Category Archives: package free supermarket

Save a Packet, the “scoop and save” loose-food shop of Kingsbridge, Devon.

I’m the Devon end of Junk-Free January┬áand I’m very fortunate to have a shop in my neighbourhood called Save a Packet. They’ve been very supportive of the project. Here are some of the things you can buy there. They’re very happy for you to take your own containers.




Organic Spelt Flour and Organic Granary Flour
Organic Spelt Flour and Organic Granary Flour

At Save a Packet, it’s possible to buy:

  • Rice – several varieties.
  • Salt
  • Cereals
  • Pasta
  • Lentils of various sorts.
  • Flour – including organic spelt flour and organic maize flour
  • Baking Soda
  • Sugars
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Dried fruit
  • Cocoa powder
  • Coffee
  • Sweets

And loads of other good stuff. There’s a more complete list here.

We’d be really interested to know if you have anything similar in your neighbourhood. If so, you’re welcome to leave a link and description in the comments section so we can support their good work. (of course you’re welcome to leave a comment if you don’t have one too ­čÖé )


Brushing teeth with bicarbonate of soda.

I couldn’t find a toothbrush which didn’t come in packaging, but a much more environmentally friendly option, and mostly plastic-free, is the “environmental toothbrush”

I had been getting myself used to the taste of bicarb before the challenge by using the Kingfisher Bicarbonate of Soda toothpaste, so it didn’t come as too much of a shock to me.

I managed to get hold of loose bicarbonate of soda from my local loose foods shop, Save a Packet. All I do is wet my toothbrush and dip it in the powder, or sometimes I’ll wet my finger and distribute some evenly around all the teeth, and then bush as usual.

I’ve found that it leaves my teeth and mouth feeling really clean and my teeth are looking whiter already.

There is a lot of mis-information out there saying that bicarb is too abrasive, when it’s actually a less abrasive than store-bought toothpaste. If you’re interested in the figures, the Relative Dentin Abrasivity RDA values (how abrasive they are: a lower value = less abrasive) of all the main toothpastes, and bicarb, are listed here ┬áBaking soda has an RDA of 7. The toothpastes range from 35-200.

Here is some information from the “Arm and Hammer” website about brushing with baking soda.

  • It is clinically recognised as an incredibly powerful cleaning agent by dissolving deep into tooth surface crevices.
  • Despite its highly effective cleaning powers, it remains significantly non-abrasive and incredibly gentle, making it ideal for dental use.
  • Baking soda maintains a good pH balance inside your mouth by neutralising any acids. This keeps your breath fresh for hours.
  • Baking soda has the power to whiten teeth. It is so efficient at removing deep engrained stains that subsequently your teeth get whiter.

I don’t know enough about the long-term usage of baking soda, but I know a lot of people have been successfully using it without problems, and it seems good to me so far.

Toothbrush and baking soda.

Junk Free January – the first three days

3 days into our challenge of making it through the month without packaging, and I’m settling into new ways of shopping and cooking.

After a cupboard clear out, I set about stocking up on food that came loose. Finding Food For All in Stoke Newington was a great start – they provided rice, lentils, and teas (rose buds, lemon verbena and chamomile so far), along with some clay that I’m hoping to use for a face mask at some point.

Finding oil was the most difficult part. After just 2 days I was getting a bit glum about the prospect of a month of boiled/ steamed/ baked food, but lo! Mother Earth in Newington Green, which I just found today, have very nice olive oil from a barrel, and let you use your own bottle. They also sell lots of loose whole foods including red lentils, so I can make dhal, and powders such as cocoa ­čÖé

It’s funny how important herbs and spices have become – after 2┬ádays of plain rice & lentils.

In the bathroom, Lush’s solid shampoo and conditioner are doing a good job so far,┬áand┬ánormal sewing thread is just about cutting it as dental floss. Now I’ve got olive oil I might try using that as a night moisturiser if my skin gets really dry. I also have a stack of lush pots, a mission for next week is to see if I can get anything like moisturiser from them as a refill.

I’ve had to cheat on toothpaste, using the next best option of Lush’s pill-shaped ‘toothy tabs’ which come in a small cardboard box, and loo roll, but the very helpful assistant at Mother Earth pointed me to a market which might sell loose bicarb of soda, and loo roll too.

