How to bring your own produce bags to Central Market

Sick of coming home from the grocery store with a big pile of non-recyclable plastic film? Bringing your own bags for produce and bulk items like coffee, grains, beans, and snacks can greatly cut down on the amount of food packaging you consume.

It’s not something you see very often though, and I was nervous the first time I brought my own bags to Central Market. Would the cashiers accept it or have some dumb rule about having to use their bags? How would I collect all the little stickies, since they would probably fall off the mesh material of the bags I got? (I highly recommend these bags! They’re a lil bit see-through, breathable which keeps food fresh longer, but tightly woven enough for quinoa. And machine washable!)

So in case you’re not sure how to get started, here’s what I do:

As I go around the produce/bulk section, weighing my items, I put all the stickers on one paper bag. Then when I check out, I put that paper bag with the stickers first, followed by all my bulk items. The cashiers at Central Market, Whole Foods, and Sprouts don’t bat an eye at this arrangement. In fact, many of them remark how much easier it is to scan all the produce items when the stickers are all on one sheet. I did try it at HEB, where you don’t print your own stickers, and the cashier was a little annoyed at having to look in each bag. If you’re going to a conventional grocery store, you might want to invest in sturdy see-through plastic bags, and bag each food type separately.

A few tips:

  • These bags are pretty big, so I group multiple types of similar produce in one bag–I’ll have a citrus bag, a root veg bag, a peppers bag, etc. That way I don’t have to unpack and rearrange them when I get home.
  • Chili powder on certain bulk snacks will stain the bags and end up dusting your other items if you put it in mesh, so keep a few ziplock or plastic bags you can reuse if you plan on getting those items.
  • Collect your used spaghetti sauce & pickle jars for storing bulk items which can go stale (or invest in a set of mason jars) and pick up a canning funnel that will fit inside the jars and make filling them from the bags much easier.

In spite of these bags, we’re still consuming a fair amount of packaging each week for liquid/goo products, prepared foods, and meats. Here’s the other half of my cart:

So we’ve decided soon, we’ll do a one-week, zero-waste food challenge, where the only item we’ll consume all week that comes in packaging is olive oil (because we need something to cook with). We’ll essentially be going vegan out of necessity. I’ll be blogging how I prep for that, my recipes, and what it’s like. I don’t expect it to be something I can keep up long-term, but it’ll be a cool experiment to see just how difficult it is.

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