The Zero Waste Lifestyle Commitment

07.22.2019

0600

The zero waste lifestyle is a 24 hour a day commitment. I’m not gonna lie, but you do have to be conscious of it. I’ve slipped up a few times, because I wasn’t aware of how a restaurant packaged their food, or that the restaurant automatically gave me disposable utensils (even after I asked them to not include it). I’ve walked away from restaurants, with a plastic drink container, because I forgot that my water bottle at home. (I hang onto the cups to contain my smaller trash items.) but it is so easy to slip up and make a mistake, so don’t feel bad if you do. There are disposable utensils, cutlery, napkins, sauces, wrapping, etc. at every restaurant in the United States; usually comes in the form of take out. Some of the disposable items do serve a purpose such as, sanitary situations, but more than likely they are used for a very short amount time and then tossed into the landfill.

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably carrying around one of these reuseable utensils kits. This kit will likely include a reuseable spoon, fork, knife, chopsticks, a metal straw, a cloth napkin, and perhaps a cloth handkerchief. I will also carry around a water bottle and sometimes my coffee tumbler too. Most of the time, my water bottle is empty in case I want to go get coffee, and then I just use my water bottle to contain my coffee. 

Being aware that the zero waste lifestyle is a constant commitment, means that it influences where you decide to eat, what you decide to eat and even where you decide to go to spend your time. Even though it is a conscious effort, and a lifestyle commitment, it does become easier over time.

I have my favorite restaurants that I go to, and even coffee places that I go to. I also have “go to” food choices that I will pick at certain restaurants, because I know that the food item doesn’t come with packaging. One of the easiest places to go look for zero waste packaged food, is the grocery store; specifically, the deli section. Your menu is the entire deli.

At my local grocery store, I have a variety of different pre-mixed salad options, a variety of meal solutions, sandwiches, sushi rolls and wraps, soups, meat choices and cheese choices. There is also a section for fresh baked bread and fresh donuts, that’s also freshly made each morning. It’s a great place to search for a quick solution for dinner.

The good thing is, as long as you’re aware of this zero waste commitment, and you try to stick to making small changes, you are making a difference. The zero waste community is vast and continues to grow. Around the world, we are presenting our methods and solutions to our every day issues of plastic packaging, wasting resources, and the growing plastic pollution problem.

As long as we are conscious about what we choose, and how we choose to spend every dollar, we are telling our story of our commitment. We are telling our neighbors, our friends, or family that this is a problem that needs to be addressed.

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How I Remove Labels On Glass Jars

04.23.2019

0600

Tools:

  1. Stove/microwave to heat up water
  2. Extra old toothbrush
  3. Extra cup wider than your jar/ stove top pot

Materials:

  1. One jar with label glue still stuck to it
  2. Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap
  3. Baking Soda
  4. Water

So I’ve read online about a few tricks of how people remove sticky labels off of glass jars. I’ve read about the method of using olive oil along with baking soda, and then there’s the method of heating up the glass and peeling off the label. I don’t like to use excess oil to clean, because when you wash off the jar, the oil can clog up your plumbing pipes, over time. I have tried to heat up my glass to peel off the label, but it doesn’t always peel off completely. There is one method I’ve stuck to for awhile, but I don’t see people posting about it. My method is pretty simple and it seems to work for me.

I will first peel off the label so that the only film left is the paper and glue. Some jars use a plastic/nylon label and some use paper labels. I like to get rid of the excess label before I start to remove the glue and label. By removing the extra thick layer of label, the jar cleaning process goes by quicker, without any hangups during the process.

After that, I find an extra cup that my jar will fit into. If you can’t find a jar, at least find a pot wide enough, where the jar can be placed horizontally, inside the pot and completely submerged under the water.

I then heat up water in my stove top kettle. I heat it up where the water is pretty hot to the touch, but not scalding hot. The water doesn’t need to be scalding hot to be honest. The idea here is that the water, mixed with the soap, will loosen up the glue.

I’ll then pour the heated water into the larger cup, in between the larger cup and the jar, and a little bit inside the jar. The heated water around the jar is to help loosen the glue off of the jar and the water inside the jar is to weigh it down. I pour enough water into the cup, so that the label and glue are submerged under the surface of the water.

