Every so often a video pops up in my news feed about ‘plastic-free’ shops where you can take your jars or containers and just re-fill them. However, they always seem far away in seemingly more progressive areas and like some vision of the future. People always comment how good it would be to have one on our doorstep or that they should be the ‘norm’ but actually, in Edinburgh we do actually have one!

The New Leaf Co-Op in Bruntsfield isn’t ‘plastic-free’ in that some items are still in packages but there is a whole array of ‘refillable’ items. You simply rock up with your container which is weighed –  fill it with your chosen item – and then the original weight of the container is subtracted at the till. 

Admittedly, there are some ‘mainstay’ items in our cupboards that you can’t refill – such as pasta – and as much as I’d like to love lentils I’m really not a fan so would never have call to re-fill these. But there is a whole host of things to stock up on – raisins, currants, and dried mango are all consumed at an alarming rate in our house. And there’s a choice of three different varieties of porridge oats which is a must for my breakfast. 

I also love that you can refill a whole array of herbs and spices. We don’t go these that quickly but it’s nice that our jars can just be re-filled time and time again. 

For ‘Ecover’ or ‘bio’ fans, you can also refill an array of different detergents so although these are plastic bottles – reusing numerous times rather than just recycling obviously is preferable. 

Aside from dried goods, there’s also an array of fresh fruit and vegetables (packaging free) and a wide range of herbal teas, dairy-free milk, and nut butters. On that note, you can also grind your own nut-butters – with different nuts on different days – which my kids are incredibly keen to try!

So whilst they don’t stock EVERYTHING we need, it’s not a shop that I need to visit weekly as I refill my containers to maximum capacity each time. Also to be perfectly honest with you, I still find myself overwhelmed and a little confused at times. I’ve not got to the point that I know exactly what they have and I always end up wishing I had more jars with me. I think that this is just something I need to push through though – I’m slowly compiling a list of what I know I can get and think it’ll just become more like habit over time. It’s certainly a more time consuming way to shop but I do think it’s something that needs to become more ‘norm’ for all of us. It has made me far more aware of how many things are packaged utterly unnecessarily in the supermarket. One of my first ever jobs was working a green grocers where everything was weighed and then put into paper bags. This really was the ‘normal’ way to shop for us growing up and I haven’t noticed any fruit or veg changing since then so why do bananas now need to be in plastic bags? Why is broccoli shrink wrapped? It certainly isn’t more convenient and the packaging is actually a hassle to deal with a home. 

So, in short – if you’re local to Edinburgh then go check it out. Go on a reconnaissance visit to begin with, work out what you can get and go from there! It’s actually really helped me to just snap a few photos for reference for next time. If you’re not local then do some Googling – there may have been somewhere similar on your doorstep all along…

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2 thoughts on “Food: The Reality of Plastic-free Shopping”

  1. Great post! It’s a fab wee shop. Just a note that they do often have pasta in the bulk bins right at the back. I fill up a cloth bag of fusilli whenever it’s in stock x

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