If you’d like to reduce the amount of waste coming out of your home, the easiest way to accomplish this is to limit the amount you bring in. Sound easy? It is! It just takes a little planning in advance.

Since food waste — packaging, wrapping, etc. — accounts for a hefty chunk of household garbage, living green involves a few simple shifts to your shopping.

These five essential items will help you create a lean, green shopping routine:

1. Reusable grocery bags

Widely known and increasingly popular with shoppers looking to reduce waste, these reusable bags are a great way to avoid using disposable plastic or paper shopping bags. But make sure you read the label before shelling out for that shopping bag with the cute slogan — interestingly, some of the reusable bags sold in big-box stores and supermarkets are made out of … plastic? Yeah. It seems a bit ironic to me, too. Choose cotton instead.

2. Cloth produce bags

Not only are those flimsy produce bags annoying (which end opens? I’ve checked each side eight times!), but they’re an unnecessary source of waste, too. Investing in some reusable cloth produce bags allows you to stock up on loose produce like apples and oranges while minimizing the amount you’ll have to throw out or recycle when you get home.

3. Jars or containers for bulk items

Buying things like spices, nuts, seeds and baking staples in bulk is a fantastic way to limit the amount of excess packaging you bring home from the grocery store. Using cloth bags is great for larger items like almonds or dried fruit, but for the rest, consider bringing your own jars or containers. This page gives a great tutorial on how to tare (or weigh) your containers before filling them, and then you won’t be paying for its weight, just the weight of its contents (especially important if using heavier glass jars).

4. A critical eye

Many of us have gotten used to looking at the price of an item, as well as its nutritional information, but there’s another thing you should be checking — how the item is packaged. Does that organic cereal contain a plastic bag within a box? Do your eggs come in easily recycled cardboard or a double-layer hard plastic carton? Taking a critical look at the amount, and type, of packaging a product comes with means choosing companies that make a concerted effort to reduce excess packaging wherever possible.

5. Organization

You can own all the reusable bags and cloth bags and jars in the world, but if they’re still sitting in your garage while you’re walking through the front door of the grocery store, they won’t be of any help to you! Create a “zero-waste bin” in your car and get in the habit of immediately restocking it with your collection of bags and containers after you’re done unloading your purchases. It’ll go a long way toward ensuring that all of your grocery shopping trips are green!

By Madeleine Somerville

Madeleine Somerville is the author of All You Need Is Less: An Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity. She is a writer, wannabe hippie and lover of soft cheeses. She lives in Edmonton, Canada, with her daughter. You can also find Madeleine at her blog, Sweet Madeleine.