I’ll then drop a few drops of Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Peppermint soap into the water around the jar. I’ll usually spin the jar in the cup a few times, so the liquid soap is distributed more evenly. The soap, mixed with the hot water will loosen up the glue.

After about 30 minutes, I’ll take the jar out of the soapy water. Please be careful, because your jar might still be very hot from being submerged in the water. If it is still too hot to handle, let it sit for a bit longer so the temperature of the water cools off . DO NOT run the hot glass jar under cold water to cool it down. This will likely lead to your glass jar cracking or exploding under the drastic temperature change.

NOTE: Glass expands when hot, contracts when cold. If the exterior surface of your glass jar cools, while the inside surface of your jar is still hot, that creates an uneven thermal profile.  As a result, the surface of your jar is trying to shrink, but the hot inner glass prevents the surface glass from shrinking. This creates a powerful stress profile through the glass — the surface is trying to shrink, but can’t, so it is forced into tension. The hot core is trying to stay the same volume, but the surface is squeezing in, so the core undergoes compression. It’s not hard to figure out which section of glass wins the tug-of-war — the surface fails first. And a crack grows out of some microscopic scratch or flaw, growing and spreading until the stress is sufficiently relieved or the glass is broken clean through. 

SO PLEASE DO NOT RUN COLD/COOL WATER OVER YOUR HOT JAR.

Once it is a bit cooler to the touch, I’ll use baking soda to scrub off the glue, using an old toothbrush. I’ll scrub in circular motion, and periodically dip the jar in the soapy water to rise it off as I scrub my way around the jar.

This method has worked for me, when I’ve needed to remove sticky labels off of glass jars.

Also remember, glue is not permanent on glass. So if you’re patient and allow the glue loosen up, and continue to scrub using the baking soda, than you’ll end up with a clean surface. Sometimes there might be a little bit of glue left, but just continue to scrub it off with the baking soda and soapy water.

This was a simple post, but it was a method that I realized I had never talked about, but always used. It’s just glue; it’s not permanent and it’ll come off.

What’s in My Sport Emergency Kit

12.19.2017

0600

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Depending on the season, I participate in annual sport activities each year. Since I enjoy hiking, snowboarding and surfing each year and each needed emergency kits, I figured out a way to combine my emergency kits into one kit. I had to create a Sport Emergency Kit that would work all year round. So this is what I included in my kit…

My larger items include:

  • First Aid Bandages (white bag)
  • Dry Bag (for wet clothes, which is the blue bag)
  • Emergency Flashlight (with a Radio, Compass, Flashlight and)Siren
  • Ropes
  • Bag of smaller items (black bag)
  • Female Urinal Funnel (black handkerchief wrap)

 

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In the white bag for bandages, there are:

  • 3 black bandanas
  • 1 triangle bandage
  • 2 Elastic Wrap Roll Bandages

 

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In the black bag of smaller items I have:

  • 1 pocket knife
  • 1 knife
  • 1 mirror
  • 1 knife sharpener
  • 1 SE FS374 All-Weather Emergency 2-IN-1 Fire Starter & Magnesium Fuel Bar
  • 1 deck of cards
  • 1 collapsable frisbee

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This is just an example of what is in my Sport Emergency Kit. it’s an example to follow if you chose to. You can add to it or simply use it as a template for what you might have in your own kit. I hope this helps and I hope the kit comes in handy when the time comes. If you want to check out what clothing items I keep on hand for each sport, check out Zero Waste Closet- Part II.

Ultimate Disaster Evacuation Checklists

10.31.2017

0600

Note: I created 5 downloadable documents in this post, feel free to download.

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Sonoma County, California Wildfires Force Evacuations Near San Francisco, Image of NBC News, http://www.nbcnews.com

The Northern California Wildfires that recently occured left a devastating amount of damage. More than 160,000 acres—or 250 square miles—have burned in Sonoma, Napa, and Solano counties, just north of San Francisco. Another 36,000 acres have burned farther north in Mendocino county. The fires are still not 100 percent contained. About  8,400 structures have been destroyed, according to Cal Fire, the state’s wildfire-fighting agency. The California insurance commissioner reported that about 5,500 homes were completely destroyed, with an additional 4,000 partially burned. Santa Rosa alone lost 3,000 homes to the fast-spreading Tubbs fire.

