Conventional Grocery Store Shopping: Rouses Market

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Originally published on Jan. 23, 2019

It's January 2019, the beginning of a new year. Loads of people are making new changes: altering their diet, giving new exercise patterns a shot, cutting sugar out for a while, etc. New year brings a sensation of new things whether that be weather changes, a new season, or something to look forward to.

For me, 2019 will be full of new things, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ll get married, go to Costa Rica for over two weeks, and we will move across the country where I’ll hopefully be starting a graduate school program.

Maybe 2019 for you just looks like trying to make more eco-conscious decisions. That’s awesome, and maybe why you’re reading this blog post.

As so many changes head my way, I’m being much more budget-minded when it comes to finances (since I’ll be joining my bank account soon, eek!). For me that means that I’ve been shopping at less expensive grocery stores.

I live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Bulk shops are rare (Whole Foods lets you bring your own jars here and a small local store called Our Daily Bread has a small bulk section and they’ll struggle through manually weighing your jar and calculating on a 1980’s register). Common conventional grocery stores here are Walmart, Trader Joe’s, Target, Calandro’s (local), Winn-Dixie, Albertsons and Rouses Market (mostly local).

I will totally shop at Trader Joe’s, but almost every item is in plastic. I also learned from an employee there that all there “loose” produce comes wrapped in loads of plastic. I prefer not to shop at Walmart or Target, if I can avoid it (for ethical reasons).

Tonight I went to a shop called Rouses Market. Rouses has been family owned since it opened in 1960 and they’re only located in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. It has competitive prices, cheaper than what I’ve seen at Target and Albertsons. Mostly on par with Walmart (at least for the items I buy, organic, vegan, etc.) with a few items cheaper and a few items more expensive.

Even if you don’t have access to a Rouses -- there may still be some tips/tricks in this post about how to look for items through an eco lens as you shop in conventional grocery stores like this one.

When shopping at a conventional grocery store think about some questions: Can I find this loose? Is it recyclable in my area (for us in Baton Rouge, that’s glass and certain plastics)? Is it in a reusable container (glass, thick plastic, etc.)? Is there compostable packaging? Is it local to my city / state / country?

At Rouses, I was pleasantly surprised by a large selection of vegan, organic, and local items.

When grocery shopping with a goal to make eco-friendly decisions prioritize 5 things:

bring your own bagstry to by loose itemstry to buy smart packaged items (reusable, recyclable, compostable)try to buy local items vegan > non-vegan

At Rouses, I was able to find quite a lot of loose and local produce. I found local sweet potatoes, oranges, lemons, local squash, local zucchini, asparagus, cilantro, broccoli, onions, and mangos. I also saw (but did not buy) loose mushrooms, and dates!

There were plenty of items packaged in such a way that I could reuse, recycle or compost them. I got tea with compostable bags (although it had small plastic film exterior), olives in a glass jar I will reuse, maple syrup from Wisconsin in glass (United States better than abroad when thinking of eco impact in a broad sense), apple cider vinegar in glass, white distilled vinegar in glass and a bottle of Puerto Rican rum in glass. I also saw jam in glass (some local) in totally reusable jars, peanut butter and nut butters in glass or thick plastic (reusable or recyclable), mexican sodas (with real sugar) in glass, many sauces (some local) in glass, olives and pickles (some local) in glass, tons of syrups including Louisiana cane syrup in glass bottles, Amy’s soups in cans, and many organic vegetables in cans.

I was impressed by the vegan options, which were a lot more than what I’ve seen at Albertsons, Calandros and Walmart. I bought a vegan granola in cardboard with a plastic interior bag. I also bought sweetened condensed coconut milk in a can, and regular coconut milk in a can. I saw that they had two full doors of vegan frozen foods, vegan meat substitutes, a large selection on non-dairy milk, organic and vegan granola, vegan SO ice cream, vegan SILK yogurt.

Side note for Louisiana shoppers: I also saw local salsa in glass, local long grain louisiana rice in plastic (but local rice is so good for environment as far as sourcing and transportation goes), local honeys in plastic, local coffee, etc.

They do have a bulk section. I have yet to confirm if they will accept the use of our own containers. I will update this when I know!

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In summary, just do your best! This way of shopping may take some time to get used to as it opposes the grab-and-go mentality we are taught more often than not. Although grocery shopping is a thoughful process, it doesn't have to take a long time! You learn what you want, how to shop, and how to move quicker over time. I will say, don't go to the grocery store when you know you're going to be rushed or feel stressed, go when you have time. That way, you won't make impulsive decisions!

Happy Shopping!

Emily McCollister