I may actually lose a bit of weight on this challenge! There have been quite a few occasions where I’ve wanted a snack when out and about, or yet another frappadoodah iced coffee, and I’ve been saying no, if they’re landfill-plastic. I almost caved for a McFlurry yesterday evening, as it was a glorious day and the Crunchie one is back on the menu, but that’s three bits of plastic that I can’t justify as I can easily say no. No disposable coffee cups used this month so far either. Gold star, me.
I try to do the Big Shop during the week when I have the chance, to avoid crowds, or even have the bulk of it delivered to free up precious weekend time and stop impulse biscuit purchasing.
Most of my shopping is done at Tesco, with Lidl/Dunnes/local market vying for second place, and most of my meat coming from the butcher. I’m fortunate to have the luxury of choice in my area.
I’ll start with the TL:DR version of things.
Supermarket and pet shop haul
Love my butcher. They do super fancy dry aged steaks, down to sausages and burgers. I parked my bag of boxes on the counter, and not a bother. They didn’t even bat an eye lid when I asked for my chicken to be wrapped in butchers paper instead of the usual plastic bag. My total haul, aside from the bird, included a kilo of steak mince (half straight into the freezer, half turned into burgers and into the freezer. Mince should be used or frozen on day of purchase), 5 chicken fillets, and a kilo of chicken wings.
It seems that people have started to bring in their own boxes, which is really positive to hear.
My local Tesco is an Extra, and I generally can find everything I need there, though I did choose not to buy quite a few things that I might usually chuck in the trolley. The whole trip took me about 30 minutes longer than usual, due to having to read the packets on a lot of items. It also cost more than my average shop, but more on that below.
So my total Tesco/pet shop plastic that I could not avoid or find alternates for is:
Petit filous pots (toddler is an addict. Dairy aisle was particularly frustrating)
Oat milk tetrapak
Dettol spray ( first time I’ve bought this, but toddler-related incident with the car, so was needed)
Lid on tin of yeast.
Plastic seal on vodka (reduced to €3!) and vinegar.
This brand of tissues doesn’t have that weird plastic strip at the opening. My other fun find for this trip was the dog food. Cue minor rant…
We have 2 cats and two dogs. The cats are entirely kibble fed, and the dogs get kibble and suitable scraps. I went with the usual cat food brand as there was only one non-plastic option for kibble, and that was Whiskas, which had so little meat content it was shocking, especially as cats are obligate carnivores. My compromise then, was to get the biggest bag possible -we only get through 5 of this size a year. The smaller bags are to trial different food, which is significantly cheaper with higher meat content. I’ve changed dog treats to varieties which are completely cardboard packed.
The dog food is usually the same situation, but I found this in the supermarket.
Usually paper looking sacks are plastic lined and go in general waste. This bag is flippin’ compostable! My usual thought is that if one manufacturer has found an economically feasible way to do this, which they obviously have, then it should be possible for others. This kibble is produced in the UK too, so lower air miles, but hopefully it won’t vanish when Brexit kicks in.
A few of my most annoying bits.
Mushrooms. Big shiny sticker, but only the punnet is compostable. The wrap is regular plastic. Very confusing for consumers, and will contaminate a lot of compost bins.
Dairy aisle. Yoghurt almost exclusively in plastic. A couple of premium ranges in glass. Only 1 plastic free, and that’s new out. All cream/sour cream in plastic, even the ones that look like cardboard. All milk in plastic or tetrapak ( which is the lesser of two evils?) All cheese plastic wrapped. Only one brand of butter in paper which can be composted. Most in plastic tubs, a few in foil and paper composite that is general waste.
So the options are fewer, and get even more reduced when you start looking at prices.
Rooster potatoes. I actually put these back when I saw the price of them. €2.49/ kg loose. A foot away they’re in plastic for €2.49/2kg. A lot of fruit and veg is double the price if bought loose.
Long grain rice. Bag of own brand is €1.19/kg. Plastic free is €3.58/kg. Yes, it’s a premium brand, but it’s still plain old white long grain rice.
San Pellegrino (multiple options, so easy to compare). Glass and cardboard, €5.33/litre. Shrink wrapped cans, €1.77/litre on offer.
Only plastic free offerings on the cereal aisle are porridge oats, and even then only the premium ones. Flahavans organic in paper, standard in plastic paper composite. They’re bagged on the same line in the same plant, for heaven’s sake!
Odlums fair better, but they are not afforded the same shelf space or prominence.
So all in all, I can see why a lot of families just won’t waste their time on this whole malarkey. It takes ages, involves being quite savvy, and it costs more.