We all eat, so grocery shopping is a task we have to do. There are alternatives to help you avoid the clutter created by food packaging, while still getting food you love and need (or want!).

Plastics, paper, metal and glass require natural resources and energy to manufacture into packaging, even if they are made from recycled materials. Think upstream and consider ways to get what you need for yourself and your family by choosing durable options over disposable ones.

Buy in bulk and bring your own containers. Stores like Fred Meyer, New Seasons, Sheridan’s, Whole Foods and Winco make it easy to buy grains, beans, coffee, cereals and snacks using your own bags and containers. By not taking a new bag at the bulk or produce area, your household can save 500 bags a year!

Try these five easy steps for a waste-free visit to the bulk aisle:

  1. Make a grocery list. Include the exact amounts you need (1 cup sugar, ¼ tsp nutmeg).
  2. Inventory your pantry and check off any items or ingredients you already have.
  3. Pack the containers you’ll need for each of the items on your list. Bring empty spice jars for bulk spices, or larger glass jars for coffee or olive oil. Reusable plastic containers (such as deli or yogurt tubs, or other food-grade plastic containers) work well for dry goods because they are easy to transport.
  4. When you first get to the bulk aisle, weigh your containers. Write the weight and the word “tare” on each container. Cashiers are required to remove this weight from the total they charge you. If your store doesn’t have a scale in the bulk area, you can ask a cashier to weigh containers before you fill them.
  5. Write the PLU (price look-up) number and the name of the food on the side of each container (which is necessary if you have multiple containers that look similar in your pantry).

And remember to bring your bag! Pack your durable containers in reusable bags to take to the store. Bonus: many grocery stores offer a refund if you bring your own bag.