A Guide to Refill Shops

Shopping zero waste is becoming increasingly popular as more of us are trying to reduce our use of plastic in our day-to-day lives. 

A simple way to reduce our use of plastic is by shopping at refill or zero waste shops, which can be found in most cities in the UK now. They’re designed in a way where you can bring your own reusable bags and jars, then refill what you need from their stations. This reduces the amount of plastic being used when you go food shopping. You may have noticed these refill stations popping in larger supermarkets like Morrisons, ASDA and M&S as the demand for refillable options rises.

Looking for reusable food bags to shop in refill stores with? Check out our machine washable Bulk Food Bags, specifically designed for shopping in a sustainable way. 

Shop Bulk Food Bags

What is a refill shop?

A refill shop sells non-packaged goods that you’d usually buy in your weekly shop. You only need to bring containers and bags you own to refill from their larger containers in the store. The idea is that you only take what you need and you can avoid buying products covered in plastic. 

What do refill shops sell?

Refill shops are usually independent so they differ in what they sell. But you can expect to find goods like:

  • Storecupboard essentials - rice, pasta, cereals, oats, legumes, seeds, oils and spices
  • Dried Fruits & Vegan sweets - dried apricots, dates, figs, banana chips and vegan pick & mixes
  • Household cleaning - laundry detergent, hand wash, washing up liquid
  • Personal care - body wash, body lotion, hair shampoo and conditioner.

How do refill shops work?

If you’ve never been into a refill shop before, the idea of it can seem a little confusing. But once you know how to do it, the process is simple. Some refill shops are different from others, but the process is mostly the same.

Before heading off to stock up, we recommend a few tips:

  • Check your local refill shop’s website to see what they stock
  • Next, check your cupboards and write a list of what you need
  • Bring along some reusable jars, bulk food bags or containers to store your products in
  • Make sure you have enough reusable bags to pop your jars, bulk food bags and containers in.

What to do when you arrive at a refill store. 

When you walk into a refill store, you’ll see lots of large containers with dispensers holding different products in. This is where you fill your own jars/bulk food bags/containers. 

Before you begin your shop, you’ll need to know the weight of your jars/bulk food bags/containers you brought. This is so the weight can be deducted when checking out and paying. Depending on the store, a label will be printed out with the weight and a barcode on it to stick to your containers, or you make a note of it yourself. Our Reusable Food Bulk Bags already have the weight printed on them so if there’s no barcode label to scan prior to refilling, you’re good to go. 

Fill your jars/bulk food bags/containers with what you need using the facilities available. Most refill stores will have dispensers, funnels and scoopers to easily fill up.

Once you’ve finished your shop, head back over to the scales to weigh your items. In some shops, they’ll have a screen where you can select your items and scan the barcode you previously printed out. In others, you’ll make a note of the weight to bring to the cashier. 

Now everything is weighed, the cashier will cost everything up and all you have to do is pay!

Zero Waste Shopping Essentials

Here's everything you need to start and complete your zero waste shopping journey. The Kilner® Bulk Food Bags are specially designed for refill shops. They're compact and are perfect for filling, weighing and carrying dried foods like rice, pasta, lentils, cereals and oats. You may want to bring some jars along to refill any liquids or spices on your trip to the refill shop. Both the small and medium Bulk Food Bags hold the capacity of our 1 Litre and 2 Litre Clip Top Jars, so you can decant your Bulk Food Bag contents into your Kilner® Jars at home with ease. Our 0.5 Preserve Jar holds the same capacity as our Liquid Soap Dispenser, making it ideal to refill the right amount of hand wash at the store.