At the peak of this catastrophe, 11,000 firefighters across the state—including 3,800 inmate volunteers from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation—battled the flames. Firefighters would work anywhere from 24 to 80 straight hours, dousing active fires and chopping down trees and brush to prevent their spread. About 4,300 still remain on the frontlines as of 10/25/2017.

The devastation from those fires echoed across the state. A lot of residents, business owners lost everything. The fires burned so hot that the foundations of these homes were the only structural elements that survived. It also made me wonder if I was truly prepared for a disaster like this to strike in my own neighborhood. I decided to assemble the disaster evacuation checklists for anyone to download, for such a catastrophic event like these widlfires.

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Aerial view of a Santa Rosa neighborhood, after the wildfires settled. Image from http://www.CBS.com

Now, most people know that you should have Emergency Kits in your home. In California, our most well known natural disaster are earthquakes. If you grew up in California, you would have practiced earthquake drills at school or at home or were simply reminded what to do during an earthquake each year via public service announcements. However, it seems that there is little talk about evacuation disasters, where you have to leave everything behind, to save your life, your family’s lives, in order to survive. There’s a chance you may be alerted to prepare to evacuate, and sometimes you will not get that chance and have minutes to get out of your residence. This is a comprehensive post and I hope it can help someone out there.

 

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Before Disaster Strikes

So before any evacuation disaster strikes, there’s a lot that needs to be done. Take your time, be patient and go through these steps carefully. Since it’s a very detailed process to go through, keep pushing forward and by the end of it all, you’ll feel more prepared for the worst case disaster scenario.

Scanning and Photographing

  1. Transfer all home videos you’d like to keep into a digital file. You can save these on an external hard drive,  in your cloud, or both. If you want a simpler solution, transfer all VHS format videos to DVD format so they will be salvageable later on.
  2. Scan or photograph all photos you would like to keep, and organize them. Save on an external hard drive, cloud or both
  3. Scan or photograph all personal legal documents per person
    1. Diplomas
    2. Birth Certificate
    3. Social Security Card
    4. Immunization Record
    5. Health insurance card
    6. Medical Record & current prescriptions
    7. Car Titles
    8. Passport
    9. Take photos of all cards (front and back). I usually organize mine (face up) on a sheet of paper, then I flip the cards over to take pictures of the back of the cards. You can group 8 cards together on a single sheet of paper or take pictures of them individually. I tend to group cards into three categories.
      1. Membership cards (these cards will not likely change)
      2. Legal and important cards
      3. Cards in my wallet (these cards will likely change due to the expiration dates, so you can group these together and retake the picture as needed)

Create a Home Inventory of all of your belongings

 

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In the event of a fire or other disaster, would you be able to remember all your possessions? Having an up-to-date home inventory will help you get your insurance claim settled faster, verify losses for your income tax return and help you purchase the correct amount of insurance.

I thought I’d tell you how I approached my home inventory list. This Home Inventory project was also the perfect opportunity to declutter and clean up. It’s a lot easier to do this project when your drawers are cleaned up and organized. Since I was going through this project room by room, I first inventoried my first room and subsequently used that first room to store all of the items I planned to donate or not keep. I needed these items out of the way and I also planned on moving these items to my car, when I made the walk through video.

  1. Download a copy of the Household Inventory Checklist
  2. I like to take a picture of each wall of each room, then open up and examine each furniture piece on each wall. I then examine all of the items within each furniture piece. I always inventory items Left –>Right and Top–>Bottom.
  3. You can also do a walk through video to give an overall view of your possessions.

Checklists

 

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The American Red Cross Mile High Chapter put together a very useful American Red Cross_Emergency Preparedness Checklist (Edited)  in which, they listed out Who you should contact for information regarding the emergency, Creating an emergency plan, Preparing a Disaster Supplies Kit, Emergency contacts and physician contact numbers, Floor plan evacuation sheets, Home hazard awareness and an Emergency Kit for your car. I actually edited this PDF to accommodate two contacts per category, so that you could include a back up contact.  I placed a few symbols for reference to be used on the Floor Plan sheets like these below. The other items on the list are easily identifiable, so I didn’t include symbols for those, but you can add those in.

