• Nathalie

Packaging-less shopping made simple

January 2021.

Packaging-less grocery shopping, also called bulk shopping plays a very important part in a Low Waste Lifestyle because packagings play a huge part in our modern consumers lifestyles.

I summed up in this article my best tips to help beginners smoothly transition to a packaging less supermarket experience but if you are a regular to bulk stores I also made a best tips section for your.

Wether you are starting a reduced waste journey, or you have been on it for a couple of months, years even, it's always good to take a look at the content of your trash. It will give you all the information on where to focus your efforts.

Lets ask our trash can what we throw the most

Product packaging accounts for 35% of the content of a household trash can according to a survey led by the French Environment and Energy control agency (ADEME). After four years of efforts to reduce my trash can content, packagings are still what I focus my attention on. They come in many shapes and sometimes make their way into my home without even being invited.

A packaging is not always a negative thing, it’s protecting our food from oxygen, sunlight and microbes in transportation and storage.

The problem is that nowadays, EVERYTHING and anything is packaged… I mean peeled bananas and clementines? Come on!

What is bulk buying?

It refers to transferring an item, sold without packaging, into your own container for purchase.

Bulk buying originally described products transported and sold without particular packaging or marketing to reduce their costs. It also meant buying in large quantities to make discounts. The term have evolved in the last couple of years from an economic strategy to a packaging reduced way of living. The products are offered to the buyer without any particular display, like in a Farmer's market where we buy products straight from the trays.

#Bulkbuying in now part of the packaging free shopping movement and the term can be used when buying all sort of items without packagings, from vegetables and fruits, bread and pastries, cookies, dried goods (such as grains, pastas, rice, cereals) household and beauty products like soap, laundry detergent, shampoo, toothpaste tablets... a "bulk store" buys its products in large quantities, favouring reusable containers and avoiding individual packagings.

What are the benefits of buying bulk?

The Bulk is Green Foundation lists the following benefits:

  • The reduction of material waste from landfill and incineration

  • Carbon dioxide emissions reduction from less packaging

  • Less food waste as consumers can buy just the amount they want

  • Creates more sustainable consumption behaviour amongst consumers

  • Economic benefits across the supply chain – producer, retailer, customer

Easy first steps, at your supermarket

The offer don't always match the demand, but it is growing around the world.

Depending on where you live you might have access or not to bulk products. You might find some financially interesting and others not. You don't have to be perfect, but try those simple tricks.

Bring you bags to carry your groceries and a fabric cooler for cold/frozen food.

Make a grocery list. To avoid buying more than you need and only go to those aisles.

Take some fabric bags with you for your fruits and vegetables and pick the ones without packagings.

Same at the bakery: use a tea towels or a pillow case for your bread and pastries.

Bring a tote bag when you pick up your meal if you are used to take away lunches at the office. You might want to take this step a little further by bringing real cutlery to work and your own containers for your take away food.

Chose the products that are less plastic packaged, favour glass or cartons. Avoid individual portions.

Back home, keep an eye on your fresh fruits and vegetables and on the expiry dates to avoid food waste. Empty your fridge and check your pantry once a week to be aware of what you have and use first what expires first.

Buying from the bulk section

Your supermarket have a bulk products section or you have a bulk store close by for food, beauty products and cleaning supplies? Great, I've listed here my 10 tips to make your experience optimal!

1. Think light

You don't want to go bulk grocery shopping with your glass jars.

2. Reuse anything you already have

  • Resealable bags, easy to clean and last forever!... unfortunately.

  • Food containers from your few take away orders.

  • Plastic bottles, plastic packagings.

  • The plastic bag in your cereals, a kitchen towel/tea towel or a pillowcase.

And if you happen to forget your container and use the shop's paper bags, chose the ones without a plastic window, and reuse it as much as you can (food paper bags can't be recycled).

3. Tar your containers

Weigh your containers as soon as you enter the shop or you might forget to and start filling them up. Tar even the lightest bags and write the weight clearly on the containers.

I always put “T” and then the weight "T: 7"

4. Make a list

It's always best to shop prepared and stick to a list to avoid over buying and to bring enough containers from home.

Use this list to note down the prices for future reference, expiration date or instructions or take a photo of the price tag, as bulk products don't have packagings and you won’t find all these information on the receipt.

5. Know your quantities

The advantage of bulk is that you can take exactly what you want or need.

Sometimes I just need 5g of some spice for a recipe and other times I'll want to try a product I've never cooked before so I'll just take a very small quantity to avoid food waste.

6. B.Y.S.B

Bring Your Shopping Bags and a cooler if you purchase fresh or frozen food.

7. A small towel

Or a fabric tissue, in case you spill... I always spill soap on my hands. Is it just me?!

8. Ask for assistance

Staff and vendors are here if you are afraid of spilling or if you have questions on the products.

9. Back home

Transfer everything in harder containers, I’d recommend glass jars for food because they make it easy to monitor the amounts I have so I don't run out or over buy.

They are also safer than other materials as glass don't transfer on the food.

10. Label

Write on your containers what they are, any instructions and expiry date as soon as you transfer and keep an eye on it to avoid food waste.



What we buy is shaping the world and it’s up to each of us to decide how we want to shape it and what messages we want to be sending to retailers and brands.

When we purchase something, we invest money on a brand and we are really saying:

I trust you and your values and I want you to keep going.

Aside from this packaging reflexion, ask yourself what are you voting for when you shop.

In Hong Kong you can find the following items packaging free

Non exhaustive list

  • Fruits and vegetables

  • Legumes, grains and cereals

  • Coffee and tea

  • Candies, chocolates, pastries, bread

  • Hygiene products (soap, shampoo, conditionner, toilet paper, period protection)

  • Cleaning products (laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid)

  • Water

  • Take away meal


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