grocery shopping with my jars

Happy holidays from the Smiths!

Over the next few months, I am transitioning from a W2 employee to a stay-at-home wife (and hopefully in the near future mom). Part of the transition is working with Mr. Smith on taking over some of the household tasks that he currently does, namely grocery shopping. We’re taking this in baby steps and I won’t take over the laundry until doing it doesn’t involve stairs.

While I don’t often do the actual shopping, I am heavily involved in other aspects such as meal planning, list writing, uploading our receipts to our rebate apps, and instigating zero waste practices. Today, I want to focus on the latter two as they have the highest impact on our bottom line and zero waste goals.

grocery apps

Mr. Smith and I tend to focus on eating fresh produce and meats. We don’t usually buy prepackaged or boxed foods. As a result, your mileage may vary. A lot of grocery apps focus on these types of foods. Nonetheless, we’ve been able to save some money. There are three apps that we currently use with some regularity: Ibotta, Fetch Rewards, and grocery strore-specific apps.

Ibotta is a Denver, CO based company that offers rebates for grocery purchases and other online purchases. My referral code is udvvblm. Since joining in February 2016, I have earned $117.44. Like I said, your mileage may vary… It’s a pretty easy app to use with minimal time invested. Before Mr. Smith goes shopping, I check to see what the current rebates are and if we’ll use those items. We don’t buy things just because we have a coupon or rebate. When Mr. Smith gets back with the groceries, I scan the receipts and, if needed, the barcodes on the items. Sometimes, there are really cool rebates availabe. Like the time there was a $1.00 rebate for each box of bubble water purchased.

Bubble watter was on sale AND we had a rebate. What’s not to love?!

Fetch Rewards is the other receipt scanning app that I use. My referral code is F7BYR. Essentially, you grocery shop as usual and then scan your receipt. You are rewarded with points that you can exchange for gift cards. You don’t have to preselect the items that you’re going to buy as the app does the work for you.

Otherwise, I use a combination of my Kroger, Sprouts and Whole Foods apps. Each app allows me to clip mobile coupons and see what’s on sale without needing the flier or a printer at home.

The key for me when using apps is that they be easy and take as little time as possible. An app that saves me a quarter, but takes five minutes to use just isn’t worth it to me.

zero-waste grocery practices

There are two zero-waste practices that Mr. Smith and I engage in. We take our reusuable bags to the grocery store (and usually other stores too) and we take our glass jars with us for bulk goods. The reusuable bags are a no-brainer in my opinion. They are sturdier than plastic bags and can be used over and over again. The “over and over again” part is important. Reusable bags are only worth it if you actually use them since manufacturing them is actually more costly than making a plastic bag. Plus, some stores — like Spouts — offer a small discount for using your own bags.

I’ve noticed the last few times I’ve been at the grocery store that the person bagging my groceries always asks if I want the meat bagged in a separate plastic bag. The answer is no. We have a designated “meat tote” just for that purpose. It’s an easily washable canvas tote and we haven’t had any problems.

Reusuable bags are level one zero waste though. We take it up a notch and also take our glass jars to the grocery store for bulk goods. (Full disclosure: You might want to ask the store about their policy. Sprouts is really cool about it, but Whole Foods isn’t.)

Using our jars for groceries. As you can see, we still end up with some packaging. We’re a work in a progress.

There are a few things to know here.

  • First, you don’t have to take fancy glass jars with you as you can actually use any clean and dry container that sparks joy with you. I just like the way that weck jars look in my pantry. 
  • Second, you must pre-weigh your containers, especially if you are using glass.  You don’t want to pay for your jars again and the person ringing your groceries needs to know how much weight to subtract. I use my kitchen scale to weigh our jars and write the weights (also known as the TARE weight) on the lid with a marker. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, you can usually have customer service do it for you. 
  • Third, act like what you are  doing is completely normal. No one will question you, at least not in a negative way, if you’re confident.

The last time I went grocery shopping, three different people asked me about my jars. (For the record, no one ever asks Mr. Smith about the jars.) It was really fun to explain how easy using your own jars really is and to educate people a bit more about waste. One guy said that a big reason he didn’t do it is because he’s scared of the looks. I told him to just act normal. Poor Mr. Smith ended up on my experimental side with this. I wanted to know if he could pick up deli meat with one of our rectangle containers. He went to the deli counter, passed the container over, and made his choices. It was that easy. The deli guy even thanked him for bringing his container.

To be honest, you will feel like a weirdo the first couple of times and sometimes the cashier won’t know how to tare your jars and will need to get help. That’s okay. The weirdness will eventually stop or not. Just embrace it and know that you’re doing a good thing for the environment.

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