With a growing focus towards reducing our household waste, single use plastics and packaging, and shopping in a more responsible and ethical way, ‘zero waste’ Refill Shops such as the Wholesome Weigh are a welcome alternative to the bigger supermarkets.
Shops like these are not a new idea, go back thirty or forty years and you will have found something similar on your high street or as part of your green grocers, where your produce would have been decanted from bulk containers. Some shops like these have stood the test of time and adapted over the years, others have been forced to close due to the pressure of convenience shopping and the lower prices in the chain stores. A decade or so ago I was refilling washing up liquid, fabric conditioner and liquid detergents etc in a local shop in town. Unfortunately they stopped offering that after a change in management. It is noticeable that we are experiencing a trend of going backwards in order to move forwards. Newer refill shops are simply tapping in to old school ideas and modernising them to appeal to a new generation.
Wholefoods has always had a refill option with dispensers similar to those you will see in the independent refill shops, and due to an increasing call from consumers for less packaging within our grocery stores, Waitrose have been trialling something similar. However, although this is a welcomed move, unknown to the consumer the bigger stores are buying their produce in bulk single use plastic bags, whereas an independent shop such as the Wholesome Weigh will purchase their produce in bulk cloth/fabric bags which are then reusable by their wholesalers. A cheaper option will always come at a cost!
If you think that it is too expensive to shop in a refill store, think again. Nic and I found that the majority of our purchases were on a par with, or cheaper than, the same products in our local supermarket. The only thing we found more expensive was the Pasta and Rice. This is due to many factors. One is that The Wholesome Weigh source all their produce from small scale or local farms. It is unsprayed and the farmers are payed a fair price. As they build up relationships with the farms and buy more over time, the price will go down and will become cheaper for the customers. Another is that they obviously will not get the same bulk discounts that the bigger supermarkets do. The produce is also not mass produced.
Every Refill Shop will be different. The prices and produce will vary and the stock will be different because each shop is independent and unique. The one thing they have in common is that they are a fun and pleasant place to shop. The process is very simple. You can take your own containers, or purchase some from the store. There may be a service offered where you can borrow containers and bring them back later.
You begin by weighing your container before you fill it, as most produce is charged by the weight. Liquid refills will be charged by the ml. I take cloth bags with me for grains and pasta, rather than a container, because it’s not as heavy to carry home. Once the containers are filled they will be weighed again at the counter and you will be charged only for the amount of produce you have purchased.
Refill shops are also great for household items such as beauty and bathroom essentials like toothbrushes, shampoo bars, make up removal pads etc. Also cleaning essentials like toilets brushes, washing up brushes, scourers, cloths etc.
Where possible The Wholesome Weigh support UK grown, organic and ethically grown produce, and they support the farmer fair wage. Their focus is not just on selling unpackaged produce, but on the ethics behind the produce from growth to the consumer. Everything they sell is good for the planet and good for you!
Nic and are are hugely passionate about using shops like this. We come from an independent retail background, so we understand what it’s like to run a small business. We believe that shops like these are the future of grocery shopping and have the potential to help revive our dying high streets. As resellers we have always been keen to live life with a low impact on our planet. Recycling, reusing and repurposing where we can. If you have a shop like this near you, give it a try, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.