A Month of Zero Waste Shopping

Wicker shopping cart, similar here

When I came home from the US, it took me awhile to get back into a zero-waste shopping routine. We've had guests almost constantly since then, I was jet-lagged, and kept visiting Monoprix or Marks & Spencer to stock up on packaged foods for convenience' sake. I even drank out of two plastic cups and used three straws :( Turns out, packaging is neither convenient nor expedient. My guests had to open everything for me because I literally couldn't remember how to do it, I didn't know how to make stuff from mixes, and we had no place to put the garbage afterward. It was all technically "recyclable," but carrying it loose down seven flights of stairs was no picnic. Everything was expensive- two Ticket Resto plus 20-30€ extra- and my husband was unhappy with the quality of the food. Not to mention "quick trips" to Monoprix and Carrefour, which are literally around the corner, take an hour or more! I'm back to package-free now and my husband says I'm being more frugal, so I thought it would be a nice monthly feature to show my shopping and garbage:

A month of zero-waste groceries

  1. Top left photo (above), 34€: Bulk lavender honey from Famille Mary. Pears, apples, lemons, red onions, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, bulk lentils, chickpeas, and shredded coconut from Bio'c'Bon. Blood oranges, bulk olive oil, goji berries and almonds from Causses. Buffalo burrata from Mozza- at 14€, I splurged on this. Bread from Poilâne- which opened during the war, and once made a bread chandelier for Salvador Dali- if you go to their actual bakeries they put it in your own bag. One hour round trip (twenty minutes each way by Métro), carried home in a panier.
  2. Top right, 15€: Red onions, blood oranges, apples, purple garlic, rocket, swiss chard, and spinach, dehydrated veggie and apple chips, almonds, and goji berries from Causses, carried home in a small tote bag from my purse. Shopping took less than ten minutes on my lunch break.
  3. Middle row (both photos), 18€: Chicory, endives, avocados, tomatoes, red onions, potatoes, mangos, and lemons from the market. Sugar, bean sprouts, and lentils from Bio' C' Bon. Salad greens and goji berries from Causses. Bulk cider vinegar from En Vrac. One hour and a half, including all transportation (I walked from En Vrac to the other two shops), with the panier.
  4. Bottom left, 12€: Mangos, tomatoes, brussel sprouts, bean sprouts, pumpkin, limes, chèvre in my own glass container, oranges, salad greens, red onions. Ten minute shopping trip on Rue Cler. 
We normally don't need so many groceries, but we hosted 25 guests during this time period and I had to keep getting food. Not pictured: Five rochers from Foucher, placed into my own 5x7 linen bulk bag, purchased on my way home from a friend's house. For bottom right details, click here.

This year I cut down on recyclables by switching to bulk cider vinegar. I use it as a rinse aid, fabric softener, all-purpose cleaner, disinfectant, and hair conditioner. Like cider vinegar, I buy unpackaged soap once a month, for laundry, showering, hand-washing, shaving, hair washing, teeth-brushing, and to bathe the cats and replace toilet paper. I was sick of recycling baking soda bags, and they didn't decompose well. I still use it occasionally on laundry or to scrub the sink and bathtub, but prefer soap for my hair / teeth, and lemon juice for deodorant. We eat whole fruit instead of juice, and I make milk, flour, cream and oil from shredded coconut- I don't have a blender or food processor, so I boil the coconut in water and grind with mortar and pestle before straining.

Here is our "garbage": all recyclables. Not pictured are the aforementioned plastic cups / straws, gifted bottles of wine from our party, and five produce stickers, which I want to turn into an Aimee Lee-style art piece.

The beer was a gift for my husband - you can purchase beer in refillable growlers in Montreuil - and the little tins are from the cats. I'm still experimenting with homemade cat food... mark my words, Kar and Toffel WILL eat my cooking someday! 
Paris to Go


  1. I'm amazed and impressed with your ability to shop in bulk and waste free in Paris. I'm curious what soap you use to brush your teeth!

  2. Hi Ariana,

    Can you do a post on some of lunch and dinner meals you prepare for the week with your bulk goods? I am in awe at how efficient you are, but I always feel i need package flour etc to cook. Or I feel I have to go to the grocery store every three days to get fresh produce as it doesn't seem to last that long, which gets time consuming.

    1. Hi Lauren! Thanks so much! I'll take picture of my food this week and try to do a post of that. In the meantime, have you ever read Zero Waste Chef? She has a lot of great ideas. I like the recipes of @mangoandsalt on Instagram, and Minimalist Baker too, they have lots of flour free meal ideas...

      I do have a stock pile of bulk gluten free flour that I brought from the US. I don't use it very often- because I can't get it here, I'm used to cooking without flour or pasta. However, I do grocery shop twice a week, plus whenever I'm out somewhere and find a nice store. It helps that lunches are longer and dinners later here. I hope I can still write a post that helps you, even if our situations are a little different!

  3. I absolutely need to go to En vrac... I need some cider vinegar too. How does it work? How much does it cost?
    See you,

    1. Hi Pauline! I was thinking of you when I went to Buly two weeks ago actually, they finally have siwak again!

      For En Vrac, you bring your own container or consign one. For the liquors and vinegars you need a 1L or 50cl bottle, there are smaller sizes too, but I forget what they are. For the wine you can bring any wine bottle, it is priced by 70cl. The bottles they offer for consignment are the same as limonade bottles.

      The staff will fill your bottles for you with a funnel. The wall of vinegar/liquor is just so beautiful! And the olive oil is very good too, I think they sell it by 75cl, which is the same as Causses. When you're done, bring the bottles back and they clean and dry them and give your deposit back. It's 2-5 euro usually.

      I really want to try their make-your-own-wine workshop!

  4. Ahah! Yeah, I forgot to tell you! I bought the standard one which is super expensive and the other one (the one you took picture of), but some of the "branchs" seem too thin to be used, otherwise it does wonders!

    That's a wonderful idea. I can't wait to go there. Maybe tomorrow...? :P

    It can be fun for wine connoisseurs! :)

  5. What types of bags (white netted drawstring?) are you using to hold your produce? Thanks for your inspirational blog :)

    1. Hi, thank you! They are this kind: http://www.maison-objet.com/en/paris/exhibitors/january-2016/filt-le-filet-made-in-france. Not the same exact brand, but they are found all over Paris and people even crochet them!