Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tare About the Environment

Each week we plan out our meals from Monday until Saturday (we eat out Sundays - Chinese this week!) and go to the store to do all of our purchases. We find that it saves us time, money, and wasted food. Now that we are settled into our new place we have unpacked all of our mason jars...I LOVE mason jars. I use them to drink out of, to store leftovers in, to measure out food, and most importantly - for food storage.

I don't just use them to store food in the form of canning. I also use them to measure, transport, and store bulk dry goods from my local Co-Op.

I will say that I also LOVE bulk foods.

One of my favorite parts about bulk foods is the reduction of waste (not to mention lower prices and quantities that you choose for yourself). In order to maximize this waste reduction I bring my own containers with me. This way I get to store my food in materials I like (I much prefer glass to plastic) and I get to take as much or as little as I like (this is GREAT for trying things out like shampoo (if it is offered in bulk) because you can get just a tester rather than a whole bottle).

If your grocery store or Co-Op offers bulk foods and you care about waste reduction ask if they will allow you to bring in your own containers. Some places (often bigger chain-type stores) do not. In that case you can just get your foods in bags, label said bags, and reuse them each time you go...BUT if they do you can start picking and choosing containers for your various bulk items.

Lining up containers for our grocery run.

If this is the case you will want a tare weight for your containers. The tare weight is how much the container weighs when it is empty. This should be subtracted from the full weight of the container to calculate the weight of the food inside. Some places want you to bring your containers to them so they can weigh them (keeps people from cheating the system) and others let you do your own tare and rely on an honors system. At my Co-Op here in Corvallis they allow us to weigh our own containers. They also provide a number of sterilized recycled containers on the premises, often pre-taring them for you.

So when I go to the Co-Op I determine what I want to buy, what I can get in bulk, what containers are best for what foods, and then collect them all together to take with me when I go.

If you mark your tare on tape you can pull it off to use the jar for something else.

Some hints for bringing your own containers:
- Try to bring containers that most closely match how much you are purchasing. I usually determine what I am going to use the food item for as I am choosing a container.
- It works best to pick containers that used to hold the item you are purchasing in bulk. I find this most helpful when getting items like laundry soap and shampoo.
- Make sure your containers are clean and dry. This keeps food from sticking to the insides of your containers as well as slows the opportunity for spoilage.
- When marking your tare weights, be sure not to write them on the lids of containers. This is important if you are like me and use containers with interchangeable lids. Today I used a lid with a tare on it from a half gallon jar, but the new jar it was connected to was eight ounces. The cashier was confused.
- If the containers you are using have bar codes on them, take a magic marker and draw a line through the code. This will avoid accidental scanning of the item as what it was previously.
- If you have any doubt that you will mix up two items in the containers be sure to label them with contents at the store. It would be unfortunate if you grabbed the salt jar for your morning coffee.
- Think about appropriateness of where the containers will be used. Don't put shampoo in a glass might regret it later when it slips out of your hand in the shower.

Happy bulk shopping!

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