A trip to the refill shop for Plastic Free July

Written by

Emmanuelle Gammage

Posted on

July 15, 2021

Posted in

Home Plastic + 5 more

Whilst the team here at SaveMoneyCutCarbon try to practice what we preach every day; Plastic Free July is a chance to challenge ourselves even more!

Come with me to my local refill shop

So I took a trip down to my local refill shop, Clear to Sea in Bury St Edmunds. Upon arrival I was greeted by a glorious scent of honey and flowers, followed by a friendly welcome from the owner, Catherine Winn.

Nearly every wall was lined with glass jars full of pulses, grains, nuts, dried fruits and fudge, just like an old-fashioned sweet shop.

clear to sea 1

What are the benefits of refill shops?

Refill shops encourage us to be conscious of what we buy and offer an alternative to mindless packaging and unnecessary food waste.

It might sound a little daunting at first, especially as most of us like our routine. But it really couldn’t be easier! All you need to bring is a container (I used a Stasher bag), fill it up with what you need – don’t worry, everything is labelled, and voila, it’s yours to whip up dinner with.

It was refreshing to see all of my cupboard essentials like porridge oats, quinoa and red lentils loose so I don’t have to worry about disposing of any plastic once I’ve used them all up.

Supporting your local shops are great for the community and kind to the planet. It’s even better when they stock local produce too. I bought a jar of local honey from Lavenham and I can confirm, it tastes so much more natural and scrumptious than the supermarket’s. I also spotted some quinoa grown by local farmers in Somerset and Essex.

clear to sea 2

You also get conversation in local shops that you don’t get in a big supermarket – I especially liked having the chance to ask questions about the products and where they came from. You don’t have to have any prior knowledge as most shop owners will be happy to talk to you and point you in the right direction. It was clear that Catherine was passionate about the work she’s doing, which made visiting her shop all the more enjoyable.

One of the best things about this kind of shopping is that you don’t have to buy a whole bag of something if you only need a spoonful. So many of us end up throwing away food because we don’t eat it in time: 4.5 million tonnes of it a year actually. The easy solution is to only buy what we need, even if it’s only a spoonful of spice or a handful of chickpeas for dinner.

Of course, refill shops aren’t practical all of the time as not everyone can afford to pop out every few days to buy only what they need or do their whole weekly shop in there, but even small actions can make a big difference.

Sustainability looks different to everyone so don’t feel guilty for doing “a bit of it”, and not “all of it”!

Find out more about the rise of refill shops here.

How do the prices compare to supermarkets?

When it comes to cleaning products, the upfront cost may be more expensive than what your supermarket offers, but refilling them is usually a lot cheaper and better for the planet.

But food prices vary in comparison to supermarkets. For example, dried chickpeas each cost about 24p per 100g in Asda and Waitrose and 23p in Sainsbury’s and Tesco but cost 40p per 100g supermarket in Clear to Sea.

Chickpeas price comparison per 100g
AsdaSainsburysWaitroseTescoClear to Sea
24p23p24p23p40p
Chickpeas price comparison per 100g
AsdaSainsburysWaitroseTescoClear to Sea
24p23p24p23p40p

Red lentils cost 38p per 100g in Clear to Sea but only 24p in Waitrose and 23p in Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s. Similarly, quinoa cost 90p per 100g in Clear to Sea but Tesco and Sainsbury’s cost 67p per 100g, 70p per 100g in Waitrose and a pouch of Merchant Gourmet cost 87p per 100g.

Red Lentils price comparison per 100g
AsdaSainsbury'sWaitroseTescoCleat to Sea
23p23p24p23p38p
Red Lentils price comparison per 100g
AsdaSainsbury'sWaitroseTescoCleat to Sea
23p23p24p23p38p
Quinoa price comparison per 100g
Merchant GourmetSainsbury'sWaitroseTescoClear to Sea
87p23p70p67p90p
Quinoa price comparison per 100g
Merchant GourmetSainsbury'sWaitroseTescoClear to Sea
87p23p70p67p90p

Although the cost of grains and pulses are slightly higher than supermarket prices, most of the supermarket packaging for these goods is non-recyclable so it will end up in landfill. By bringing a reusable container and buying loose items, you’ll save household waste and endless plastic being sent to landfill or polluting the ocean – you may not see it, but it happens every single second.

Other products like muesli cost 49p per 100g in Clear to Sea whereas it was 40p per 100g in Morrisons, 50p per 100g in Waitrose and Alpen cost 46p per 100g. Rapeseed oil cost 35p per 100ml in Clear to Sea but Tesco and Sainsbury’s cost 36p, 95p per 100g in Waitrose and Frylight spray cost £1.05 per 100ml.

Muesli price comparison per 100g
AlpenSainsbury'sWaitroseMorrisonsClear to Sea
46p23p50p23p49p
Muesli price comparison per 100g
AlpenSainsbury'sWaitroseMorrisonsClear to Sea
46p23p50p23p49p
Rapeseed oil price comparison per 100g
TescoSainsbury'sWaitroseFrylightClear to Sea
36p36p95p£1.0535p
Rapeseed oil price comparison per 100g
TescoSainsbury'sWaitroseFrylightClear to Sea
36p36p95p£1.0535p

For many products there’s not much difference in price, but there are huge savings for the planet, by using your own packaging there is zero waste, no single use plastic ending in landfill.

clear to sea 4

What’s the verdict?

The shopping experience, the quality of items and the zero-plastic outweighs any supermarket. Clear to Sea had all of my cupboard essentials, many of which were sourced locally and tasted better than those from a supermarket.

Although I won’t be able to do my whole shop there, considering supermarkets put out over 900,000 tonnes of plastic packaging on their shelves a year, I’ll be making an active effort to visit Clear to Sea for all of my loose items.

I’m fortunate that it’s only a stone throw away from my house but I acknowledge that not everyone is in the same position. If that’s the case, popping into your local refill shop whenever you’re in town, even if that’s only once a month, could make a huge difference to your household waste.

Sustainability isn’t a one size fits all

Rather, it’s about doing what we can, when we can. SaveMoneyCutCarbon want to make sustainable living as easy for you as possible, which is why we’ve created our Home Club. Join today and access unbeatable prices on tons of eco-friendly products.

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