Let’s get realistic about your waste: guide to planning your shopping trips for minimal waste with The Rogue Ginger’s, Erin Rhodes. 


A waste-not guide to your weekly shop: Save money, time and waste-guilt! 

Our waste issue is totally overwhelming at first.  Think about the fact that all the plastic you’ve ever used is STILL on our earth, out there somewhere.  Erin Rhodes is taking a realistic approach to the waste issue we’re facing, especially food waste and food packaging waste. 

Six years ago, Erin had an experience that changed the way she consumes.  After watching a documentary about living waste free (Clean Bin Project), Erin became so aware of the waste we’re producing and the devastation it is causing to our environment, oceans and wildlife.

At that point, Erin started seeing plastic everywhere – in her fridge, home and with the takeaways her boyfriend had just brought through the door – and decided to do something about it. A simple google of “how can I reduce my plastic?” started a months’ adventure into Plastic Free July.

Fast forward to 2019, Erin has been able to fit 4 years’ worth of plastic into a single coffee jar! Wow!

Think about all the food packaging, clothing, cleaning goods packaging, coffee cups, straws, take away containers that have not been consumed.  The list goes on, what have you used this week, month, year, or over a four-year period?!
It’s a remarkable effort.

An overwhelming majority of household waste comes from the kitchen and the ways we buy and consume food (think plastic packaging and food that goes rotten in the back of the fridge). In fact, simply by reducing the amount of food you throw away you can reduce your household waste by over 40%!

The mindset and organisational skills Erin has developed throughout her journey and progress towards a zero-waste life are profoundly admirable, especially when it comes to food waste. One thing that happens each Saturday morning in the Rhodes household is a cosy, mindful, home-prepared breakfast with chats about food!

A conversation digging into what you’d like to eat, what you’ve already got that can be used up can save you big dollars and ample time.  This simple 15-30 minute conversation saves money, time and improves your family’s health!



The weekly shop:
  1. Have a set day for doing grocery shopping and schedule in a specific time in your diary.
  2. Take a scrap piece of paper, or your phone and look into your fridge, pantry, and freezer. Make a list of the food you currently have. Write each of these items on your shopping list.
  3. Ask yourself “what meals can I prepare with these ingredients?”. Decide on what meals you’d like to have for the week, based on these ingredients (but not limited to!).
  4. It can be nice to sit down with the entire family over a breakfast to chat about what they’d like to eat that coming week. Ask the family “what do we feel like eating this week?”. Incorporate ideas that include local and in seasonal produce.
  5. Write your shopping list. This will really help you stay away from things you don’t need or from falling for the ‘deals’ or large value packs of produce you will never finish.
  6. From your list, determine where you need to go to get your items. You’ll be able to see clearly if you need to go to the bulk store, deli, butcher, bakery, etc.
  7. Create a list of the packaging and items you need to take with you to the shops or market. e.g. if you need flour you’ll need a bulk produce bag, a jar for nut butter, a glass container for the deli, or a bread bag for the bakery. Pack your packaging and set yourself a reminder to take it with you to the shops (or put it in the car straight away)!
  8. Go and enjoy the shopping experience, remembering the positive impact it’s having on your family’s well-being, your pocket and the earth!

Monthly bulk shops

You may like to set aside one day per month to organise your bulk food stockpile. These are things almost impossible to get unpackaged at the supermarket so a bit of pre-planning will save the guilt of entering a big chain supermarket. There are always going to be items you use less frequently but are essentials in the pantry. Scheduling in a monthly ‘essentials’ bulk shop will help reduce the need for quick ‘we ran out of flour!’ supermarket visits. Your essential bulk foods may include flour, pasta, lentils, rice and grains, spices and other essentials for the pantry.

Some common shopping list items and how to package them single-use plastic-free:

  • Bread: collect and store in the cloth bag away from sunlight in a cool place, such as the pantry.
  • Grains, flour, pasta, lentils, etc: use cloth bulk bags to collect, or take large jars or containers to the bulk store and put them directly in these. Simply place in your pantry at home and avoid messy transferring!  Use a marker to write the weight of the jar on the bottom.
  • Butcher meats and deli treats, cheese, tofu, condiments etc.: take a glass or reusable plastic container to the deli or butcher. The shop assistant will be able to tare the weight of the container so you don’t end up paying for the weight of your container. If it’s an airtight container, pop the goodies straight in the fridge when you get home. Put your cheese in a beeswax wrap to keep it fresher for longer.
  • Spices, herbs, cooking powders and other small dry goods: reuse your old glass spice jars.  Simply store them back on your spice rack at home, away from direct sunlight.

 How would a 15-30 minute weekly planning session help you reduce waste?  Bring out your responsible adult pants (we know they’re in there somewhere) and try something new.  It’ll save you money, time and you might end up feeling an amazing sense of accomplishment!