Conscious by Chloé

Chloé Lepeltier - Conscious By Chloé

Follow Chloé’s journey to a simpler, greener and happier life.

Shopping in bulk 101

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

Shopping in bulk for the very first time can be intimidating. This is the reason why I reached out to my local co-op to host "Bulk Shopping for Beginners" workshops. But I thought I could take advantage of this experience to share it with you here on the blog.

By now, faithful readers, you should know what to put in your shopping bag before leaving for the grocery shop, but let's repeat it here for the newcomers.

What to bring:

  • a tote bag

  • mason jars (for dry goods or even shampoo & body lotions)

  • glass bottles (for oils, kombucha)

  • bulk bags (for dry goods, vegetables)

  • a crayon or Sharpie to write the tare and PLU on your containers

[Most of these items can usually also be purchased at the co-op.]

  • your shopping list

  • your wallet/cash/card

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

How to buy bulk food

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

1. Identify a place to shop
Ask around, reach out to a zero waste blogger in your area or be patient and wait for the launch of Bea Johnson's app. I live in NE Portland and shop at the Alberta Cooperative Grocery, so this article is based on my experience and the products that are available there.

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

2. Write your shopping list
Shopping in bulk makes things so easy. All you have to do is open your cupboards, your fridge or your pantry and identify which containers are empty.

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

3. Get your shopping kit, put the empty jars in it, and head to your favorite shop

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

4. Weight your containers
Put them while still empty on the scale. You shouldn't have to touch any button, unless the screen shows a negative number before you put your containers on the scale, which means you should just press the "clear entry" or reset button.

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

5. Write the tare and the PLU (item number) on the containers
I usually write them like this:
T = xxx
# = xxxx or PLU = xxx
Some people prefer to keep a list of tares and PLU on their phone and tell them at the attendant during check-out. Chose what you feel suits you best. There's (usually) no rule.

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

6. Fill your containers with dry goods

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

7. Use your cloth bags for loose fruit and vegetables

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

8. Fill your bottles with oil, maple syrup, etc.

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

9. Fill more containers with cosmetics

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

10. Cut your own soap
Then put it in a muslin bag and don't forget to write the PLU on it (or enter it in your phone and tell it to the attendant during check-out).

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

11. Bring your own egg cartons or use the ones provided by the coop
I now skip this part, since my hens started laying this spring!

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

12. Fill more bottles at the kombucha tap
This coop is pretty rad, but I'm sure you can fill your bottles at your local café. Also, bring a growler to your favorite brewery!

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

13. Check out!
If you haven't written the item numbers on the muslin bags, don't forget to tell them to the attendant. Same thing for the tare of the bags.

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

14. Put the jars, the rest of your items and your shopping kit back to where they belong.
There's no need to unpack items, transfer them into airtight containers, throw the packages in the trash. Shopping in bulk makes life so much easier!

This seems like a lot of work. And it is! But you don't have to do it all at once. Start with only a couple containers, shop with a friend, look for workshops at your local coop. Once you've done it once, you'll realize it's not that hard and will probably (I hope) want to go once step further. Watch out, it's addictive!


Have you ever shopped in bulk? How did it go? Where do you shop? Who do you shop with? I want to know everything! Pictures by Octave Zangs for Conscious by Chloé.

Portland Series - Tea Bar

Chloé at Tea Bar PDX drinking bubble tea out of her mason jar with her reusable straw by Candace Molatore​ for Conscious by Chloé

I'm not only the kind of customer who brings her own mug to cafés, I’m also the one who asks to meet - or emails - shop owners to start a discussion about sustainability, either to thank them for being awesome, or to suggest an improvement.

Last summer, when I moved to Portland, Tea Bar was one of the first spots I hit up for my "I work from home and need to get out otherwise I'm gonna go crazy" breaks. I had been following it on Instagram for a while and needed to see it in real life. I’m not gonna say it’s the reason why I live in NE Portland, but it definitely made the neighborhood more attractive on my map!

Tea Bar is famous for its selection of carefully curated, high-quality teas sourced from family farms around the world but I have to admit that I first showed up to have my bubble tea fix. When I was living in Lausanne, Switzerland, I had my regular bubble tea spot, so I needed to find one to replace it in my new hometown asap.

Mason jar with reusable straw at Tea Bar PDX by Candace Molatore​ for Conscious by Chloé

My favorite on the Tea Bar menu, the taro boba tea, served here in my own mason jar with my fat stainless steel straw

Tea Bar’s atmosphere is serene, the baristas are welcoming and understanding, the crowd is young and eclectic and I discovered my new favorite drink: the taro boba, a close second is the matcha, and third the vanilla rose… the list goes on!

I now love it so much that I made Octave try out Erica’s recipe so we can also make it at home. Erica is the kind and talented owner of Tea Bar. I first contacted her right after my first visit, commenting on the fact that I had found stainless steel bubble tea straws online and sharing the info with her. The second time was because I had this idea in mind to share with my readers and followers my favorite spots in Portland (those who encourage sustainable practices or tolerate their client’s) and before I knew it, I was at Tea Bar with my favorite sweet drink in hand, having my picture taken by Candace, Tea Bar’s talented photographer.

Chloé at Tea Bar PDX drinking bubble tea out of her mason jar with her reusable straw by Candace Molatore​ for Conscious by Chloé

Do you recognize my tee?

I could talk about the community that surrounds Tea Bar, how awesome events are hosted there on y regular basis but this could be the subject of a whole other article. So, let’s talk about sustainability. Unlike other bubble tea places, Tea Bar serves its drinks in branded mason jar mugs and also sells canteens which you can convert into to-go mugs with café caps (your drink is on them when you purchase one of their Limited Edition Gold and White at the shop). Of course, like me, you can always bring your own mug and straw.

Tea Bar Mason Jars By Tea Bar for Conscious by Chloé

As I said earlier, I suggested the idea to use stainless steel straws and also commented on the fact that pastries could be served on real plates rather than paper bags when consumed on location but I appreciate what has already been done at Tea Bar to encourage their customers to bring their own containers.

Clean Kanteen Mugs By Tea Bar for Conscious by Chloé

By the way, this week only, you Conscious by Chloé readers can get 10% off a mason jar and/or a canteen on Tea Bar's online shop with the code CONSCIOUS.

Thank you so much Erica!

For any questions, don't hesitate to contact Tea Bar.

And keep your eyes peeled, a second Tea Bar location is about to open in SE on Division!

Tea Bar PDX by Candace Molatore​ for Conscious by Chloé

Tea Bar PDX by Candace Molatore​ for Conscious by Chloé

Tea Bar PDX by Candace Molatore​ for Conscious by Chloé


What are you favorite conscious businesses in your neighborhood? Share them in the comments section with me. The Zero Waste Bloggers Network is working on an international guide and needs your tips! Pictures by Candace Molatore​ for Conscious by Chloé.