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My Guide to Shopping & Buying In Bulk + Tare Weight Explained

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Confession: I SHOP NAKED and I encourage my clients and community (you!) to do so too.

Now that I’ve got your attention, I must also confess that this doesn’t mean shopping without clothes (sorry!). “SHOP NAKED” involves buying food that doesn’t come wrapped in single-use, disposable packaging, aka “naked food.”

Have you ever shopped in the bulk section of a supermarket? If you’re anything like I was when I started my healthy, low waste journey, you might not even know what the bulk section is. I never noticed it lurking in the back corner of the supermarket until I learned about zero waste living. Fast forward 3 years and now buying in bulk is my favorite way to reduce waste.

What can you buy in bulk?

Bulk sections contain some of the most nutrient dense foods: nuts, seeds, whole grains, pastas, popcorn, flours, dried fruit, and even nutritional yeast. They also have granolas, cereals, chocolates, and other treats.

If there’s something that you want to buy in bulk, but it’s not offered, speak up! I requested that Whole Foods carry a nutritional yeast fortified with vitamin B12 and they finally do. If enough people place requests, stores listen! I’m currently on a mission to get bean based pastas available in bulk.

Are you ready to SHOP NAKED?

Once you’re in the habit of buying these staples in bulk, you’ll never go back. It completely eliminates the need for single use plastic packaging, most of which ends up in your garbage by the time you unpack your groceries. (Am I right??)

Switching your food shopping habits can be overwhelming at first, I get it. That’s why I’m here to cheer you on and provide you the best resources to help you shop naked with confidence.

Here’s my step-by-step guide to buying in bulk without using plastic bags.

  1. Bring jars, containers, and/or cloth bags and learn their “tare” weight. The tare weight is the weight of the empty container (cloth bag or jar). Ask a customer service representative at the supermarket to weigh your containers and note the weight (on the container or on your phone).
  2. Fill your containers/bags with the naked food. After filling each container, take a photo on your phone of the bulk bin the food came from, making sure to capture the SKU number (which identifies the product) and the price.
  3. Head to checkout. This is my top tip for a smooth checkout experience. **Line up the containers on the counter in order based upon the order of your photos on your phone.** This makes for a more seamless process. For each item, nicely tell the cashier the tare weight of your container and the SKU number as seen in the photo. They’ll deduct the tare weight from the total weight so that you only pay for the food (not the container).
  4. Pro tips:
    1. Shop when it’s not too crowded (especially while you’re getting used to this way of shopping). I like to go early in the morning on the weekends or late at night after rush hour.
    2. Ask if there is a discount for bringing your own containers! Whole Foods, for example, gives back 10 cents for each bag or container you bring.
    3. Use these same steps to buy produce in cloth produce bags. Or you can just place produce in your shopping cart loose!

Like these tips? I’d love to see how you SHOP NAKED. Make sure to tag me @abbysfoodcourt and use the hashtags #shopnaked and #abbysfoodcourt!

**One important note: If you have allergies to nuts, seeds, gluten, or other items sold in bulk, be careful of cross-contamination. Talk with the grocery store about its practices and, if in doubt, avoid buying in bulk.