My Packaging Free Life – Food Edition

I often compare myself with my grandparents. Be it cultural, lifestyle, habits, decision making, parenting or just about anything. I put myself in their shoes and think how they would have handled a particular issue. For the most part, it was our grandparents who brought us up.

When it comes to shopping, it is my maternal grandfather whom I admire and aspire to become. We(my sister and I) spent the whole of every summer vacation at our grandparents in Coimbatore. Summer vacations are the time you get to understand the whole system of home management as you are home 24*7. My only entertainment was to make crafts and chat with my grandparents.

Whatever I would ask my grandmother for evening snacks, she never hesitated to make it for me. Her pantry was always full and would not miss a single ingredient. For my grandfather, it’s a crime to buy grocery in small quantities and in between his regular monthly shopping visits to the town hall. It was my grandmother’s planning and grandfather’s shopping practices that they prepared them to be always ready to make anything for any number of people.

His shopping policies:

Buy in bulk – for grains and pulses it was yearly once purchased at Santhai (community farmer’s market)

Buy fresh -He shopped for produce, daily. He always had few cloth bags in his vehicle, whenever he sees something fresh on the way he stops to buy only what’s best. I have never seen him stepping out of the house without a cloth bag, a stainless steel vessel and can.

Buy from the manufacturers- Oils – Mill, Cleaning agents- Soap oil factory, cleaning tools – Artisans,

Buy local – Though he didn’t travel far, he educated people on what’s available and good at the places they travel and also informed to buy some for him.

All this might seem a lot of hard work – employing these olden day practices with passive lifestyles. My grandfather and his practices were alive until 2013. And now, I do the same in 2016 at a traffic heaven like Bangalore city with a very active lifestyle.

Even since childhood, I have always eaten clean and fresh. Mostly home cooked meals, no snacks from outside, no junk food, no oily items etc.
But only after becoming a minimalist, I have become more conscious about food and started to read the labels.

My packaging free life is greatly possible after I understood the facts and eliminated these items from my pantry :

1. No Bottled Beverages – Soft drinks have artificial sweeteners (Saccharin, NutraSweet, Aspartame) that are small quantities of poison because these alter brain’s neurochemistry. These drinks also have high fructose from corn syrup that has mercury and over time damages body cells.

2. No packaged sweets – High consumption of sugar and the corresponding elevated insulin levels can cause weight gain, bloating, fatigue, arthritis, migraines, lowered immune function etc.,

3. No packaged snacks – MSG is used to flavour food since it no longer has real flavour because of over cooking ,chemicals, pesticides and lack of any nutrients left in over-farmed soil – this destroys nerve cells in the brain, inhibits natural growth hormone, dramatically promotes irreversible obesity, wheezing etc.,

4. No Condiments – Preservatives and additives are often used to improve the flavour, shelf life, safety or nutritional quality of prepackaged food or make it look more appealing. They are loaded with olestra, aspartame, artificial colours and flavours, monosodium glutamate, saccharin, sodium nitrate, sulphites, cyclamate, caffeine, BHA, BHT, acesulfame-potassium, GMO produce and hydrogenated oils. So, I have quit buying sauces, pickles, mayo, jam, spreads, premix powders, salad dressings, syrups, ginger garlic paste, packaged coconut milk and many such condiments.

5. No packaged oil – Refined oil goes through in numerous processes to purify and standardise. These processes remove the essential nutrients, vitamins and fibres in the nut or seed. Harmful chemicals are added in theses processes, all we are left is trans fats and polyunsaturated fatty acids which are highly poisonous over time.

6. No frozen foods – The ingredients used in frozen foods are not the same as those in freshly made meals. Many frozen foods also use partially hydrogenated palm oil that has hidden harmful trans fats.
The sodium content is also one of the main factors that make frozen foods unhealthy. Frequent consumption of frozen foods can put people at risk of high blood pressure and other health conditions.

7. No imported fruits and veggies – Eating imported foods, especially fruits and vegetables, often have added chemicals to prevent them from ripening, artificial flavour or colour, and transported in variable temperatures making the food unhealthy. What’s necessary for our body in this environment is all available here. I have learned to appreciate and enjoy seasonal produce more than all season produce which is genetically modified.

8. No polished grains and pulses- grains and pulses undergo various stages of polishing. Water, oil, leather, marble powder, added colour are used to give shine and to extend the shelf life of grains. But in this process, they lose almost all nutrients and fibre and are left with some proteins, fats and chemicals.

So the above list sums up that we eat almost clean that is fresh fruits, veggies, meat and some grains which are procured in my own containers and cloth bags.

