How to shop plastic-free at your regular supermarket


Want to buy less plastic but don’t know where to start and how to combine this with your busy schedule? I have put together five tips to avoid plastic in your regular supermarket. Of course, don’t forget to #BringYourOwnBag.

At the fresh produce section, look out for unpackaged veggies and fruits. Here in the Netherlands, the plastic-free options usually include at least pumpkin, zucchini, tomato, cauliflower, leek, and chicory as well as apple, pineapple, banana’s, and avocado. Tons of options to create a healthy, plastic-free meal!

If your store does not provide such options, check out the frozen food section. Some frozen veggies and fruit come in cardboard boxes. Frozen produce is as healthy as fresh produce because it’s frozen right after harvest.

In case you can’t find what you’re looking for, go to a different store next time you do your groceries.

Really can’t find a product plastic-free? Consider substituting it with a plastic-free alternative. Celery, for example, is nearly impossible to get without plastic wrapping here in the Netherlands. I either leave it out, or use fennel stalks or turnip greens instead.


Plastic-free made easy. Pick the pineapple!

At the bakery section, ask for unpackaged bread. Either bring your own bread bag, or take it like it is. Ask for a tag separately if needed, you can keep it on your shopping basket. No unpackaged bread available? Buy crispbread (knäckebröd). This often comes in paper packaging.

At the dairy section,
check whether there are any cheeses that come in paper wrapping. Admittedly, your options may be limited. In the Netherlands, you can usually buy Brie in paper wrapping. Beware that many cheeses have a plastic coating. If you bring along your own container or bag, you can simply ask the attendant at the counter for cheese that is not packaged yet. Butter often comes in (coated) paper wrapping. Check whether milk and yoghurt is available in glass bottles.

At the meat section, products will often be prepackaged, but check whether there are any cured, plastic-free sausages. Otherwise, bring along a food container and ask the attendant at the meat counter to put the product you want in it. Asking such things will feel weird or even embarrassing at first, but I have actually never received any negative comments when I kindly explained that I would like to have the product in my own bag or container. Quite the opposite, everyone has been really supportive and my request often is the start of an interesting conversation about the overuse of plastic. No plastic-free meat available? Consider skipping the meat for a (Tues)day. Alternatively, look at the frozen food section to find products (meat or fish) in cardboard boxes. The supermarket in my town, for example, sells cod in cardboard boxes, with zero plastic packaging inside.

And last but not least, beware of hidden plastic in cardboard boxes! Take a careful look at cardboard boxes for things like rice, couscous, quinoa, and other grains. If the cardboard box has cutting marks to ease pouring from the package (as in the picture below), it is very likely that there is no extra plastic inside the cardboard.

What’s your strategy for buying less plastic at the regular supermarket? We would love to hear your experiences! Leave a comment below and join the conversation!


About Author


In 2013, after reading yet another article about plastic soup, Annemieke started her Dutch blog Plasticminimalism where she documented her small steps towards life with less plastic. To create more awareness about the adverse impacts of our plastic consumption, she launched Plastic-Free Tuesday in spring 2014. She strongly believes that building a better world starts by changing our own behavior. Annemieke is trained in environmental science and policy. She alternates living in the Netherlands, Sweden, the US, and China.


    • Annemieke

      Thanks for your tip! What kind of sweets and where do you buy instead? I’ve seen sweets in bulk bins (Jasmin in the Netherlands), I guess one could simply bring a reusable bag and fill it up.

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