Buying pantry staples at bulk food stores allows you to shop package-free. The Tare Shop is just one example of a variety of stores that now let you bring your own containers and purchase goods by weight. This type of grocery shopping not only cuts down on packaging, but also lets you purchase only the amount you want, which helps cut back on food waste.
As a bonus, bulk food stores are great places to try new things, as you can just get a single serving, or enough of an ingredient for one batch, allowing you to test out foods before committing to purchasing a large amount. Bulk food stores seem to be constantly increasing the range of items they carry, with many expanding from dry goods to include condiments. The Tare Shop also sells cleaning and bath products in bulk, letting you bring your own bottles to refill with dish soap, laundry detergent, body wash, shampoo, toothpaste and more.
Buying local produce has a lower environmental impact for multiple reasons. It cuts back on packaging used in shipping (especially if you are buying from a farmers market, road-side stand, or even a u-pick), and also reduces the environmental impact of trucking fruits and vegetables long distances. While it’s not always possible to purchase local, especially with tropical fruits and a long winter season, it’s worthwhile to make the effort and puts your grocery dollars back into the local economy as well.
Of course, the most local option is to grow your own produce at home. Once you find out what grows easily for you, picking just a few fruits or vegetables to grow at home can make a big difference in your grocery budget, too. Kale, beans and zucchini are three crops that always do well in our small city backyard. The kale and beans are really easy to freeze, too, providing us with homegrown veggies in the winter. If you don’t have the space or time for a garden, stocking up on in-season produce when it’s cheap (whether at a market or from a u-pick) gives you extra food to freeze for those long winter months.
Buying local meat has many benefits as well. Several years ago we decided to say no to factory farming and switched to buying all of our meat from a local farmer, Windy View Farm. The meat is raised free-range and free-run, with no hormones or additives. It only travels from the Annapolis Valley to get to the Seaport Market, and it comes wrapped in paper. The quality is significantly superior, as well. Understandably, buying free-range meat from the farmers market is not at a price point accessible to everyone, but if you’re on the fence about it, having an extra meatless meal or two per week to make room in your budget for more sustainable, ethical meat, is a healthy and worthwhile compromise.
Waste Not Want Not
Food waste is an issue that has been given more attention in recent years, with many communities doing what they can to reduce the amount of food going from the store to the trash. There are a couple great programs available in Halifax to reduce food waste. One is called Square Roots, a program started by the Enactus group at Saint Mary’s University. In order to help redirect some of the $31 billion dollars of food that ends up in landfills or composters in Canada each year, this group started a produce bundle service that purchases seconds produce from local farmers in bulk and resells it in 10lb bundles. With monthly pick-ups (and now even a new delivery service), Square Roots is a very affordable way to stock up on seasonal produce.
The other program is an app called Flash Food, which works with Superstores to sell boxes of surplus produce at drastically reduced prices. If you can get past not having the perfect looking apple, this app is a great way to score deals and save perfectly edible food from the dumpster. Flash food also lists other perishable food items (such as dairy and bakery items) that are about to expire at over 50% off. It even tracks the CO2 emissions saved by purchasing the surplus food. Click here for a referral code to get a discount off your first purchase.
Katie Tanner is the Museum & Communications Coordinator at the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame. An English graduate from Dalhousie University, she was born and raised in the Annapolis Valley but has been a Haligonian for over a decade. She enjoys travelling and doing her part to take care of the planet.