My grocery shopping kit – Drawstring unbleached cotton bag for dry goods, Stainless steel container for meat, cotton bags for greens.

Masalas : I use very few masalas which are all homemade made from spices bought in bulk and a very few packaged north Indian masalas like tandoori chicken masala and chat masala.

Grains: From community farmer’s market in cloth drawstring bags sufficient for two months.

These grains are direct from the farm and unpolished
These grains are direct from the farm and unpolished at farmers market

Oil: I buy cold pressed coconut oil, peanut oil,castor oil, ghee and butter from trusted sources in my own stainless steel container.

oil can
cans for oils and ghee

Dry fruits and spices : From bulk stores.

Even in a metropolitan city like bangalore, there are both high and low range bulk store.
Even in a metropolitan city like bangalore, there are both high and low range bulk store.
High range bulk dry fruit stores are popping everywhere in the city
High range bulk dry fruit stores are popping everywhere in the city

Mistaken eco-friendly packaging:

1. Non woven bags – Non woven bags are not biodegradable because they are also made of plastic fibres.non woven bags

water melon

2. Cut fruits and veggies sealed with plastic cling film – Often bought for convenience are not healthy as some nutrients are lost as soon as they are cut open.

3. Do not buy wet, hot or oily items in the newspaper – Because the ink used to print are highly poisonous which can easily transfer to the food in such conditions and moreover, wet and oily paper cannot be recycled.


4. Recycled and reinforced aluminium foil covers – After no plastic ban has been imposed in Bangalore, many meat vendors have started using these recycled aluminium bags, which are paper like in the inside and aluminium on the outside. Many fail to notice that these imported bags were once filled with chips, consumed, thrown away and then recycled to be bags again.WhatsApp Image 2016-11-22 at 10.45.54 AM

International shopping trends :

In recent years, a spate of no-waste markets has popped up across Europe, where customers could bring their own reusable containers and bag to measure out just the right amount of food items and other household products. These stores sell almost all groceries essential for everyday living.

bulk store 1
Bulk food stores are the trendiest way of shopping in Europe.
bulk store 2
Oil, vinegar, sauce, dressing, shampoo, cleaning agents, alcohol are also sold in bulk.

Packaging Free Fails:

1. Though I don’t buy any of these packaged food items, when someone offers, for example, few pieces of chips, I don’t say no in order not to make them guilty. I think I should not do that anymore, it might be a chance to educate them.

2. Some plastic covers and wrappers do enter the home by means of guests. One of the main reasons I started to blog, is to tell my people who we are, as we cannot go tell every single person that we are this and we live this way. But still some plastics do come in from guests, I think I would take some more time as I have just started to talk to people about it.

3. My toddler does consume some biscuits and chocolates occasionally. She hardly gets tempted as her environment is free of this packaged food. As her friend’s family are also minimalist; Prabu and I don’t buy/eat any of them; She hardly watches tv; I hardly step in departmental stores these days. With kids, the more you refuse the more they rebel, so I don’t deny but educate when she is ready to listen.

4. There are very few items that we buy packaged. But I consciously segregate and recycle them.

5. Clean eating fails – Occasionally we do eat out, mostly due to convenience factor and not anymore for taste. Deserts are very tempting to avoid which we have made it very rare to eat (instead we make fruit and yoghurt based treats at home), but if it happens, it happens this way…

We always take away in our own containers
We always take away in our own containers
WhatsApp Image 2016-11-22 at 11.02.44 AM
Ice creams in our own containers

All that I wanted to stress is that already our essential sources of food -fruits, veggies, grains and meat are loaded with chemicals why load yourself more with these unwanted packaged foods.

Eat clean, Eat fresh, Buy in your own container.

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6 Comment

  1. Sindhu says: Reply

    Good one. We started implementing many of these after seeing you.

    1. durgeshnandhini says: Reply

      Thanks. That’s great Sindhu!

  2. Lalitha says: Reply

    Hi! Came across your blog today. I am new to Bangalore and would love to buy oil and grains in their natural forms. Can you please provide some leads on shops that sell these?

    Thank you!

    1. durgeshnandhini says: Reply

      As of now, I buy all groceries from my native. I had many readers write to about the issue of sourcing. For the same, I have created a Facebook page- MY BOX for everyone to share source and ideas on buying groceries in bulk and packaging free. Hope it benefits you as well. I shall keep updating as and when I come across package free stores in Bangalore.

  3. Yoga says: Reply

    Hi, How do you store veggies and green leafy stuff in fridge?

    1. durgeshnandhini says: Reply

      I quit using a fridge. I buy them fresh everyday.

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