How to survive the supermarket!

We all invariably go to a Supermarket for all, or part of our shopping. I do, I am ‘guilty’ of it. The over use of packaging in supermarkets makes it very hard to shop plastic free, however there are steps you can take to swap how Supermarkets want you to shop. Shopping more plastic free, or even zero waste is achievable…… Here are my quick tips…

I should note that some of these tips will mean an increase to your recycling, however unless you can be fully self-sustained, growing all you own veges or you always remember what you need to buy, a little extra recycling waste is inevitable! But these top tips should be helpful on the next big shop!

Tins and Jars

Swap plastic aisle food for tins or jars – Ketchup, Mayonnaise, spicy sauces all have a glass alternative if you look! If you fancy olives, go for a glass jar not a plastic container from the deli section. I have been to my local Supermarket and although I got an odd look, they did say I could use my own container for deli items like olives, vine leaves etc. My pantry is full of tins. They are often cheaper to buy and for me are like a convenience food, and the aluminium used to make them is easy and cheap to recycle. I have a very busy life but I nearly always cook from scratch so grabbing a tin of pulses already soaked helps a lot! If you struggle with plastic free packed lunches then tinned soups are a brilliant solution and lets face it all hail the baked bean!

Also don’t fall into the trap of buying 4 cans wrapped in plastic – just buy four individual cans! Another easy trap to fall into is products containing Palm Oil – keep a look out for items such as peanut butter, cosmetics and confectionery…. the list is endless. This is a product creating mass, needless, consumer driven deforestation in the Rainforest. Check out Greenpeace for more info


Say goodbye to your plastic tub with chemical laundry tablets, and swap for a cardboard box detergent instead. Ecover and their range of ecological detergents and eco-friendly cleaning and laundry products are brilliant. Yes, Ecover has been taken over by SC Johnson, who do not have a great track record with their chemical products, HOWEVER, you can and have to start somewhere. It’s a minefield otherwise! If you want the nice smell from a fabric softener, you can add a few drops of essential oils in the softener drawers of your washing machine.

I have also invested in, and these aren’t available currently from the Supermarkets, an EcoEgg for the washing machine and tumble dryer. They wash clothes with the mineral tablets inside the ‘egg’. The one I bought is meant to last for 2 years. That’s a lot of packets I am now not creating recycling waste out of.

and, while we are on the subject…..The Guppy Bag is something I’ve not bought yet, but seems a practical way to prevent microfibers from entering into rivers and oceans.

Cleaning Products

I am totally converted to making my own products and if I don’t then I will only chose Method or Ecover ones as they can be refilled. I have bought Method in the past so that I can reuse the spray bottles for my own product. The shopping list for homemade are basically things that I would buy anyway….Bicarb of soda, lemons, malt vinegar, white vinegar, essential oil like grapefruit or orange blossom, find the acidity that works for how strong you want your cleaner and go! White vinegar is a natural deodorizer, absorbing odors instead of covering them up; baking soda is great to clean tough stains. Check out my cleaning recipes ideas and tips…

Fruit & Vegetables

Many supermarkets are beginning to reduce the plastic packaging on their fruit an vegetables, but i’m yet to spot a sweetcorn not shrink wrapped! So choose carefully, you can normally find root vegetables, most hard fruits and a selection of greens plastic free. Look for paper bags in store, or take your own to put them in.


These are so easy to swap from plastic to plastic free, and they actually make for reminder to slow down and take a moment, sit down and enjoy your cup of tea or coffee and be still for a minute or so. I buy loose tea, but this is really hard to find plastic free in supermarkets. I must admit i was one of the millions of us that didn’t even realise teabags were made from a plastic pulp when I started my zero waste journey! Loose tea can be composted so it’s a win win. All across the country there are health food shops, a tea specialists in which you can buy loose tea to go in your own container.


Coffee grounds are marvellous things and new on the market is Percol Coffee the bags of which can be composted at home. These are appearing in supermarkets so keep your eyes peeled!

Coffee pods are terrible – a single use plastic that are causing a devastating rise in the amount of waste that goes to landfill. Either buy beans to grind yourself, or use coffee for a cafetiere, or Italian coffee pot that goes straight on the hob. Coffee grounds can be wonderful nutrient for the garden if you know where to spread them, great to scour pans as a kind of grease exfoliate and face exfoliate are a few of the uses I’ve found.

Meat & Fish

Most large supermarkets will now allow you to bring your own clean container to the meat and fish counter. This makes a huge difference to your plastic footprint removing all those horrible plastic trays from your recycling pile!


Most supermarkets wrap even their fresh bakes in plastic but if you can grab a loaf that’s not plastic wrapped then do it! Take paper bags with you, or a produce bag to put it in. Even better… start making your own and break the cycle of relying on the shop. If you don’t feel like you have the time, then invest in a bread maker – they are a game changer for the baker in you!

images by Hanson Lu via Upsplash | Pesce Huang Upsplash | Alexandru G. STAVRICĂ

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