Cut down your plastic and reduce your costs

Celina Mendoza and Tania Trovatello of The Refill Pantry in St Albans.

Celina Mendoza and Tania Trovatello of The Refill Pantry in St Albans. - Credit: Archant

Are you horrified by the amount of single-use plastic that you bring home from the supermarket (or comes in via Ocado)? Did you watch the Blue Planet documentary that showed how our sealife is being killed by plastic? If you would like to reduce the amount of plastic that you buy (recycling is good, though reducing the amount we use is better), you should check out The Refill Pantry on London Road, up near The Peahen.

It is a brilliant idea for a shop; you take in your own containers to refill with dried foods, or use the paper or fabric bags that are supplied. You can buy as little or as much as you like, so it’s ideal for trying something new, or buying just a small amount which helps to cut down on food waste.

Neighbours Celina Mendoza and Tania Trovatello had the idea for the shop after visiting similar places, in particular, one in Totnes owned by former Manchester United player Richard Eckersley.

It’s a really stylish shop, with the food beautifully displayed around the walls including rice, nuts, cereals, pasta as well as herbs, oils and vinegars. It’s fun to turn the handles and get what you need; you then weigh it and pay at the counter. I thought the prices were very good and the quality is excellent – my cashews were crisp and far nicer than the last bag I bought in a supermarket, which went soft quickly. My chocolate buttons were divine and it felt nicely old-fashioned to have a little paper bagful to take home; the labelling is smart so I think would make a nice gift too.

I was really pleased to see so many local suppliers represented, including Dizzy Bee Granola, rapeseed oil from Sawbridgeworth, teas from Bishop’s Stortford, coffee from the Hertfordshire Coffee Lab in Hitchin and flour from Redbournbury Mill, along with many more. Tania showed me the large 25kg paper sacks many of the ingredients arrive in; they must save the equivalent of thousands of plastic food packets each year. I was amazed to see that some of the lentils are grown in Hertfordshire!

I really liked the baking corner which contained all sort of things from mixed peel to goji berries. It is ideal if you like to make your own muesli or want to try a new recipe without buying a whole bagful of something. I must go back and buy some nutritional yeast flakes, which I’ve never tried; apparently they sell well to veggies and vegans and you can sprinkle them over mac and cheese, pizza, pasta etc.

Tables around the shop sell well-priced eco-friendly products including water bottles, beeswax wraps, bamboo toothbrushes, fabric pads, bamboo cotton buds, deodorants, washing liquids, bath and beauty products.

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They don’t mind what containers or bags you bring in to use; Tania told me that one customer made fabric bags that she uses, but jam jars, old plastic wrappers, cereal boxes, kilner jars, oil bottles and anything else you can think of work just fine. The Refill Pantry was shortlisted for the Chamber of Commerce Community Business Awards in the category of Green Business 2018.

If you live or work in the city centre then shopping at The Refill Pantry is a no-brainer. Parking might be a little tricky if you want to buy a lot, although it isn’t far from the Maltings car park.

You can find The Refill Pantry at 26 London Road. It is open every day.