Zero Waste Food Shopping in South Africa

Unless you have a fantastic bulk foods store or farmers market nearby, then grocery shopping can seriously get in the way of Zero Waste living.  But just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it is impossible!

Things have been made slightly easier for us, as before I decided to take the road towards Zero Waste, we decided to cut majority of sugar, processed food and a lot of starch (pasta, rice, potato) from our diet.  We have small amounts of sugar in tea or coffee.

Everyone is different, but for us, this lifestyle isn’t just about the environment, it is very much about the quality of our lifestyle and our health.

In the beginning I used to be really hard on myself and get a bit annoyed with my failures.  But I got over it!  As long as we all do our best to make a change, then that is fantastic.  I think God created only one Bea Johnson for a reason!! Well, that is my excuse anyway, and for now, I am sticking to it!

Packaging when shopping

When I do go to any grocery store, I take my own reusable shopping bags.  I never use those thin plastic produce bags to weigh my produce, if it is a single item I just tell them to stick the label directly onto the item.  Otherwise I would take my own reusable ziplock bags, or plastic bags I saved from cereal boxes or whatever.  Please note, the ziplock bags and cereal boxes were purchases made months ago – I don’t buy things like that anymore!

I am also trying to get into a habit of checking the packaging can be recycled before buying. Normally there will be recycling info on items.  If there isn’t, try get in touch with the producer and point this out to them. This doesn’t mean you have to be a whinge bag about it, just tell them that you love their product but you notice there is no recycling info and maybe they could look into that.

Food Lovers Market has a fairly good section where you can buy nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and some flours.  Our nearest one is quite far though, so need to group a trip with other errands and visits to friends.

Fruit & Vegetables

We live in Heidelberg, a very small town, and we don’t have a farmers market, so I decided to start my own veggie patch.  Absolutely amazing what you can grow in a teeny patch and in pots. I did discover an old man at a mini market (5 stalls), on a Saturday who sells a small selection of fruit and veg, so it is worth asking around your town.  Speak to your local butcher, health food store, local restaurant.  You never know who knows who.

I started my veggie patch a few months back when it was still winter, and we get pretty hectic frosts in Heidelberg, temperatures reaching -3deg! But I just protected my seedlings with very ugly frost cover and that worked.  We had spinach almost straight away.

At the moment we have ready to eat: spinach, cabbage, icicle radish, iceberg lettuce, butter lettuce, swiss chard, strawberry, mint, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, coriander.

On it’s way and already appearing out the ground: carrots, brinjal/aubergine/egg plant, courgette, blue pumpkin, leeks, onions, mangetout, cucumber, assortment of tomatoes, basil, kale, peas, chillis, chard.

Soon to be planted: ginger (currently sending out it’s shoots), garlic, peppers, lettuce, beans, sweetcorn, purple sprouting broccoli, potatoes, granadilla, butternut. Will also continue to plant more of the above in stages so we have an ongoing supply.

We have small naartjie, lemon and lime trees, but they are not producing at the moment.

I plan on growing lots more tomatoes than we can eat right away, so that we can preserve them in different forms, then we won’t have to buy relishes, jams and canned tomatoes.

Meat

We are meat eaters, and so I am getting into a habit of buying from our local butcher and asking him to place my meat in my own containers or reusable bags. I do like to eat free range or organic meat though, and they don’t stock it.  So next best thing in our area is Woolworths, but then it is packaged. So if I do buy from Woolies, I try buy the massive packs and then freeze it. We have cut down on our meat consumption, but I will never give it up, I do just try make an effort at buying from quality suppliers. One day I will have a field with my own sheep, goats and cows then I will solve the ethical problem entirely!

Dairy

We do eat quite a lot of dairy.  I am now buying my milk (jersey) from Hydeaway Farm in Heidelberg, and they supply it in reused 2 litre plastic cool drink bottles which they sterilise and it is only R20. This is actually cheaper than buying full cream milk from the grocery store where it ranges between R24 – R28.

I have started buying our cheese in larger blocks from Kostlich Delicatessen in Heidelberg, and she places it in my own container or in my Abeego reusable food wrap. Feta also comes in large clear reusable tubs which is produced by Hydeaway Farm.

I make our own yoghurt and kefir drink, so I don’t buy pobiotioc tablets.

Treats & Snacks

As a rule we don’t eat chips, biscuits and sweets.  We sometimes eat mixed nuts which I caramelise and spice, also biltong, popcorn.  I think I have just discovered how to make “dorritos” out of maize meal! Watch this space. I have just started a Sourdough Starter and so will start making my own sourdough crackers to go with hummus dips and pickles.

Drinks

We never did buy bottled water anyway, but I did buy a Stefani water filter from Faithful to Nature. We no longer drink alcohol every night, but for weekends we have started buying beer by the crate/quart so that the bottles can be reused and there is no plastic packaging.  Our wine we buy by the glass bottle.  Tonic water comes in plastic bottle unfortunately, but we don’t often use this, like we used to! We don’t drink soft drinks or juices.  I sometimes make smoothies or use our juicer to make fruit/veg juice, but rarely. Nespresso machine – EPIC FAIL!

We do still have a lot more packaging than I would ideally like, but I am now taking things up a notch than before and instead of putting everything straight into recycling, seeing if I can reuse it somehow in or around the house or in the garden.

Cupboards

My cupboards are still fairly full of old purchases, sauces, pickles, spices, oils, beans, seeds, etc. We are still working our way through these, and so our purchases have mostly only been meat, veg and dairy for a long time now. I am really trying to thin down what we have in our cupboards.  Any future purchases I am trying to buy in glass or tin rather than plastic, not always possible, but I do my best. Some things are a teeny bit more expensive this way, but with the saving we make on not buying bread, biscuits, cool drinks, juices etc it doesn’t make a difference to us at all. I am spending less on groceries than ever before, especially with the veggie patch!

If anyone has any ideas or suggestions on things, I would love to hear them.  If you would like to try start living towards Zero Waste and want some advice, motivation and inspiration, drop me a line, or join Zero Waste Heroes group on Facebook.

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10 comments

  1. I so want my own veggie garden! Were gonna start planting herbs in pots in our sunny spare room (live in an apartment block, no garden.) The Boyfriend has vowed to help, because plants are known to mysteriously die in my care… Lol.

    I still struggle to give up crisps… I keep the bags for an artist at the 1Fox Fleamarket in Jhb who turns them into the most beautiful bags, purses, etc. But wanna try making my own crisps. And also bake my own bread! Made a loaf of bread for the first time ever this weekend

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you have a sunny window area you can even grow a tomato & chilli plant – grow easily! I’m going to have a go at maize chips tomorrow! Luckily we don’t eat bread really, so no hassle there. Good luck with veggie pots / big pots and water water water!

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      • Luckily we’ve also cut down on bread. The Boyfriend doesn’t like carbs hehe. But I crave a tomato sandwich with freshly ground pepper every once in a while. Good to know tomatoes grow easily!

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