I’m still a novice when it comes to shopping zero waste in our new home, Fremont, California, and it took a while to figure out how to approach it. While I’m still exploring, I thought I’d share what I’ve discovered so far, so that you can start adopting some of these routines if helpful, to live more healthily, save the planet, and money.
My weekly zero waste shopping routine in Fremont, California
Zero waste shopping in Fremont, California, seems a little tougher than in our previous home in the UK, but it is doable! Mainly thanks to the variety of farmers’ markets and the fact that many of the major grocery stores sell dried goods in bulk.
So, here it goes:
My preferred shopping day is Thursday, as I’m not working at the moment, and there’s a small farmers’ market at Kaiser Permanente on Thursdays. That way I can keep the weekends free for exploring our new home, the Bay Area! However, there are also farmers’ markets on Saturdays and Sundays so the routine below should work on those days, too.
Once I’ve made my meal plan and shopping list for the week, I grab my beloved bicycle (yes, I cycle here… crazy, right? No, not so crazy, actually, because there are bicycle lanes everywhere, more so than in Europe, to my pleasant surprise!) and head to…
- The farmers’ market at Kaiser Permanente hospital car park. Here I get most of my seasonal fruit and vegetables. There’s also a stall that sells home made, local soap and shampoo bars, in case you need some.
- Sprouts grocery store on Mowry Ave., for the remainder of fruit and vegetables that I haven’t been able to get at the farmers’ market. I also fill up on rice, oats, pulses, flour or herbs and spices at their bulk sections which have a great selection of dried goods (and sweets and snacks – although I force myself to stay away from them). Don’t forget to bring your own containers, as using their plastic bags defeats the object! I also buy Straus organic milk in returnable glass bottles there (you pay a $2 deposit and you can return your empty bottles at the checkout and get your money back). Finally, they always seem to have fish on offer, and their fresh meat section is small but they are happy to put everything into your own containers. They also have a cheese and deli section for things like olives, antipasti etc. (NB. you could probably get exactly the same items at Wholefoods, but you’re likely to spend more money).
- Trader Joe’s (or Safeway’s or FoodMaxx) at Fremont Hub mall at the end, for things I haven’t been able to get at the above stops (cereals for the husband, for example). This is unlikely to be package free, but it’s likely to be cheaper than getting them at Sprouts. I know that this isn’t ideal, but zero waste also needs to be practical and not cost the world.
Specialty zero waste shops in Fremont, California
The above three stops tend to cover around 80% of our weekly needs, alas the basics. In addition, I get the following specialty items package free at the following shops:
- Suju’s coffee & tea: a great selection of loose teas and coffee – roasted here in Fremont.
- Boudin’s bakery: I make my own bread but if we run out or I don’t have time to bake, I head here for delicious sourdough bread; just bring a big cloth bag.
- Maiwand market on Fremont Blvd: Great for fresh Afghan pita bread (to die for! Buy a big loaf, cut into slices and freeze, then heat up in the toaster) and walnuts in bulk (by far the cheapest Walnuts in town, they’re not organic, though…).
- Wholefoods on Mowry Ave.: for a large pack (12 rolls?) of recycled bath tissue (or toilet paper, as the Brit in me would say). Also fresh nut butters from the machine – yummy!
- For more specialty items in bulk, I head to Rainbow grocery in San Francisco once a month, the mother of all zero waste shops. Any item you can think of – they’ll have it.
The above routine is based on practicality and convenience, keeping the distance between shops to a minimum. I can usually get this done in just over an hour on my bicycle. If you drive, you should be able to park easily at each station, with not much driving in-between. You could even park your car at Sprouts and walk the rest, if you’re really strong and a fast walker! 🙂
As always, the key is to plan ahead and make a meal plan and shopping list based on ingredients that you can get package free. And to be a little bit flexible in your cooking, in case you can’t get everything. Many seasonal veg are interchangeable (e.g. rainbow chard for cabbage, beets for carrots etc.), so I sometimes buy seasonal fruit and veg that are on offer but weren’t on my list, and swap them out for something that was on my list, but that’s down to personal preference and cooking style.
I hope this is helpful. I’m working on an ultimate zero waste shopping guide for Fremont with a full directory of food and household items, ingredients and where to get them, so please let me know any ideas or additions in the comments below. Cheers, Bettina