Conscious by Chloé

Chloé Lepeltier - Conscious By Chloé

Bonjour & Welcome! Conscious by Chloé is a Sustainable Lifestyle Blog focusing on Zero Waste, Slow Living, and Ethical Fashion.

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.

The Ultimate Zero Waste Shopping Kit

The Ultimate Zero Waste Shopping Kit with Mason Jars and Swing Top Bottles by Conscious by Chloé

What is Zero Waste Shopping?

Ever since I moved to my new hometown, I've taken up zero waste shopping. To me, this means: a/ buying package-free (in bulk) as much as possible and b/ choosing recyclable packaging (glass, metal, paper) for items I cannot find in bulk.

Where can one shop in bulk?

After doing a little research, I chose a local supermarket to shop at, but then found some very interesting alternatives: a new farmers market in my neighborhood, and a cooperative which I'm now a member of and where I do most of my grocery shopping.

Bea Johnson created her own bulk store locator and my friend Inge is working on her own Zero Waste app.

If you're in Portland, I've got you covered with my Portland Zero Waste City Guide.

What does one need to shop waste-free?

Here's what's in my Ultimate Zero Waste Shopping Kit:

  • Reusable totes
    Tote bags hoarders, raise your hand if you're with me? I use one that was given to me at an event. It is super convenient as it has a small pocket inside where I can put my crayon, phone, card holder and keys. But I'm keeping these market bags on my list (their wide bottom seems very convenient). From experience, I usually need at least two bags since the jars can be pretty heavy and I don't want to smash my fruits and vegetables in one single bag. So I might have a good excuse to get them!

  • Water-soluble wax crayon (or a felt-tip pen)
    Though a felt-tip pen is not the most conscious purchase I've made, I'm not gonna getting rid of it because of my new lifestyle, so I'm gonna use it up and then switch to a more eco-friendly alternative. I use it to write the weight (or tare) - so it's deducted from the total weight at checkout - and reference code (or PLU) - so the cashier knows what's in my bags and containers.

  • Produce bags
    Some people have a whole collection of these, and they use them for for dried goods (cereal, rice, pasta) and fruits & veggies. I, on the other hand, don't use them that much when grocery shopping. I usually simply put my fruit and veggies straight into my cart. I do need one for mushrooms, and spinach. But I always keep a bunch at the bottom of my tote, just in case (they're so lightweight!).

  • Mason jars (for nuts, cocoa powder, honey, cereal)
    I ordered a whole bunch of wide-mouth ones, in 16, 32 and 64 oz. You do not have to have a whole collection of the same containers. Some people use old jam, pickle or peanut butter jars. I just happen to have started from scratch when I moved overseas. Though I do have to say that having the same containers is both pleasing to the eye and convenient (for storage, and to remember their weight when you forgot to tare them).

  • Big canning jars (for almonds, granola, flour)
    I got a few of these at a famous Scandinavian franchise. I like swing tops and their even wider mouth which is convenient for scooping flour with a measuring cup. Similar ones can also be found online.

  • Glass swing top bottles (for oils, vinegars, soap, kombucha)
    Same thing.

  • Growler (for beer)
    I regularly refill my growler at a brewery which is within walking distance from my house.

Note: All these items and many more are also available in my shop.

The Ultimate Zero Waste Shopping Kit with Mason Jars and Swing Top Bottles by Conscious by Chloé

Finally, before leaving the house, I simply need to put any jar or container that's sitting empty in my pantry in my shopping bag. This makes shopping list writing (I label my jars) and grocery unpacking (just put the jars back on the shelves) so much easier! No need to tear up packaging and fill up your trash only minutes after having being done with the chore of grocery shopping.

The Ultimate Zero Waste Shopping Kit with Mason Jars and Swing Top Bottles by Conscious by Chloé

I've only had positive reactions from the shopping attendants. They love my way of shopping, are super helpful with the taring process, make nice comments about some of my unusual containers (I brought some super cute ones from a trip to Morocco) and are thankful to be spared from bagging my shopping (I just put everything back into my tote).

The Ultimate Zero Waste Shopping Kit with Mason Jars and Swing Top Bottles by Conscious by Chloé


What about you, have you tried going zero waste shopping? I know it sounds scary, but I did it! I'd love to hear how it went. Feel free to share your experience with me or ask any question about zero waste shopping in the comment section below.


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