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Reusable Shopping Bags – Save the Earth and Your Wallet

by Ryan Guina

Ever wonder why so many cities and countries are banning plastic bags? All you need to do is look at these images of plastic bags polluting our earth to understand what a problem they are.

My wife and I recycle the plastic bags we get from the grocery store and other places, but the plastic bags are still a problem.

Last weekend I took my first small step in eliminating plastic bags from my life – I purchased reusable shopping bags for my wife and I from our local grocery store. I bought 10 in all, 5 for each of our cars, which should cover us for most shopping trips (The bags hold 2-3 times as much as regular plastic grocery bags).

Benefits of reusable bags

kroger-bagsI wish I would have bought these bags a long time ago – they are great! The reusable bags I bought at Kroger (pictured here) are made of a heavy duty, light weight material and are able to hold 2-3 plastic bags worth of groceries. That means I have fewer bags to carry and I don’t have to worry about the milk or other heavy items breaking through the thin plastic.

Another benefit is that the bags have a hard insert in the bottom of the bag that makes them more stable and allows them to stand upright in the trunk of my car. No more sliding around and chasing after groceries when I get home!

The cost is minimal. There are two types at our grocery store – an insulated bag with a zipper top ($3) and a normal bag ($1). Kroger, and many other stores, also give you a $0.03 discount for bringing your own bags because it saves them the cost of providing bags. I’m sure it will take me a long time to recoup the cost of the bags, but I’m not concerned about that. The bags are better for the environment and more functional than plastic bags, and that is enough for me. Now the only thing I need to remember is to bring them into the store with me!

Disposable is the wrong way to think

The older I get, the more I realize that our resources, both on a personal and collective level, are limited. That is why I try to conserve as much as possible – conservation and frugality often go hand in hand. Along with reducing the number of plastic bags I use, I have virtually eliminated using plastic water bottles. A few months ago my wife and I purchased two stainless steel Kleen Kanteen water bottles. Not only do we not take in the harmful chemicals from the plastic water bottles, but we save money and the environment. What can be better than that? :)

Photo credit: Personal finance tips.


Published or updated December 29, 2011.
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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Writer's Coin

My wife and I bought ours at Jewel about six months ago and they’re fantastic. Forget about the fact that we’re helping the environment, we’ve just gotten hooked on using them and making them a part of our grocery routine.

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2 Ryan

I love them too. I don’t think I’ll go back to using plastic for everyday shopping. :)

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3 Christina

I’ve also discovered that reusable bags make sneaking Christmas and birthday gifts into the house MUCH easier! :-)

And the insulated bags are good for keeping food warm too (like take-out).

Great post!

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4 Ryan

I didn’t think about sneaking in gifts. Great tips, Christina!

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5 Kristen

I bought a bunch of reusable bags at our grocery store. They are great. They hold a lot more than a regular plastic bag. They are easier to carry. And, I got extra use out of them at Christmas too. It was great to load them up with presents and food as we traveled from house to house to visit all of the family.

I still get some plastic bags because I use them for the kitty litter clean up. :(

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6 Ryan

I still have a bunch of plastic bags that I use for garbage can liners in the bathrooms. I have enough to last me the rest of the year and then some!

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7 Steve

Those pictures are just plain sad. Even though I never throw away my plastic bags, I use them for trash liners or I return them to the store in the recycling bin. I will look into using re-useable bags from now on.

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8 Craig

It’s definitely a good cause to have your own shopping bags, but most people don’t want the hassle. You have to remember them, they may get dirty or sticky somehow, and what if you don’t have enough? I actually save a lot of my plastic bags to use around my apt, so I try to find useful ways for them. But it is a good cause for people who have their own bags.

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9 Ryan

If they’re dirty you wash them and if you don’t have enough you get a few plastic bags. You can always find a use for a few bags – but you probably can’t use them all! :-)

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10 Craig

It’s very easy to wash the bags, but at the same time always takes me more time than it should before I even wash my kitchen towels, haha.

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11 Curious Cat Investing Blog

I also find the bags great. I got them for environmental reason and didn’t really think about the other benefits. But the end of the good rolling all over the floor of the car I didn’t even think of but it is so true. Also carrying them is much more convenient, as mentioned above. And you are lessing the pollution – all good.

