Using Reusable Cloth Shopping Bags

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 100 billion plastic shopping bags are used in the United States every year. The bags are not biodegradable, which causes the landfills to grow ever larger each year. Plus, it uses oil to produce the bags, which could be used for gas or heating.

Although I’m probably not considered very “green” (I do recycle, but I use paper towels, etc), I do use cloth grocery bags when I go to the store. My community recently added plastic shopping bags to their list of recyclables, but before they did, I wasn’t comfortable with the number of plastic bags that were ultimately thrown away at our house. I do like to keep some plastic bags for things such as holding dirty diapers, etc, but I didn’t need the multiple bags that I was collecting each shopping trip.

Over time, I purchased reusable shopping bags from my normal grocery store for $0.99 (obviously, Meijer, from the picture). I was able to pick one of them up for free from a deal at the store (Buy x, get a free bag). However, there are more frugal ways to get these bags. For example, Cost Plus World Market was giving away reusable tote bags at their store on 1/25. Or, you could make your own bags. Also, some divisions of Kroger offer incentives if you use your own bags (around $0.04 to $.05), so these incentives add up over time to reimburse you for the cost of purchasing the bag.

I originally was resistant to the idea of using these bags, because I didn’t think I’d remember to use them. However, I have a system in place to help me remember: as soon as I unload groceries, I stack up the bags and immediately put them back in my trunk. Then, when I get to the store, I just need to remember to pull them out of the trunk and bring them in.

Do you use cloth shopping bags? Do you have any frugal tips on acquiring them? How do you remember to use them? For more tips that work for others, visit Rocks in My Dryer.


  1. A JoyFilled Life says:

    YES!!! We use our tote and reusable grocery bags for all of our shopping and our trips to the library! I love it.

  2. Margot says:

    The Fred Meyer stores in Portand, Oregon sell the bags for 99 cents and every time you use it they deduct 5 cents off your bill. 20 trips it’s paid for and after that I’m gaining money. The hardest part for me was remembering to take them out of the car and into the store. New habits take a while.

  3. Fairion says:

    The system helped. We get the bags back in the car fairly reliably now. But they only manage to come into the store with us about 50% of the time. If the weather is nice and the child cooperative, I have been known to run back to the car to get the forgotten bags but not always.

  4. laneerg says:

    I’ve acquired tote bags and other cloth bags from various conventions and meetings I’ve gone to over the years, plus a few I got from special deals at various grocery stores. I think I’ve only actually bought one.

    I leave one with a couple tucked inside of it near my front door on my shopping day so that I have to stumble across them to leave. Once they’re in my car, then there is maybe a 50% chance of my actually remembering to take them in with me. πŸ™‚

  5. Mom2fur says:

    That’s my problem–remembering to take the darned things out of the back of the SUV. I seem to recall them halfway through the grocery store! But I’m getting better at it, LOL! And I do need some plastic bags for the litter box and ferret cage, so I use a mix of the two.

  6. Savings Cafe says:

    I love those reusable bags! Not only do I use them for groceries but they are great for when you need to take food to church or to a friends house. Its amazing how much they hold. I started using them when gas prices were so high. My thinking was, I was doing a small part to reduce oil use.

  7. Anonymous says:

    When I get in the car, I put my grocery list in with the bags. πŸ™‚

  8. Brooke says:

    i love my bags – especially being able to throw them over my shoulder and carrying in more at one time. πŸ™‚

  9. Miche says:

    This is great! I’ve been thinking about getting some, but I think I will try now to make my own. Great tip to keep them in your car!

  10. Anonymous says:

    I love having my own bags! They hold so much more. At first I purchased a couple bags for .99, then a few stores offered free ones, I also put them on my Christmas list and got 3 more. I probably have more then I’d need for a typical shopping trip but they do get used when I make multiple stops. Two of the grocery stores I shop at offer .05 refund for each bag used. As for how do I remember to take them, my husband hung a hook RIGHT next to the door going out to the garage(I now handg my purse there too). In the front seat with my purse they go.

  11. B Boys Mom says:

    I use the same Meijer’s bags. Love them. Did you know that if you take your own bags into Krogers they will give you 5 cents for every one of yours that is used. I take my Meijer’s bags to Krogers, Wal-Marts or where ever I’m shopping.

  12. We have gotten into using the "green" bags here also. I bought some from one of the stores in my hometown that is not in the town where I live. I have also written our last name on each bag on the side. In addition to shopping we've used them to pack for a weekend trip, carry swimsuits & towels when we go to a water park and carry picnic supplies when we go to a local park.

    I've forgotten them in the car a few times but recently read a tip somewhere about just taking your groceries out in the cart and packing at your car. I could see doing that in the spring, summer or fall but not Michigan winters.

  13. I bought some from save-a-lot for a dollar each! They are almost 2 feet square (most are only about 1 by 1 and 1/2) and they have a pocket on both sides (one pocket has Velcro) I have yet to use the pockets…but maybe some day?

    I love my bags! Love them. and to help me remember (cuz I never remember them in the trunk) I bought an over sized purse and shove two of them in there. Then everytime I see the teller go for a plastic bag I remember I have them and pull them out.

    Oh and the natural market I go to gives me .10 for each bag! Price Cutter gives .05. It’s fabulous being green…no matter what Kermit says!


  14. I love Walmarts reusable totes and they’re only 50 cents each! And they’re huge!

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