Floor Plan Key Sample- From Doc Hub

Create an Emergency Go Bag Checklist per member in the household. I combined an Emergency Kit and a Go Bag Checklist to create this Emergency Go Bag Checklist. This bag will have legal paperwork, pertaining to your health, home and finances. It’ll include some electronics and emergency items. Depending on what you take for sentimental items and valuable jewelry, this bag may become bulky and heavy. The bulkiest items on this checklist is clothes, food and water. I keep these bulk items outside of the Emergency Go Bag, so I know to grab those items on the way out. If you have to evacuate quickly, you may have to leave some of the bulk items behind. I would try to grab some water and food though. The highlighted rows are documents, so these should take up little space, or at least be able to lay flat.

If you want extra safe keeping, I created a Keep Away From Home Checklist so that certain legal documents can be kept in a separate safe location. If you choose to not have a separate location to keep these documents, this checklist will be combined with your Emergency Go Bag documents.

During an evacuation, there is very little time to organize what to do and where to go. In these stressful situations, saving yourself and your family is the primary focus. I put together another checklist of what to do Before, During and After An Evacuation Checklists. Keep this list along with your other checklists. These checklists will only be used upon evacuation. If you have already scanned and photographed your legal documents, you’ve already done half of the work. The other half of preparing for such a disaster is completing the home inventory.

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Ideally, the Emergency Go Bag will be light and easy to evacuate with. Because majority of the items listed on all three lists are documents, these items should be able to transport easily. Once you record these documents into digital files, you can back these digital documents up with cloud storage or with an external hard drive. I do both to cover my tracks.

I really wanted to make these checklists because I never realized how much goes into being prepared to evacuate. Even putting these documents together was a lot of work. If you declutter as you go, the work will be less. When you list out your room inventory, just go room by room so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. You’re literally going through every single item you own, so go at a comfortable pace. Set goals for each part of the project so at least you complete this project in sections. At the end of the day, stuff is really just stuff. Your life and your loves ones are priceless. I hope this post helps organize your home and help you become more prepared for disaster evacuations. Stay safe out there!

Freebies And Give Aways

01.24.2017

0800

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I don’t like to receive freebies and giveaways. I tend to refuse small gift bags and trinkets that are included in them. When I received them from family members and friends, that’s when I came up with a plan that I implemented years ago, when I lived in San Francisco.
Years ago, when I lived in San Francisco, my studio was directly across the street from Golden Gate Park. This park is the largest park in San Francisco and it was approximately 1,017 acres and over 3 miles running West to East and  half a mile running North to South. I would visit my family on the peninsula and always ended up bringing back food. I was given Nutrigrain bars, health bars, and even packaged produce. Because I was starting my zero waste lifestyle in San Francisco, I didn’t want to open these individually packaged items. Instead, I would create care packages for the homeless population, who slept in the park after everyone left.
Let me explain, Golden Gate Park is open from 9am every morning, and closes at 5 pm each evening. Since I lived across the street from the park, I was very aware of the public presence in the park. Each night, after the park closed, the homeless population would move in and set up camp for the night. I used to run along the street that framed the park’s north edge. I would run West and head out to Ocean Beach, then turn around and run back, and I would see them heading into the park.
During that time, I worked the swing shift when I was and EMT, so my hours were strange. But I would put together care packages in which I would hand out to the homeless when I can back from work.
I know that those individually packed items still produced trash but I had a decision to make. The dilemma was, either I refuse the items and inevitably they go into the trash, or I can somehow make good use of it. Not everyone can live a zero waste life and I understood that. Not everyone cares to live a zero waste life and I understood that too.
This was my way of trying to make a positive contribution to a situation I was aware of. When the packages were made, I would hand them out. None of the individual packages were opened so the recipients knew that the food had not been tampered with. Most everyone was open to accepting the food and were thankful for the snacks.
I wrote this post because recently I received a few airline amenity kits from a relative who travels on Delta Airlines for work.  She travels a lot so she had a bunch stocked up. I decided to go out and find recipients to give these kits to.
In the day-to-day rush that we live through, it’s reasonable that not everyone is noticed or acknowledged. But if you slow down and look closely, you’ll notice a population that sits in the shadows; a population made up of many circumstances and perhaps painful past stories. Living in California, has its risks and high stakes to bet on. It takes a lot to survive here, much less start a family and establish yourself here. I accept that anyone can become homeless at anytime and it’s always an unfortunate outcome.