This set of toothpaste recipes┬áon the Mass Report site look brilliant (not convinced about the dangers of fluoride but still the article is useful)… and then there’s a chocolate toothpaste recipe on the living traditionally site. Both use coconut oil – I wonder if I can get hold of loose coconut oil too.

Hunting the scoop & save shops

A friend reminded me of the name for what I was calling ‘refill shops’. I’m thinking of the 80s/ 90s, no frills, low cost shop that remember my Dad getting soap refills from when I was little. They were ‘scoop and save’ or ‘weigh and save’ shops.

A bit of digging later and I find that they do still exist, but sadly for me, they are mainly in the North. This excellent┬áblog ‘Weigh and save shops‘ on the Plastic is Rubbish site explains the situation and lists some of the existing shops.

I’m surprised that these shops aren’t more in demand as the source of bargains. Some others are thinking the same over on the MoneySavingExpert website, which has a thread about these shops, with locations.


Food for All is an amazing whole foods refill shop

Tomorrow, we start our challenge – making it through January without buying anything with packaging, be it plastic or paper. Yesterday, I tried finding ‘refill shops’ – shops that sell loose goods, in North London.

There were some disappointments. Unpackaged, a shop dedicated to package-free goods, is currently closed down. Borough Wines, which I’d heard sold olive oil refills,┬áno longer does this – apparently their supplier put up the price. The┬áperson I spoke to didn’t rule out stocking it again, I hope they do… but it might be too late for our challenge. Whole Foods Market in Stoke Newington only provides refills for Ecover products, and you have to ask at the till for this – pretty poor, given its name.

The hero of the day was Food for All, on Cazenove Road next to┬áStoke Newington railway station. The last shop on my search, I was pretty glum by the time I got here, but cheered up right away. This small independent shop has a friendly atmosphere, good ethics, good prices, and a huge range of loose goods – all the herbs, spices and teas you can think of and more, meusli, different kinds of rice, lentils, etc. I’ll pretty much be shopping here during January and beyond ­čÖé

Where are the refill shops!

January is drawing close, so today’s mission is to find what I think of as ‘refill shops’ in North London.

I’m thinking of little independent shops, not necessarily branded as health food shops, with products like liquid soap, detergent, nuts, seeds etc available loose.

An internet search isn’t bringing up much so maybe I’m using the wrong term – or maybe there is no standard word for these shops. Jenny & I have sometimes wondered whether these little shops are overlooked by the kind of people who shop at health food shops, because they don’t have an ‘eco’ brand, or the expensive prices that sometimes go with this.

I remember one in my hometown that we used to shop at, that eventually closed down.

The search so far is not encouraging.

A depressing Independent article ‘Shoppers’s green fatigue hits refill revolution‘. The main theme is the failure of mainstream chains to take up refilling. It does mention a chain called Whole Foods.

Also sad – it looks like there was an amazing refill shop trying out the ‘eco-branded’ route in Hackney, called Unpackaged… which has closed ­čśŽ

The website says it’s coming back. I hope so. In case you’re listening, please come back soon Unpackaged!

Starting to think I’m going to have to cook without any oil for the whole of January!!

My search did suggest a nearby Mother Earth health food shop, and I’m also on the trail of a little herbal shop in Stamford Hill/ Stoke Newington which I think might be called Food for All.

More later!

Quick update: According to the Metro article ‘Plastic ain’t fantastic, refill instead to reduce your waste‘, Borough Wines in London might do olive oil refills..

(P.s dental floss experiments with embroidering thread not working… maybe tooth picks are the way forward).

Package-free herbs and spices in my local healthfood shop.


I had a quick shop in “Nicholsons” one of our two healthfood shops in Kingsbridge today and I investigated all the herbs and spices that are available package-free. The helpful shop assistant told me that many of their customers bring their own containers, or if not they provide people with paper bags.


They also sell package-free Ecover – washing up liquid, washing machine liquid, fabric conditioner and surface cleaner which have the added advantage of being kind┬áto the environment.

Well done Nicholsons! I will be stocking up on lovely herbs and spices here.