Plastic Free Supermarket Shopping

Being plastic free has its challenges when it comes to grocery shopping at a conventional supermarket, but fear not, it is possible!

I have found since going plastic/waste free that we no longer do large shops every few weeks, instead opting for smaller shops and one larger shop once a month at Bin Inn. This is mainly because we can’t get everything plastic free from the supermarket and now have to shop around a bit.

How to Shop Plastic Free at a Conventional Supermarket:

  1. Fruit and Veges- I avoid prepackaged items and purchase the loose items, either leaving them loose or packing in a mesh bag. Pak n Save & New World sell loose salad mix, they once had loose spinach as well, but it was gone the following week to my disappointment (hint hint Pak n Save).
  2. Seeds, Nuts, Dried Fruit, Lollies- All from the bulk section! I use either cloth/mesh bags or reused Zip bags.
  3. Bread- Straight from the bakery section and in to a cloth bag or pillow case. Pak n Save has paper bags available to use (although paper bags have their environmental issues too…), be careful as Countdown’s paper bags have plastic windows!
  4. Chocolate- I buy Whittaker’s*
  5. Dairy- I have not found any plastic free milk that doesn’t require an hour drive. Unfortunately this is one of the remaining plastic items I purchase (very rarely). We use milk for making cheese and yogurt. 
  6. Cat Food- Poor Riley has to have the cheap kibble as the expensive stuff is plastic wrapped. We alternate between Bin Inn biscuits and the cardboard boxed biscuits from the supermarket. Riley has a motive to hunt rats & mice (he knows he is not allowed birds) and gets any leftover meat and eggs to make up for his nutrients and protein. 
  7. Meat- We don’t buy this often as I am not a meat eater. I asked at the butcher section of Pak n Save to get some meat straight in an old container but I was told no, it has to be in a plastic bag due to hygiene reasons. After some explaining we compromised and got it wrapped in paper and then put it in the container (to avoid leaks). 
  8. Flour and Sugar- I buy these either in paper bags or from Bin Inn. 
  9. Beans and Legumes- Bought in bulk. I usually buy these at Bin Inn as I can buy them in the jars I use to store.

I bring all my own bags, jars, containers and shopping bags and can quite easily avoid plastic. I also find that confidence is key when you are requesting to use your own container etc. I act like it’s the most normal thing in the world and make sure I am not pressured in to plastic! If you are nervous try and go to the shops at a quieter time. Also be polite- a smile and quick explanation goes a long way!

Good luck and happy shopping!

*Update: I’ve since learned that Whittaker’s is not recyclable as it is a laminated foil. Lindt Chocolate comes in cardboard and foil, both of which can be recycled in you kerbside recycling bin (in Auckland). just bundle the foil until you have a ball larger than your fist. Trade Aid chocolate comes in fully compostable packaging, I’ve successfully composted the packaging at home.


  1. Judith   •  

    Hi Amanda – did you train your cat not to eat birds? If so how did you do it? Just found your blog! I have always been very interested in waste free and sustainable living but have been discouraged by the lack of what I can find in our supposedly clean and green country! Obviously interest is now growing thank goodness.
    We do have Bin Inn here in Timaru – if you take your own jars how do they weigh the goods, do you have to get the jars weighed first?
    Cheers, Judith

    • Amanda Chapman   •     Author

      Hi Judith, thanks for your comment.
      Admittedly my cat caught a few birds in his younger days, fortunately mostly Myna’s. I gave him a right (verbal with pointing) telling off and snobbed him for a few days every time he caught a bird. Whenever he caught a rat or mouse I’d praise him. He’s 10 now so doesn’t hunt that much anymore out of laziness, but only catches huge rats!
      Bin Inn weigh your jars and write the tare weight of the jar on it, so when you fill it up they deduct that weight. I usually take my jars pre-weighed as the staff know me.

      • rural rambler   •  

        We have a young cat who hunts, and are doing the same thing – a treat & praise for mice/rats/rabbits, and a telling off for birds. I think she is starting to understand. She had a rat and a sparrow lined up for me on the floor about a month ago, sitting between them and watching to see what I would do.
        I held her next to the bird and told her off, then put her next to the rat, gave her a treat & a pat, and removed the bird. Haven’t had any birds since.

        • Amanda Chapman   •     Author

          Hey that’s awesome! Same with my cat.

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