Hi! I’m Jennifer. I’m an English teacher in Jinan, Shandong, China. I have been vegan for about 6 months now, and in this post, I will explain how I shop for healthy and delicious ingredients to use in my vegan kitchen, while doing my best to reduce food waste and save money.
Where to buy groceries
I have several small fruit and vegetable stores in my community. They are family-owned businesses, and even though there is a small supermarket that’s even closer to my apartment, I choose to support these local businesses and buy my fresh produce here.
I can find almost everything I need in these little stores. The bulk of my grocery shop is fresh vegetables and fruit, but I also buy fresh herbs (coriander/cilantro) and spices (red and green chillis, ginger, garlic) . I can buy rice and dried beans in bulk which is cheaper than buying at the supermarket and reduces the amount of plastic bags and packaging I go through.
Be organised – only buy what you need
In my apartment, my fridge and freezer are small and usually already full of delicious healthy meal preps for myself and my friends. There is not room enough for a lot of produce in there. So I try to stay organised and plan my meals ahead of time. Then I only buy what I need. Of course, this works great in theory but is not actually that easy in real-life hey!
I tend to buy fruit and veggies every other day. I find if I do a big shop less often, I produce more food waste in my kitchen as the fresh produce does not last long – especially in the summer! I am very grateful for the produce stores and markets that are so close to my apartment, so I can go as often as I like! Shopping little and often reduces my food waste and saves money!
Journey to a plastic-free life!
Another reason I choose the small vegetable stores and markets for my food shop is to avoid the ridiculous amount of plastic packaging in the supermarket. China is so innovative and forward-thinking in so many ways and taking great steps towards becoming more environmentally conscious and reducing our impact on this our wonderful planet. HOWEVER, the amount of plastic in the supermarket is, in my opinion, disgusting; and it’s actually overwhelming once you consider the idea that it is completely unnecessary. It demonstrates a lack of common sense and a lack of respect for the health of the planet – which I’m afraid is all too common both in China and at home in the UK!
So, to avoid this plastic, I take my backpack and also a canvas bag to the store. I can choose my produce and put it loose into the canvas bag while I make my way through the little crowded space and pick out the ripest mangos and the freshest asparagus. Then the kind and friendly gentleman behind the counter gives me a smile and a nod and weighs each item while I pack them into my backpack.
Every time he tries to give me a big plastic bag to put all the veggies in, and every time I remind him “no, it’s okay. I can put them in here” and every time he seems a little bewildered or confused and he shakes his head at me a little as if to say “hey crazy foreigner, what will she do next?”
The supermarket run
Every so often, maybe every two weeks, I will venture out to the supermarket in the mall across the road and stock up on anything I can’t get at the produce store. This includes coconut milk, tomato puree, chickpeas, and oil (though I am trying to reduce the amount of oil in my diet almost to zero. Stayed tuned for a blog post on the oil-free cooking techniques!)
I used to also buy fruit juices from the supermarket. They were healthy and delicious but since I stopped buying them and started eating more whole fruit, I can no longer justify the single-use plastic bottles. Especially as recycling is actually very difficult in my city. My apartment building has labels on the wheely bins for recycling/non-recycling but does anybody pay attention to these signs? All kinds of rubbish are thrown away without a second thought, and the trash from every bin is collected into the same garbage truck.
When I first moved here I found that quite frustrating. I wanted to separate my rubbish and recycle whatever I could. Now I have learned to not be discouraged, to take responsibility for my own waste and reduce the amount I am throwing in the bin in the first place.
This is not another pushy vegan post. Go Vegan is a name of an online health-food shop based on the Chinese social media platform WeChat and located in Guangzhou. I do a rather large shop around every 2 months and invest in some healthy grains such as brown rice and quinoa, natural peanut butter (no added salt, oil, or sugar), various seeds (gotta get those omega threes!) and I usually treat myself to some super-foods to mix into my morning smoothies such as spirulina, chlorella, or hemp seeds.
Thank you for reading! I hope this has provided a clear picture of what I consider to be sustainable shopping habits, that we can all practice to save money, save the environment, and reduce food waste!