The Grain Grocer began its days in Crystal Palace Farmer's Market, in a little garage, selling organic, locally sourced wholefoods by weight, in refillable containers. Now, the ethical start-up has evolved into a much loved organic café and eco-store in Margate, promoting zero waste living and healthy eating.
We caught up with Katherine, naturopath nutritionist and owner of The Grain Grocer, to chat about the realities of being a zero waste business and how we can all reduce our plastic waste in our daily lives.
What is the ethos behind The Grain Grocer?
We are a natural food store and café with a focus on organic and thoughtfully sourced produce. We support organic and local chemical free farming methods, fair trade and local producers. We offer a step towards a more sustainable way of living. From the outset, The Grain Grocer has promoted zero waste living as much as possible, offering multi use containers and striving for no packaging solutions wherever possible. We are passionate about great food that doesn’t cost the earth!
Tell us more about what’s on offer at The Grain Grocer?
Our wide range of organic refillable food and eco products are at the heart of The Grain Grocer, but we also sell a full range of other organic produce, as well as organic and locally grown fruit, veg and eggs plus freshly baked organic sourdough bread. In the café we use our shop ingredients to whip up mainly raw vegan sweet treats, plant based savory snacks, super food tonics, smoothies, fresh juices, teas and coffee. We make our own nut butters and have a super cool peanut butter machine! We have done some casual free cooking classes so far and intend to branch into more workshops and health related events in the future, both in house and collaborations! We love collaborating with our local yogi buddies and cooking for yoga lunches, brunches and teas!
You encourage and promote reducing waste and packaging where possible, how does that manifest in the store?
We offer a huge selection of refill whole foods including, nuts, seeds, beans, pulses, cereals, pasta, dried fruit, super foods, herbs and spices. We encourage our customers to reuse our bags or bring their own containers by offering a 5% discount, and offer lower bulk prices. We also offer a 5% discount when people use their own coffee cup for takeaways; this applies to all our hot and cold drinks to go.
We also offer oil, vinegar, eco cleaning products, and natural hair and body products for refill and our eggs, fresh fruit and veg are all packaging free. We even offer refills of organic honey and peanut butter too!
What are the challenges of running an environmentally friendly and ethical business, especially when it comes to trying to be zero waste?
It’s a really exiting time to be an environmentally friendly business right now, because it’s something that is really beginning to come into the wider consciousness. We’ve come to a point where we can’t ignore that something needs to be done to change our wasteful consumer ways. In the two years we have been open we have felt the rise in people wanting to make a difference, which has helped our business to flourish, and we are super grateful for that. Zero waste living is a wonderful ideal, but we found that in order to be a business that can survive, we need to also sell packaged products. We do all that we can in terms of offering as much refill as possible, and all our in house made products are all in compostable packaging as well as all our takeaway cups, straws, boxes, packets and napkins. But one of the challenges we face in this is the environmentally friendly solutions are more expensive at the moment. We reuse what we can and what we can't, we recycle.
I have found it interesting recently, actually realising that plastic is not all evil and has an important role to play in helping to reduce food waste and I’m so sure that in the years to come we will see compostable plastic packaging becoming the norm. For the moment, if we all do our bit in being waste conscious, we can make a big difference!
How can people begin the journey of reducing waste and plastic at home with the foods they cook and how they shop?
I guess one of the first things people could do is find their local refill shop! I know there are more and more of us popping up all over the place, which is awesome, because hopefully this will be how everyone shops in the future. Choosing a local packaging free green grocer or veg box scheme is a great way to reduce waste in purchasing fresh produce.
Little things like using tupperware to store food in the fridge rather than cling film or tinfoil is a super thing to do. And you can now get all sorts of cool reusable things like bees wax wraps for wrapping things up in too.
Finding out if you have a local milkman (or milkwoman!) who could deliver you milk in glass bottles is great, most of them do organic too!
A water bottle is a brilliant way to avoid buying single use plastic water bottle when out and about, and all cafes are happy to fill up for you!
Getting kids involved in waste reduction and recycling at home is also so important, they are all learning about this stuff at school and I have friends who’s kids tell them off for not being eco conscious! Inviting children to help with refilling jars and things can help to teach math and encourage them to have a connection to where their food comes from.
You are a qualified Holistic Health Coach, could you share one of your favourite quick zero/low waste Grain Grocer recipes?
We’re really proud of our smoothies here at The Grain Grocer; we blend fruits, vegetables and super foods to create drinks that are scrumptious and super nutrient dense! One of my personal favorites is the African Sunrise; it’s super refreshing and invigorating, perfect for this beautifully warm summer we’re blessed with!
African Sunrise Smoothie – serves 1
We use a nutribullett, but any high-powered blender is great. Blend together:
- ½ frozen banana
- ½ carrot
- 2x dates
- 2x unsulfured apricots
- small knob of fresh ginger
- small knob of fresh turmeric
- ¾ cup almond milk
- (Sometimes I add a couple for blocks of ice for extra coolness!)
Top with a sprinkling of hemp hearts for prettiness and protein!