In honor of AB 1998 (see my post on it here) and to help readers learn to BYOB (bring your own bag), I put together a mini list of my favorite cheap or free reusable bags.
Reisenthel ultra-compact bags are my absolute favorite. They are strong and deep and good for general shopping and schlepping, as well as groceries. These nylon bags come in their own stuff sack, which makes them neat and small enough to stow in a purse or coat pocket. Reisenthel also makes the bags in a variety of colors and designs; see more here.
Good ol’ canvas totes. Trader Joe’s used to sell these sturdy cotton canvas totes for less than $10. My neighborhood TJ’s doesn’t carry them anymore, but yours might. It’s amazing how many groceries can fit into these deep, flat-bottom totes. Cotton canvas totes work great for groceries, especially for carrying heavy items.
Any free bag you can get. I’ve gotten many free reusable bags (the cotton-like type made of recycled plastic bottles) while shopping for consumer goods like shoes and clothes. I even got a Reisenthel-like nylon bag with built-in stuff sack from my bank, Keypoint Credit Union. And I bet you, like me and my family, friends, and neighbors, have a stockpile of plastic and paper grocery bags from years of shopping stuffed into various corners or under-sink-cupboards of your kitchen. AB 1998 doesn’t charge you for bringing your own plastic or paper bag to the store.
Like any change in behavior, getting used to bringing your own bag does take a bit of practice and effort. You can start by leaving a reusable bag by your front/back door or with your method of transportation (bike/car) as a reminder. Keeping spare bags in the car helps, although you still have to remember to take the bags into the store. I’ve found that, at least to start out with, the best bags are ones that you can keep with you most of the time in a purse or pocket. These bags accomodate spur-of-the-moment shopping by always being handy and accessible. Once you get in the habit of shopping with a reusable bag, it becomes easier to remember to take them with you from home.
If you try to use reusable bags and find you just can’t remember to take the reusable bags with you when you shop, keep trying. If you run to the store for a carton of milk or case of beer and find yourself bagless, remember: you don’t need a bag for one or two items. Try going bagless with an armful of groceries; you’ll be amazed at how quickly that experience trains you to bring your own bag next time. The important thing is to stick with it, and after a while it will become as automatic as expecting a bag at the grocery in the first place.