Image for Package-Free Eating, Day 1

Don’t forget to share your Zero Waste Shopping Challenge photos on social media between now and Earth Day (April 22) using the hashtag #MMZeroWasteChallenge. Lucky shoppers will be randomly chosen to win a reusable water bottle, shopping bag, or lunch container.

Presented by Mississippi Market General Manager, Gail Graham

Growing up, I was fortunate to have experienced “package-free eating” first hand because my grandparents were retired farmers in Central Minnesota. The rare plastic bag from a loaf of store-bought bread was rinsed and reused repeatedly for homemade loaves that usually graced their table. Fruit, vegetables, and meat were canned and brought up from the root cellar as needed, as were potatoes, carrots, and onions. Venison from autumn hunts, processed and wrapped in freezer paper, was stored in rented locker space in the freezer in town, a practice followed by most of the local area farmers. When we visited, my siblings and I would gather eggs, which, if the chickens had been out of their fenced yard, might turn up in the most unusual places. And when chicken was on the menu, Grandma went out to the coop and got one. When she wanted fish, she went out fishing. When she wanted pie, she baked one. Of course, some things, like yeast, mustard, crackers, butter, and sugar were “store bought”— but in general, it was a whole different way of eating and living.

I was raised to recycle before we even called it recycling. When I was a kid, my family kept stacks of newspapers bundled in the basement for the annual paper drive. We stored the bundles on a red shelf with cubbies. It took up most of the basement wall. Once or twice a year, we would haul the papers off to school where the bundles were tossed into the back of a big truck. Even Welches, the grape juice people, cooperated. They had a line of jelly and jam that they packaged in cute little jars decorated with cartoon characters that were meant to be reused as juice glasses! We had a whole set of them, and decades later, I still have one that my daughter and granddaughter have both used.

When our Board Chair Heather Haynes challenged me to a “20-day package-free shopping” challenge, I told her, “Count me in!”. “It’s in my blood,” I thought. This will be easy! But today, I’m wondering, “What have I gotten myself into!?”

I am pretty good already at using whole ingredients that I buy from our Bulk and Produce departments, and I mainly remember to bring in my reusable bags and containers. I love to cook, but I don’t bake. And although I made tofu once as an experiment, you won’t find me making it again. Quite suddenly, I am feeling pangs of deprivation. What happens when I run out of cheese? This month, no stocking up on packaged groceries that are on sale. I will simply make do with what is in my pantry. Throughout April, I will pay attention to what I am buying and think about the impact the packaging is having on the environment. That’s why, when I packed my lunch today, I used a Tupperware container instead of plastic wrap for my sandwich. I already had a 32oz. bottle of Veggie Juice, and after finishing it off with my lunch, I recycled it. And when I do buy something packaged this month, as I am sure I will, I will chronicle the consequences of my choice.