opt for an item without plastic, you’re casting a vote toward a less plastic, and more ethical society.
#3 LOOK FOR RECYCLABLE PACKAGING
My super-ego tells me I should be super-mum who manages to make all of my family’s food from scratch. But, let’s face it. I have a small human who seems to consumes three times her bodyweight in food each day. Sometimes we eat whole-food, home-made meals, and sometimes we do not.
I choose to not get myself all worked up because I added some processed items to my food trolley that come in a plastic packet. We’re big fans of Organic Rice Crackers in my household.
However, I do take a few moments to look for the recycle logo on packaged products.
It’s not as simple as looking at a cardboard item and assuming it’s recyclable just because it’s made out of paper. For instance, tetra paks are lined with a metallic substrate which requires a specific recycling facility to process it (i.e., they are not recyclable in all regions of New Zealand). Yoghurt containers are also only recyclable in selective regions.
If you’re keen to find out more about what recycling numbers mean and how they apply to where you live click here.
Remember that you can recycle your soft plastics at your closest stockist here. Just be sure to wash out your plastic (as you would with your recycling) before recycling them in the soft plastics bin.
#4 PURCHASE FAIR TRADE (WHERE POSSIBLE)
Coffee, chocolate, bananas. We all know that these are the obvious fair trade consumables.
But, how often do you actually look for the fair trade logo when you purchase them?
Did you know that in some supermarkets, bananas are almost the same price regardless of whether they are fair trade or not? Yet, the humans at the beginning of the chain are the ones that either suffer or benefit from our decision. Our consumer choice directly impacts on their livelihood. So go on, pay that extra 50 cents for fair trade bananas.
I now avoid buying bananas unless the fair trade option is available.
If we all made this small, yet powerful ethical choice, we’ll spark a radical banana movement.
Take free range eggs for example, 10 years ago, there was only one option for ‘free range eggs’ nowadays, it’s about 50/50. Yes ‘free range’ eggs are another debate in themselves, and there are lots of great people out there choosing vegan, or housing their own chickens. My point here is that that the supermarkets have changed what types of eggs they sell has been ultimately driven by consumer choices.
Trade aid have also launched a fantastic range of fair-trade products which are now available at most supermarkets, and includes sugar, coconut milk, and chocolate. The Trade Aid mint crisp chocolate block is fast becoming a favourite in our fridge.
I’ve also recently discovered that Macro Organic has a lovely range of Fair trade coffee from Peru.
We’ve got a great fair trade freebie for you at the end of this blog post, so be sure to read our last tip below.
#5 BUY IN SEASON AND LOCALLY MADE
Lastly, a great reminder that if you’re choosing in season you’re buying local. The benefits of this can be directly felt on your wallet and your body. Plus you’re helping to save on carbon when you’re choosing to purchase NZ oranges versus USA ones and you’re directly supporting the NZ economy.
Remember, that not every trip to the supermarket, local butcher, fruit and veggie shop, or farmers market will be perfect – especially when you arrive hungry. The right ethical decision won’t always be easy, and we won’t always make it.
But the important message is that knowledge, preparation and a little more awareness in what you are choosing are essential for becoming a more ethical supermarket shopper.
To say thank you for reading our blog this week, we’ve got a Fair Trade Freebie for you. Click here or the link below to get it!
Remember to share your education with others, and with us. We always love to hear your ideas and see your posts on facebook and instagram. Simply use hashtag #bohomeandroam to get our attention or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
With wander + lust,