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Zero-Waste Shopping Challenges

I had a visit from my mom on Tuesday and was able to get out and do some groceries (thank you mommy!). We’ve both been exploring vegetarian living and lowering our impact on the environment. We’re especially interested in the zero-waste movement that has been spreading the globe.

Living in Ottawa I am lucky enough to have many resources at my disposal to do this. There are many great natural food stores and businesses focused on their environmental footprint that market to customers like my mom and I. Unfortunately she lives in a small city with less of a market for these businesses, so it is a treat when she visits and I can introduce her to new stores and products.

So after enjoying a late lunch at Pure Kitchen (highly recommend), we set out to Nu Grocery and Whole Foods.

NU GROCERY (Ottawa’s Zero-Waste Grocery Store)

Nu Grocery Zero-Waste Grocery Store

Image Source: The Fulcrum

We were interested in Nu Grocery because it is Ottawa’s first zero-waste grocery. They opened their doors in August 2017 and I’ve visited a few times since. While their selection is limited to locally sourced, mainly package-free food and items, they have a good assortment.

Take a Tour

When you walk in your greeted by the fresh produce. When I visited yesterday they had oranges, apples, potatoes, ginger, peppers, leeks, cabbage, carrots and much more. Because they try to source their produce locally you can probably expect more during the summer months, which I am very excited about.

Past the produce section is the small amount of packaged food this place carries. These are locally sourced sauces, oils, milk and other goods, all stored in glass jars. Many of these jars can be returned to the company or donated to the store to be used by other customers.

Along the back wall are the nuts, lentils, beans, barley, rices and coffee beans in bins with levers. I just like the look of this type of food storage because you see all the different colours, sizes and textures of the items inside. Nu Grocery provides funnels to make pouring into jars a mess-free experience.

Bulk food bins

So many colours!


In the center of the store are the majority of your bulk foods such as pasta, oats, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, dried fruits, cereals and granola, chips, and baking needs. These are stored in shallow bins you can scoop out and into your container. There are also nut butters, bread, and oils in stainless steel pouring dispensers.


Nu Grocery - Zero-Waste Bulk Bin - Whole Wheat Macaroni

On the right side of the store is where you find all your home and self-care needs. This is probably my favourite part of the store because you can’t find many of these items unless you order them online. Nu Grocery carries beeswax wraps, stainless steel food containers, eco-friendly reusable coffee cups, cotton coffee filters, produce and bulk bags, nut bags, stainless steel straws, etc. For self-care, they have package free soaps and shampoos, menstrual cups and reusable pads, recycled toilet paper, bamboo toothbrushes, safety razors, bulk face, and skin moisturizers as well as a bulk natural deodorant. Unique to this store is a wall of pouring spouts where you can purchase dish soap, laundry detergent and other household needs in bulk in reusable containers.


I tried to get as much from my grocery list from my zero-waste grocery store before resorting to a regular grocery store with packaging. It was more difficult than I thought!

Here is what I purchased at Nu Grocery:

Nu Grocery Haul - Zero-Waste
Organic Tofu Block – $2.99
Whole Wheat Macaroni – $4.09
Garlic – 2 for $0.76
Lemon – 2 for $1.98
Organic Popcorn – $3.60
Pearl Barley – $1.28
Eggs – 6 for $2.10*
Carrots – 2 for $2.99
Red Bell Pepper – $0.92
Yellow Onion – 2 for $1.31
Avocado – 2 for $5.98
Russet Potatoes – 3 for $2.40
Total: $30.40

*I brought an old egg carton to fill with bulk eggs!


Following our visit to Nu Grocery, we drove down to the Glebe and visited the local Whole Foods. Using my meal planning routine, I had a list of items I needed to get to try out new recipes. While I was able to find some of the items at Nu Grocery, I had to purchase the rest at a regular grocery store.

I love Whole Foods for their ethical position, their focus on organic whole food and the availability of vegetarian and vegan alternatives.

RELATED: Whole Foods Market Grocery Haul (And Why You Should Check Them Out Too!)

However, I will say, after visiting Nu Grocery it became apparent how much packaging is used in Whole Foods items. For example, I got a bag of spinach, a container of grape tomatoes, cereal, and blueberries that probably could be sold package free. While I support Whole Foods by shopping there, I do think we should encourage the company to focus on sustainability in terms of packaging and not just in ethically raised meats and locally sourced organic produce.


Here is what I purchased at Whole Foods:

Whole Foods Grocery Haul - Not Zero-Waste!

So much packaging!

365 Everyday Value Rainbow Morning O’s – $4.99
365 Everyday Value Organic Baby Spinach – $2.49
Europe’s Best Zen Garden Mixed Frozen Vegetables – $5.99
Kiju Organic Apple Juice – $2.39
365 Everyday Value Restaurant Style Tortilla Chips – $3.99
Eden Organic Apple Sauce – $4.99*
The Original SeaSnax – $1.50
365 Everyday Value Frozen Green Peas – $3.99
Silk Almond Unsweetened Original – $2.99
Blueberries – $5.99
Thai Kitchen Stir Fry Rice Noodles – $5.99
NONA Alfredo-Style Sauce – $6.99
Go Veggie! Vegan Parmesan – $5.99
Celery – $2.49
Eggplant – $1.94
Parsnip – 3 for $2.11
Country Wheat Bread – $3.99
365 Everyday Value Thick and Chunky Salsa – $4.69
Sunset One Sweet Cherry Tomatoes – $4.99
Total: 78.50

*I chose the glass container over the less expensive plastic container and plan on reusing it.


It is very hard to live completely zero-waste (and I have a zero-waste grocery store at my disposal!). This is also something you can’t incorporate in your lifestyle overnight. It takes practice, habit building, research and resources to find more and more ways to reduce your impact.

RELATED: I interviewed Taylor from about the zero-waste movement – CHECK IT OUT!

During this trip, I realized having a grocery list makes shopping less flexible. While a list has its perks, such as keeping you from impulse buying and planning your meals, it also has its limits. You can’t expect to go to a zero-waste grocery store and expect them to have everything you need, especially when it comes to produce (their bulk is usually consistent). If you plan on shopping solely waste free get used to planning your meals based on what is available. We have become used to an abundance of food items because of our global economy, but the reality is without trade agreements we would have to rely on what is produced locally. Zero-waste shopping, in my opinion, gives a good feeling for what that is like.

While my plastic ridden Whole Foods haul may be bigger than my zero-waste haul, I saved the planet from another cardboard egg carton, plastic tofu wrapping, a plastic bag of popcorn, a plastic bag of barley, a plastic bag of macaroni and any plastic produce bag I may have used for the veggies.

A little goes a long way!

What did you do this week that prevented another piece of plastic from polluting the planet or lowered your impact? Share in the comments below!



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  1. Lori Fournier says

    I stopped using plastic bags and wet wipes. Next are the paper towels. If I can change 1 thing a week, I will be happy. I'm not to sure about the rest od the family. Lol

  2. Sarah Fournier says

    Plastic bags was the first to go for me too! I use my roommates' plastic bags to deal with the cat litter situation. It doesn't have to be perfect, I'm sure some of your changes will rub off on them.

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