Zero-waste grocery stores: a heartlander’s guide

Zero-waste grocery stores: a heartlander's guide // Mono and Co

When I think of zero-waste bulk stores, small shops in the neighbourhood centres come to my mind first; wet markets for packaging-free grocery, hardware stores for spare parts and stainless-steel-everything, Chinese medical halls for loose-leaf herbal tea or medicine, even dried rose buds and lavendar, all sans the plastic bags.

Zero-waste grocery stores: a heartlander's guide // Mono and Co

I have shared so many of my zero-waste wet market grocery shopping attempts here and here that I started to wonder if I am boring everyone to death.  So it was really a pleasant surprise when Mothership picked up one of my posts and shared it here.

If you want to find out more about zero-waste grocery shopping in the heartlands, start by exploring the wet markets first.  Check out what your nearest wet market offers.

To locate a wet market near you, try these sites:

1)I found a list of markets on data.gov.sg, a very interesting website to gather local statistics and data.  Unfortunately, it was last updated back in December 2016.

2) There is another list in PDF format on NEA’s website available for download here.


Here are 5 things I buy #byo style from the wet markets, that always surprise people who have not been to one before!

Zero-waste grocery stores: a heartlander's guide // Mono and Co

1.  Ground Coffee
Not your atas single-origin coffee for a home-brew flat white.  These are Nanyang-style blends, roast to perfection for making a full-bodied kopi-o.  Bring a small air-tight container, no more than 500g volume.  The stall-holder will tell you the coffee aroma escapes immediately after grinding.  If left standing unconsumed for too long, the grounds will end up only good enough for scrubbing body or absorbing odour in the air.

Zero-waste grocery stores: a heartlander's guide // Mono and Co

2.  Plain Flour
Prima Mill’s “for-professionals” ranges of flour are available through the dry goods stores inside the wet markets.  I have come across two types: Flying Fish brand (my favourite, with a 10.8% protein level) and Necklace brand (9.5% protein level.)  Let me know which one your nearest store carry!  My container allows me to buy up to 2kg of flour.

Zero-Waste Grocery Shopping - A Heartlander's Guide // Mono and Co

3. Grains and Nuts
Offering varies, depending on the size of the wet market.  I usually get my walnuts here.  You can also buy raw almond and peanuts, bake them into healthy snacks.  I bring drawstring bags to make it easier for stallholders to weigh and pack.  Once I reach home, I will transfer them to air-tight containers.

4. Assorted “Old-School” Biscuits
Bring an air-tight container.  Avoid the temptation to buy too many types!

5. Chinese Preserved Vegetables (酸菜,咸菜,大菜,四川菜。。。)
These pickles are great for adding flavours to Chinese-style meatless soups.  The stalls sell them by weight, this means buying according to requirement, say, a quarter head of the preserved cabbage instead of the entire head.  Bring a leak-proof container, and……

Zero-waste grocery stores: a heartlander's guide // Mono and Co… a reusable shopping bag to pack everything, of course!

Happy zero-waste shopping in the heartlands!

Simple Pleasures

// unlimited supply of sweet basil at home, it’s that simple.

// found a random encouragement note in a library book.  I am not alone.

// removing labels from jars and containers without leaving any adhesive residue behind should be this easy to encourage reusing and recycling.  Refilling these emptied detergent bottles with DIY citrus infused vinegar cleaner.

// mom couldn’t resist buying a box of unbelievably-cheap-but-expiring-really-really-soon Betty Crocker pancake mix from the discount store but needed help to finish.  That’s how I ended up having pancakes AND waffles for breakfast.

// gave my favourite good morning towel a make-over using natural food dye: turmeric, a shade that I really love after using it for my DIY beeswax food wrap.

// using food dye means I can use my cooking pot for the project.

// because every drop counts.  Transferring cooking oil to a repurposed glass bottle.

Post-CNY Stuff : Five More Get Upcycled

First five here, this post shares mostly what I do with empty CNY goodie containers.

++006 P.E.T Containers, Large ++

// for infusing cheap artificial vinegar with orange peels to make great smelling all-purpose cleaner.  Compared to the dispensing spout from original vinegar bottle, the large larger mouth makes it easy to drop citrus peels into the container.  Right bottle with vinegar that has gone through just one day of rest with peels.


++ 007 P.E.T Containers, Small ++

// three of these fit the depth nicely in my pantry drawer where I keep the dry goods.

// bonus: they weigh 50 grams each without its red lid, useful for bulk grocery shopping where stall holders can do mental calculations faster without taring their weighing scales.


++ 008 Ferrero Roche Clear Box ++

// it’s too pretty, too functional to be thrown into the recycling bin,  I am sure there are areas at home or office that could do with one or two frill-less clear box like this.  If you’re crafty, you might like these ideas:  this herb planter, and this trinket box, this mini greenhouse, and this tiny aquarium.


