Tare, No Scare

If you’re an introvert like me and new to buying your foods package free, grocery shopping can seem intimidating.

I used to be so self-conscious walking up to the doors of the store. My numerous glass jars in my reusable grocery bags would clink around in my bag and it sounded like a glass jar stampede coming to take down the whole building and leave no survivors.

Getting the tare of your jar prior to filling it up at the store can cause anxiety. What might be even more intimidating is then checking out with your own jars and containers. So, I’ve compiled all the steps you’ll need to know to make buying in bulk as easy as possible!

You’ll first want to find a store that sells items in bulk. I’m privileged that the majority of grocery stores in Portland do, but I remember Texas was severely lacking. Luckily, there is both a website and app that will locate the nearest bulk store for you. You can even look for specific items, like olives, pasta, cleaning products, beauty products, etc.

  • Check to see if the store already has a weight in the bulk section for you to tare your own containers. No need to put added social anxiety on yourself!
  • If your store doesn’t have a scale accessible to customers, you’ll have to stand in a check out line and ask the cashier to take the tare of your empty jar with the lid on (if it has a lid).
    • In two years of doing this on a nearly weekly basis, I’ve never encountered a cashier who was unwilling.
    • Doing this every time you shop is helpful, in order to avoid cashiers disputing the weight of your jar when you check out (again, that’s never happened to me in my years of doing this, but you never know!)
    • They’ll put it on their checkout scanner which should have a built in scale, they will tell you the tare, and in some cases, write it on your jar themselves.
    • IMPORTANT– if they do try to write it for you, ask them not to use tape.
    • You can either keep the tare of your item in your phone, or you can write it on your container.
    • A low waste option as a writing utensil is Sharpie China Markers. They’ll write more easily on your lid than a pen or pencil, and unlike permanent markers, they aren’t permanent. Their marks will come off with some hot water when you’re ready to wash it off. (Note: all the bulk stores I’ve been to in Portland already have these china markers available for use to customers at no cost. I’ve had no need to buy one myself, as my stores already have them.)


  • Only AFTER you know the tare (weight) of your container will you fill it up. After you fill it up, mark what the PLU (price lookup code) is on your jar or bag, or type the number somewhere on your phone. This will tell your cashier what item is in your container and how much it costs per pound.
    • How to do that with liquid goods:

  • How to do that with dry goods:

  • Once you have your tare and PLU written and your jar is filled, it’s time to check out!
    • Checking out with items in bulk is no different than regular grocery shopping, because if you’re at a store with items in bulk, most likely the cashiers are used to doing this multiple times on a regular basis! So take a deep breath and trust your cashier. They’ll subtract the weight of your container from the weight of the whole thing, and charge you for that.

Pretty simple, right? I know it’s intimidating at first, but once you do it, you’ll be a pro in no time! Thanks to Lauren from Trash is for Tossers for her super helpful videos, as always. Have any questions or comments about buying groceries in bulk? Comment below or shoot me an e-mail at ditchtrash@gmail.com Tare on, my friends! Tare on!

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