My Sewing Kit

 

04.18.2016

0845

For my sewing kit, I use a  3-Tier Stainless Steel Food Carrier by To Go Ware. It is also known as a tiffin set, which is a nifty lunch box system that hails from India. For kits or sets that have many small items, I like to use these types of container systems due to the fact that these containers take up very little space and can be stored away quickly. This food carrier also came with a small cylindrical snack container as well.

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In my top tier, I have a few extra zippers, some extra safety pins, my white LYRA Aqua Color Water-Soluble Wax Crayon, and a measuring tape. I also have a small coin purse that contains extra buttons. In my middle tier, I keep extra elastic bands and the small snack container, which holds my Pearlized Head Straight Pins by Singer. My bottom tier is where I keep my extra thread, sewing needles and my metal finger thimble. I usually keep only three different colors of thread, which are black, white and grey. I only keep these colors on hand for the fact that I can match pretty much any sewing stitch to any one of those colors.

In addition to the 3-Tier Stainless Steel Food Carrier, I also have a pair of 8″ Knife Edge Dressmaker’s Shears and a seam ripper. This sewing kit is used for mostly hand stitching and repairs. I do have a sewing machine that I borrow and that comes with its own set of supplies as well.

Knowing how to stitch and repair is essential in the health and life of my clothes. I prefer to repair my clothes instead of going out and replacing it with a new piece because each piece that is in my wardrobe is very special to me. Even when I decide to replace a piece of clothing, I still want it to be in good condition for the next owner. I never understood how much sewing would become a part of my clothing maintenance, I always just considered that keeping my clothes clean was good enough. Knowing a few types of stitches will save you a lot of frustration and money in the long run.

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My Emergency Kit

04.04.2016

0845

I have a small emergency kit and most of it is pictured here. In any emergency, it’s always a good idea to keep certain items on hand and ready at a moment’s notice.

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In my small electronics bag: (green flowered bag)

  • Small battery operated radio and clock
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Extra AAA batteries
  • Flashlight/hand crank radio accessories

In my first aid kit:

  • Gauze
  • Medical tape
  • Styptic pencil
  • Mercury- Free Oral Thermometer
  • Compact scissors
  • Bandage

Items that are not pictured are:

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food

I also have a flashlight/hand crank radio, butane lighter with butane gas refill and candles. I use bandanas as dust masks to help filter contaminated air.

This is just a simple overview of what I have in my emergency kit for living in the city that I live in. Understandably, the most common natural disaster in my area are earthquakes, so preparing for all natural disasters wouldn’t make any sense. Depending on each family’s’ dynamic, this kit is essentially  for only one person. There are a lot of websites out on the internet that suggest to have a large emergency kit at all times, but ironically, my kit is based on FEMA’s outline. (you can find it HERE). All of the items listed may not apply to you but the list is a comprehensive one. Due to the fact that I’ve experienced a few earthquakes in my life, these items are exactly what I need in case of an emergency. It’s a slim and small kit, but it has been working for me. This post was to simply give an overview of what I keep in my kit.

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Bulk Bathroom Shopping Kit

03.30.2016

0830

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My bulk bathroom shopping kit consists of mason jars and cloth bags. Buying bulk bathroom products is probably one of my favorite  shopping trips that I take. This is also due to the fact that I genuinely like bathroom designs. I think the bathroom is essential in how comfortable I feel in a home or apartment. The bathroom is a place where we clean ourselves, we have privacy and it’s where we can relax. My bathroom is very simple so it doesn’t have a lot of stuff on the countertop, in the drawers or even in the medicine cabinet. However, when I step into my bathroom, the tile feels smooth and warm and the space is clean.

