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 blog ‘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, no longer does this – apparently their supplier put up the price. The person 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 Stoke 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 🙂

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 😦

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).

Trash Backwards provides some inspiration for junk free dental floss

I just came across Trash Backwards, a very interesting blog with suggestions for reducing your junk, with a focus on re-using every day items.

The thing that lead me there was the search for a dental floss alternative – I’m a bit of a dental floss addict and am worrying about how to find a package free alternative. Unfortunately this excellent stuff comes encased in a little but sturdy plastic case… I seem to have accumulated a  small collection. If only they were like sewing machine spools that could be re-threaded from a monster size one that would last you a year 🙂 I guess something like this must happen in the factories that produce them.

Various alternatives have come to mind, including celery strings, but I fear they won’t be up to the job! My search brought me to Trash Backward’s Zero bathroom waste article, which suggests a range of products from ‘The natural dentist’, including wooden picks in a card package.

They sound good but we are trying to avoid card packaging as well as plastic. One of the comments to the article (from user ‘Mind Bird’, thanks) suggests using quilting thread, which oddly enough I happen to have around.

I’ll try it out & report how it works out!

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 to the environment.

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