++ 009 Tin Box No.1 ++

// Another airtight container great for buying/storing biscuits and crackers bought from the bulk snack shops at wet markets.  No: bulk shops are not limited to upscale shopping centres, and  yes: wet market in the heartlands carry many items in bulk sans packaging.  All we need to do is bring our own bags/containers and ask nicely for no plastic bags.


++ 010 Tin Box No. 2 ++

tin box recycling

//  I have no plans yet for this beautiful gift box that came with yummy pineapple tart.  When there is a creative block, I will turn to short-term hoarding as a solution.  A week of displaying this on the wall and if there are still no ideas, recycle it.  It’s progressing as you can see, the magnetic buttons were added to spur more ideas.

Post-CNY Stuff

Five upcycling ideas.

++ 001 Hamper Basket ++

// adding a very nice touch to my bike.


++ 002 Cookie Tins ++

// looking pretty AND the perfect airtight containers for ground coffee and tea dust.


++ 003 (Another) Hamper Basket ++

// as hamper packaging gets exquisite, so do my upcycled storage boxes.


++ 004 Mandarin orange gift box ++

// for storing knick-knacks.


++ 005 (yup, one more) Hamper Basket ++

// as an iron holder.

On Free Gifts

Not all free gifts with purchases are created equal; there are those that are stowed away in the cupboard for months and end up taking up space.

Then there are those that keep appearing on the kitchen counter every other day.  Here are 8 free items that I’ll absolutely use over and over again:

++ oo1 lasagna ceramic dish ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// for baking brownies,

On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// and honey granola.


++ 002 stainless steel spoon ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// bundled free with condiment, fits nicely in my zero-waste takeaway lunchbox.


++ 003 porcelain spoon ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

//  originally for jams, now for scooping everything delicious.


++004 cotton dish towel ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// workhorse in the kitchen, extra brownie points for the hanging loop.


++005 mug ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// that have been around for a long long time.


++ 006 4pc cutlery ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// because I never own a branded one before, not that the logo matters. The point is it’s free AND useful.


++ 007 plastic container ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + CoOn Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// the handle on the cover made it a handy snack carrier, minus the need for plastic bags.


++ 008 tote bag ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// simply useful, for avoiding plastic bags.


Are you equally choosy about accepting the free gifts into your house?
Have you ever ended up NOT buying something because the bundled gift was not desirable?

Simple Pleasures

over new year’s eve & new year’s day

// reusing this holder with a new calendar.

// and the metal tearing guide component from the new calendar becomes a binder for unused sheets from kids’ school exercise books.

// washed and ironed these square tenugui for wrapping lunch boxes or packing finger food takeaways without disposables etc.

// rinsed and air-dried tiny honey jars that came with our tea order, too wasteful to be recyled or discarded.  Think lipbalm containers.

// scent of the month : lime.  Infused white vinegar with leftover lime peels to make a safer all-purpose cleaner.

// 2.5 cups of rolled-oats-turned-honey-granola fit a reused 680ml pasta bottle nicely.

// stowing away this handmade Xmas wreath away with recycled log cake toppers and hamper ornaments.  Green CNY decorating ideas up soon.

Simple Pleasures

just a gather of some random shots of things that caught my eye, made my day, or meaningful enough to make me press the shutter, but just don’t seem to fit in anywhere or significant as a post.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// basil is probably the only plant I always harvest from my parapet garden.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// sterilizing, at 100 degrees celcius. Because it’s not plastic.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// school uniform: the most hardworking piece of apparel, rendered unwearable and unmendable, thank goodness she’s graduating.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// washing an empty oil bottle using the least amount of water.  My trick : teaseed powder.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// trash level report: low.  Keep trying.

Simple Pleasures

 

// repurpose my old bamboo toothbrush as plant pot markers, the bristles are made with horse bristles, composting them directly inside the soil.

// upcycled my raisin tub into a handy tea seed powder dispenser.

// glass bottle collection getting uncontrollable.

// another glass-bottle-turned-beaker to serve my homemade zero waste ginger black molasses tea in, more on this tea recipe later.

// when all the honey is gone, the tub turns itself into a useful container for soaking 2 cups of soy beans over night in the chiller.  Homemade soy milk!

Simple Pleasures

a few incidents that made me realize how the my eco-conscious habits have rubbed off on the kids. nothing complicated, just start with no wasting of food at home and go shopping together with reusable shopping bags.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// because someone didn’t want it, she brought back and we shared it together after dinner so that the untouched buttercream cake would not be wasted.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// because her friend finished the bubble tea and was about to bin these disposables, she carried these all the way home to be rinsed and recycled.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// because the top is still wearable after mending, she asked for help with my limited sewing skills to extend its wear longer.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// because this was to be discarded after a pomelo peeling competition, she brought back the peeled fruit for me to make pomelo pulp juice.  I shared with her how to make great smelling citrus infused vinegar so that she will bring back the peels as well next time.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// because the little one felt “lucky that we bring along our reusable cutlery set”, so she can have a last minute ramen treat without the standard disposables.  We were too slow to stop the drink that came in a set but took for no straw.  I told her: “we take note this time, we’ll definitely do better next time.”

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