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I fill up my 1 Pint Mason Jars with Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint soap and due to its concentration, I actually will dilute it in a small Pyrex bowl when I use it. I use this liquid Dr. Bronner’s soap to clean my sinks, bathtub, toilet, as pet shampoo and even wash dishes. It is an amazingly versatile soap that is mostly eco friendly. I also stock up on Alaffia’s GOOD soaps. I personally prefer the Lavender (white) and Prairie Rose (Pink) scents, but they have seven scents to choose from. I really like using Alaffia’s GOOD soap as body wash and face wash, and their ingredients are openly listed online. If you want to read about them, you can go to Alaffia: Fostering a Body of People and there will be a PDF download to the list of ingredients in their GOOD soaps for each scent.

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I stock up on face lotion and body lotion when I go bathroom bulk shopping too. I tend to carve the tare weight into the lids of my mason jars (using the point of a pair of scissors, be very careful if you decide to carve the tare weights into the lids) so that I never forget their weight. When I do fill up each bottle and write the PLU (product look up) codes, I’ll also write which lotion is for my face and which is for my body. (Notice the PLU codes are the same) Lucky for me, I tend to buy white colored bathroom products so I always have to jot down “Face vs. Body”.  Although if you do forget to write down “Face” or “Body” the consistency of each type of lotion is also a dead give away. My face lotion is more chalky and is not as viscous as my body lotion so if I ever accidentally apply one versus the other on the wrong area, I’ll notice it eventually.

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Also, if you want to ever keep track of how much you spend or use your products, I suggest you keep your receipts or create a graph to track your spending. I know this sounds a bit unorthodox, but I did this for awhile and I saw how much I saved. If you want to buy only Dr. Bronner’s Bar Soaps, or do not have access to a bulk location that sells Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Soap, this link might be helpful, How to Make a Gallon of Liquid Handsoap From a Bar of Soap. I did try this method and it worked. This is also why I included the Ball Gallon Jar in my store tab, under the Kitchen category as well as Dr. Bronner’s Soap Bars.

This is an overall view of what I bring to go bulk bathroom shopping and these items seem to help me in my shopping haul. I hope these items give you an idea of what containers you can use for your bathroom shopping haul. The overall savings of buying bathroom products in bulk will show over time, and I’m personally glad I switched to buying my products in this way.

*UPDATE- 06.16.2017- I no longer use Olive Oil Dispensers – Square Tall Glass Oil Bottle and Stainless Steel Pourer Spout to contain my bulk liquid soap, but instead I now use Ball Quart Jar, Wide Mouth, 32 oz. These jars are easier to clean and they’re much more sturdy in terms of glass design.

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Bulk Grocery Shopping Kit

03.21.2016

0900

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When it comes to grocery shopping, there needs to be an organized system of how you go about gathering your items. Pre-packaged food gave me this convenience when I hadn’t started on my journey to a zero waste lifestyle, so I had to break down what jars and bags I was going to use for bulk shopping.

My bulk grocery shopping kit consists of cloth drawstring bags, Ball mason jars, Bormioli Rocco Fido Jars and my Lyra Aqua Color Water-Soluble Wax Crayons. I use the mason jars for liquid bulk food such as almond butter, honey, Bragg’s Liquid Amnios and balsamic vinegar. These jars are great for liquids due to the fact that there is very little left over odor from previous products when you need to use the jars for something else. I tried using the  Bormioli Rocco Fido Jars, but the gasket on those jars absorb odor quite a bit and they stain as well. For the fine grain bulk foods like wheat flour, cane sugar and sea salt, I use the Bormioli Rocco Fido Jars so that the transfer from my grocery bag to my shelf is much simpler. (I literally just move the jar from my grocery bag to my shelf- yea, unpacking after grocery store trips is that fast). The jars are also great for storing snacks from the trail mix bins section. If the jars are too heavy to bring to the grocery store, then the bags will still be fine to use. The drawstring bags are used for the rest of bulk grocery shopping as well as fruits and vegetables.

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When you use the mason jars and the fido jars, make sure you tare the weight of the jars before filling them up. For the mason jars, I usually carve the tare weight into the lid of the jar and for the fido jars, I’ll write the tare weight on the inside of the gasket so that the cashier can see the weight through the lid. I write the PLU (price look up) code and the initials of the bulk food on the lid with the water soluble crayons. I write the initials alongside the PLU code because products with the same consistency and color can be mixed up (ie. balsamic vinegar and liquid amnios). I hope my bulk grocery shopping kit helps in prepping your grocery shopping kit. If you have any questions, I’m more than willing to answer them.

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