How to Tare Jars for Zero Waste Groceries

Some of my favorite items to bring to grocery shopping are glass jars and containers. At first, I felt really intimidated—I had no clue how to shop with jars and was worried that the clerk would think I was crazy or unsanitary or just flat out reject them. It’s amazing the stories we can weave in our minds.

The first time I brought glass containers grocery shopping was at Whole Foods in Berkeley, CA. I pre-weighed each jar (this is called “taring”) and wrote the weight onto a piece of paper tape stuck on the jar. I went to their customer service desk to make sure I had done it right, which unfortunately I hadn’t. I had written the tare in ounces, whereas grocery stores need the weight in pounds. Fortunately, the WF staff were beyond nice—they re-weighed each of my jars and wrote the correct measurements on my paper tape. They even thanked me for bringing my own containers!

With a surge of confidence, I strode into the bulk section to stock up on my favorite: fresh ground almond butter. It’s made with just one ingredient, roasted almonds, with no added salt, oil or sugar. I have an addiction. Before I was zero waste, I used to go through a whole plastic tub of Whole Foods almond butter a week. One plastic tub a week! I cannot tell you how excited I was to fill up my own Le Parfait jar. I felt très élégant.

My fiancé brought a large glass container to the butcher to avoid the paper and plastic they typically wrap meats in. The butcher weighed the chicken (without the container), then placed the chicken into the container and attached a scannable sticker with the price—no taring necessary. Max was worried the macho butcher would scoff at his hippie container, but was pleasantly surprised to hear his kind words of encouragement.  

When we checked out, we got even more kudos from the clerk and people standing in line behind us. We felt pretty awesome.

Now, we use glass containers every time we shop. I love them for nut butters, cheese, olives, maple syrup, honey and bulk soap.

Here are my 5 easy steps for shopping with glass jars and containers:

  1. Make A List. Every time before you grocery shop, make a list so you know how many containers to take and what types you need. I like to use Le Parfait latch-top jars for nut butter, olives and certain cheeses. I use a glass flask for maple syrup, glass bottles for oils and another bottle for vinegar.Tare Grocery List
  2. Tare (rhymes with hair) your jars with a home kitchen scale or at the customer service desk at your grocery store. You can write the weight of the jar on paper tape (compostable) or with a chalk pen directly on the glass (washable). Be sure to write the weight of your jars in pounds. You usually do not need to tare your container for the meat counter—they will use their own scale to weigh the meat before it’s placed in the container and will print the weight and price on a scannable sticker.How to Tare Jar
  3. Fill Jars. You got that one covered, go ‘nuts.’How to Tare Jar
  4. Note the PLU (price look up) code. You’ll find a unique code on each item in the bulk aisle. Either write the code onto your paper tape or with a chalk marker or you can even note the code on your phone and read them aloud to the clerk as they scan your items.How to Tare Jar
  5. Check Out. Read the PLUs to the clerk if you noted them on your phone and bask in the praise you receive from people standing in line. Delight in how pretty your plastic-free cupboards and fridge look. How to Tare Jar