How’s this for high concept? A grocery store with no packaging. No bags, no boxes, no jars — just bulk bins and loose produce. That’s pretty much the shopping experience at in.gredients, a unique East Side grocery store. Some items, like meat, eggs and dairy, are sold in packaging — they have to be, due to health code — but it’s minimal, compostable and as low-impact as possible.
Although the minimalist experience may sound a little intimidating, it’s actually pretty great, as long as you come prepared. Bring your own bags and jars, and you’re good to go. (If you forget, the store has you covered with assorted re-usable containers for sale.) The idea is to minimize waste and provide for a healthier, less cluttered shopping experience.
“Michael Pollan basically says to shop the perimeters of the store and you can’t go wrong,” says in.gredients co-founder Joseph Lane, referring to the food-movement hero who has authored several books, including The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food Rules. “We basically just made really big perimeters.”
No packaging (or minimal packaging, where required) also means less waste, which is why the three Lane brothers, who co-founded the store in 2012, came up with the concept in the first place. In fact, in.gredients’ goal is zero waste — something Lane says they’ll always be working toward but likely never quite attaining.
“With our zero-waste goal, we measure what we send to landfill,” says Lane. “Right now, it’s five pounds a month at the highest, usually one to five pounds.”
The store focuses on “pre-cycling” (eliminating waste in the first place), composting and recycling, where waste is unavoidable. They partner with Break it Down Austin to recycle items that city recycling can’t handle, and partner with vendors like Third Coast Coffee to ensure that stock is delivered in containers that can be returned empty and used again and again.
What’s more, the lack of packaging, Lane points out, also means a lack of gimmicky marketing to kids.
“We have very little branding in our store,” says Lane. “There are no shiny boxes and nothing with cartoons on it.” That’s something a lot of parents can get behind.
Even better, though, is the fact that this little store offers beer and wine on tap, with a comfy outdoor area where parents can sip a pint and watch their little ones play on a small playground in the fenced-in yard.
“We have a lot of folks bring their kids,” says Lane, who points out that there was “nothing that hinted at being kid-friendly” on Manor Road before in.gredients moved in. “You can get a beer or wine and have a good time outside while the kids play.”
On tap are several local craft beers, as well as wines from Perdenales Cellars, who worked with in.gredients to develop a bottle-free system for delivering their wines that they now also use in their tasting rooms.
The yard is a little oasis, including a garden (part of the Urban Patchwork project), picnic tables and park benches, as well as the playscape for kids to enjoy. It’s definitely a pleasant departure from your run-of-the-mill grocery store experience!
To demonstrate that you can easily create a delicious and healthy meal off of in.gredients shelves, they’ve gamely agreed to provide us with this delicious recipe for quinoa-stuffed zucchini. If you don’t already have zucchini coming out of your ears from backyard plants, a CSA share or generous neighbors, you can pick it up at in.gredients, along with all the other elements of this meal. You can also check out their daily recipe blog for more fresh, seasonal inspiration.
Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini Boats
Recipe courtesy of in.gredients, originally from Low Fat Vegan Chef
1/2 cup quinoa1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper
4 medium zucchini, washed
1 medium sweet onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium carrot, diced
1/2 leek, diced
1 handful of greens (arugula, beet greens, etc.)
1/2- 1 cup vegetable broth
2 1/2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 Tbsp dried cherries
1/4 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper
Soak the quinoa in a bowl of cool water for 15 minutes. Fill a large 6 quart/litre pot with water and bring to a boil. While waiting for pot to boil, drain quinoa, add vegetable broth 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, thyme and salt and pepper to a small pot. Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce heat and cook for 25 minutes. Remove from heat, fluff and set aside.
Preheat oven to 375 F / 191 C and add zucchinis whole to the large pot of water and boil for 15 minutes until tender. Set aside on racks to cool. Slice zucchinis in half and scoop out the middle seeds, leaving enough flesh to hold the zucchini together. Chop the flesh and set aside. (You can use or discard the seeds if you wish. I discard most of them in favor of the other diced vegetables I’m using.)
Meanwhile in a large skillet or wok add 1/2 cup vegetable broth and heat over medium high heat. When hot, add onions carrots and thyme. Sauté for 2 or 3 minutes and then add the leek, some of the zucchini pulp, balsamic vinegar and garlic. Continue cooking until tender. Add more broth if needed to prevent sticking. Toss in toasted pine nuts, cherries, and quinoa and season with salt and pepper as desired.
If desired sprinkle some balsamic vinegar and/or salt lightly on the inside of the zucchini boats. Stuff the zucchini with filling mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes until tender.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.livemom.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/lauren.jpg[/author_image] [author_info] Lauren Walz is a freelance writer and editor and mama to a two-year-old girl. While she’s quick to brag about being a fifth-generation Texan, Lauren moved to Northern California in 2004 after graduating from UT Law and lived in the Silicon Valley area until last spring, when she and her family were drawn back to Austin. Lauren is busy getting re-acquainted with her old stomping grounds and is astonished by how the food and wine scene has changed in Austin in the past 8 years. Lauren also blogs about cooking and parenthood on gourmetveggiemama.com.[/author_info] [/author]