Project “Not Buying Sh** in Plastic at the Grocery”


I’m cutting back on purchases that involve plastic, damn it! I love the planet, I hate that we’re so reliant on oil, and I hate that plastic items are taking over the freaking oceans and waterways.

After listening to Planet Money’s five part series on oil a few months ago (especially episode 4 – “How Oil Got Into Everything”), I decided I had to do better. I never realized how much oil is used in almost everything: shoes, phones, medicine, and one of the biggest – PLASTIC. We can bitch about oil pipelines in the U.S., oil companies drilling in our oceans, and oil spills on our land, but until we stop spending money on all the damn things that oil is used for, we’re not going to make any headway. We’ve gotta start somewhere, so I’m starting with plastic.

I’ve been really trying to avoid things packaged in plastic lately because it’s fu**ing everywhere. One of the things that’s bugged me most is its prevalence in the grocery store. Yay for cutting out plastic bags at the checkout, but when every piece of produce is wrapped in it, I don’t know if we’re doing much different.

Here’s what happened last week when I went to the grocery and specifically tried NOT to purchase anything wrapped in plastic. This was also semi-documented on Instagram stories that day…

Goal 1: To not put anything that doesn’t come in plastic INTO plastic bags. Check!

It’s like we can’t have our produce touching… or if we don’t bag it, it’ll fly everywhere in our carts. Turns out, it can sit in the cart just like everything else. We wash it anyway when we get home. I laid down my canvas grocery bags to keep them from falling out of the cart.

Some things even have paper bags for you to grab the smaller items: 

I’ve been buying mushrooms for a while now and always grabbed the pre-packaged ones on the top shelf. I’ve never noticed that there are bulk ones just below it that you can bag in paper yourself until I made a point to look for them… Next step: bring a different bag so I can cut out using paper bags.

Goal 2: Seeking out the naked produce, sometimes far away from the wrapped kind. Check!

The bell peppers in plastic are right next to the bell peppers not in plastic, so those were easy… but some things I had to search for. Turns out, there weren’t ANY cucumbers in the entire store not wrapped in plastic, so I just decided to buy something else instead. Zucchini it is!

 I had to go searching for un-bagged and although it was across the section from where I normally get my spinach, I’d bought green beans right next to it before. I’d walked by it dozens of times and never noticed it. Duh. But now I know. Plus, the same amount was cheaper than the bagged kind.

Goal 3: Coming out of the store plastic-free. Fail. 

It’s amazing how much shit comes in plastic. While I was going for a fully plastic-free cart, I ended up with a few things that I didn’t have a solution for: Yogurt, cheese tortellini, the bin of honey, the seal around the salad dressing lid. I even thought I was being good by purchasing bar soap that came in boxes… until I got home and noticed that all 3 bars were individually wrapped in plastic. Son of a bitch…

Goal 4: Do better. Check!

“Not a total Betty, but a vast improvement.”

Although I didn’t fully succeed in a plastic-free grocery run, I definitely cut back on the plastic that we usually buy, so that’s better. Imagine if everybody did that? But I can see this is going to be a challenge…

However, things won’t change unless we make a conscious effort to change our own habits and demand better from who we buy our things from. Goodness knows revenue makes a big difference. The more we pay attention to what we’re using, the more retailers will as well. They won’t stock the shelves with things that aren’t selling. I’m also writing some letters to store managers moving forward, you can do this simply by leaving them a note at the customer service counter. One person speaking up won’t make a difference, but if several people talk, and keep the conversations going, it may. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, right? I’m not saying we can totally cut it out by tomorrow, but being aware of all plastic everywhere definitely opened my eyes. I promise today to do better.

Anybody else with me?



Sweden: You might have read that Sweden is now laser printing code numbers on produce to cut back on sticker usage (which is great).

Lisa A.: When I shared the above Sweden article on Facebook, my friend Lisa shared the link to these washable produce bags from MightyNest. If you do want your produce separated or just confined to one area of your shopping cart, these may be a solution. I’ll be getting some of these, I think.

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