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12 Eponine

I’ve been using reusable bags for several months. I got them at Pier 1 for $2.99 each, and they’re absolutely huge. The best thing about them is that they don’t dig into your hands like the plastic ones do. I don’t find it to be a hassle at all to take them to the store. Once in a while I forget them or I make an unexpected stop, but I can always use a few plastic bags at home.

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13 Kristy @ Master Your Card

Ok, so here’s a question for you guys. The only reason that I haven’t switched to the reusable bags is because I have three cats and I use the plastic bags to scoop the box. It’s not very environmentally friendly, I realize, but that’s all I’ve got. Anyone have some environmentally-conscious cat scooping tips that would allow me to get rid of the plastic and move to the reusable bags?

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14 Ryan

Kristy, I’m sorry, I don’t have any tips – my wife is allergic to cats, so we don’t have one. You can consider using reusable shopping bags for most of your needs and only getting plastic bags when you absolutely need them.

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15 Kristen

@Kristy, some kitty litter brands make flushable litter. Arm & Hammer made a great one that I loved, but they discontinued it. There is a product called Swheat Scoop that is all natural and wheat-based. These litters won’t clog your toilets or harm septic systems.

I used Swheat Scoop for awhile, but at that time we had to keep the litter box in our bathroom, and the moisture from the shower made it smell. Yuck. In our new house we finally have a useable basement where the litter box is, so I’ve been thinking about switching back. It’s much easier to keep the litter box clean with the flushable.

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16 Ryan

Good tip, Michael! We only have the regular sized bags, but that is certainly something to keep in mind. :)

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17 Michael @ The Life Insurance Insider

My wife and I are addicted to the reusable bags as well.

My tip. Only use the normal sized bags and leave the oversized bags at home. We have a couple of larger ones we got as give aways and we don’t take those anymore. For some reason the sackers at the two stores we frequent will inevitably place all of the largest and heaviest items in the larger bags. Why they think my wife wants to or is even capable of carrying a bag with 2 gallons of milk, 2 2-liters of soda, and 2 2-half gallons of orange juice into the house is beyond me.

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18 Tom

Actually, even our liquor store provides reusable bags now, which is rather convenient.
They are definitely the way to go.
A friend of mine also uses boxes, if he happens to buy alot of food on any given trip.

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19 Imani

Use them and love them! To keep from forgetting to take them (I walk to the stores), I hang them on my door knob and keep some others under my house keys.

Stop and Shop gives a 5 cent discount for each bag shoppers bring. It isn’t much but every little bit helps!

Not to mention Mother Earth breathes a sigh of relief.

Imani

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20 Gates VP

Hey @Ryan;

Welcome to “the movement”. I’ve been using cloth bags from Safeway for 3 or 4 years now. It’s really good to see others jump on the train. For those wondering, I still get plastic bags, I just get a lot less.

It would be great to “go bagless” and not need plastic bags at all, but the infrastructure just isn’t there yet.

And I’m not really a “green freak”. I’m actually a walker (28, never owned a car). As a walker the cloth bags are tremendously useful. They’re square and strong and large, so they hang at your sides comfortably. With plastic bags, I’d always end up with layers of bags puffing out at the sides. But the square bags tend to pack much nicer.

My only caveat is that not every bagger really knows how to bag with cloth. If your supermarket has brown paper bags, they may have some experience. But I’ve often had to give a pointer or two (“it’s square”, “don’t be afraid to load it up”) and sometimes I’ve just re-packed the bags all together.

Plus the bonus on having these bags around is that they suddenly just become “randomly” useful. In fact, I really like the idea of keeping them in your trunk.

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21 Ryan

Gates VP, You’re right – the random use factor has already kicked in a few times. I’ve already taken them into other stores and used them to transport things to and from work. It’s nice having bags around. I wish I would have done it years ago!

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22 Peter C. Choma

I find that there is way to much packaging on all kind of items that is totally unnecessary, like plastic clam shells for tomatoes, grapes, strawberries plastic wrapped lettuce. etc.

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