Canada, Get Yourself To Bulk Barn

If you’re intrigued by the idea of zero waste living and you’re Canadian, you’re in luck: Bulk Barn has 255 locations across Canada, and since last year they’ve had a reusable container program in place at every single store.

If you’d like to cut down on the amount of packaged products you buy, getting your pantry goods — in bulk and in your own containers — is a fantastic place to start. You can go once a month, stock up, and then the only groceries you need to purchase on a week-to-week basis are fresh items, like produce, milk, and bread.

If you’re new to bulk shopping in your own containers, no worries: it’s super easy. First, you’ll want to make sure you have your own containers and reusable shopping bags. For bulk shopping, I use a combination of cloth produce bags (which can hold everything from beans to oats to rice to pasta to coffee) and mason jars (for ingredients like peanut butter, syrup, and honey). You can also use containers like Tupperware instead of jars.

Don’t get caught up with all the zero-wasters taking pictures of their fancy-ass mason jars. Produce bags are way easier to transport and use, so only carry a few jars for liquids to the store with you. You can transfer your haul into other jars or containers at home later.

Bulk Barn’s system for using reusable containers in-store is simple. First off, you go to the cashier and hand over your containers for taring — i.e., measuring the weight of your container so you’re not charged for it when they weigh your bulk goods later. There, they’ll also make sure your containers are clean (but of course they will be because you’re not a savage). Review Bulk Barn’s rules here — they’re a pretty good guideline for what to expect at any bulk shopping store, although not all shops will ask to inspect your containers.

You’d probably be surprised at just how much you can find at Bulk Barn (and other bulk shopping stores). There’s all sorts of rice, beans, pasta (gluten-free, chickpea-based, and otherwise), teas, coffee, specialty ingredients, snacks, cereals, spices, cleaning supplies… pretty much anything you could find outside of the produce aisle in the supermarket is available at Bulk Barn. Without packaging. It’s awesome.

Go stock up, and once you’re done, make sure you also use produce bags to pick up your fruits and vegetables at the grocery store or market, as well. All that plastic adds up quickly.

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