What do you do with all your reusable shopping bags?

Updated Sep 22 2017
meggyfin
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"Green is the new black" reusable grocery bags

I love my reusable shopping bags, and I even have some from travels around the world.

But! What do I do with this mass of bags?

I've pared them down to the minimum we need and use the most, but I can't stand the mess of them stuffed in the cabinet (as they, unfortunately, currently, are).

Any cool ideas for organizing re-usable shopping bags? Have you figured out a way to keep them neat? -Kristin

Yeesh. I wish I had the answer for this. Currently these are the places my reusable bags are being stored:

  • Shoved in the broom closet
  • A reusable bag full of other reusable bags
  • In the trunk of my car
  • Hanging by my front door
  • Under the side table by my front door
  • Never with me when I need them

That is why I'm turning this question over to you, my darling Homies. How are you keeping your piles of reusable bags organized and under control?

  1. I just have one reusable bag (the prettiest one) hanging on a peg that holds all of the other bags. The ones I actually take shopping with me are those ones that fold down into a little rectangle and secure with a snap. I keep those in the door pocket of my car.

    • That's what we do with ours too! Whenever it's time to use them for actual shopping, I just grab the big bag off the peg and toss it in the car. We have a hook rail hanging next to our front door that has the leash, coats, cardigans, my purse and two bags -one with our shopping bags, one with plastic bags for dog poops (we have our grocery store stick a few items in plastic bags to make sure we never run out). Best running-out-the-door system ever!

    • This is exactly how we do it too- only we use our biggest bag (an insulated one for cold items) and it's hanging in our kitchen. For a long while I was putting them back into my car (we were a one car household for a few years so this seemed to work very well) but I fell out of the habit.

    • Hah, me too.

      I have most inside the largest (and my favourite), and that is hung on a hook in the kitchen. It doubles as decor, and reminds me to take the bag with me when I go out.

    • Ditto on bags in the trunk. We have to drive to get groceries where I live, so it makes the most sense to keep them in the trunk. (Maybe other people can handle 5 miles on a bike with groceries, but I am not one of those people!)

      If some get dirty or carried husband's meat stuffs, they go in the laundry, so we never need a special place for them. When they are clean I put them directly in the trunk, although the back seat ensures I don't forget them.

  2. I usually just flatten/fold the bags and then store them in the same place as plastic bags – typically under the kitchen sink.
    I have quite a collection of reusable bags: some I made from old t-shirts, some meant for carrying 6-packs of wine or beer, the rest regular canvas grocery totes. I use my collection whenever I move (which is a lot) otherwise I would probably pare down the number of bags I have.

  3. I have one that snaps (which needs to be fixed) that lives in my backpack. I'm a student and I don't carry a purse so my backpack is usually with me. The rest live in an old backpack in my car with my coupon books and pen for crossing off grocery lists. Sometimes the old backpack will live in a closet in the house because anytime my husband and I go shopping together we use his new car, not my falling apart, ancient one and I tend to forget that the bag o' bags is in my car.

      • I do love my apps, but I've always been a pen and paper lists person. There's satisfaction in crumpling up the finished to-do list and tossing it in the recycling bag… I try to avoid throwing my phone!

  4. I've gotten rid of most of the flimsy reusable bags I had from grocery stores, they just sort of flutter around everywhere. It's annoying. And evil. So for the remaining cloth bags I put them in one another (ooh, baby) and hang them on a door (this shit is getting kinky) for easy access ( ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

  5. I usually leave my bags in the trunk. That way, I won't forget them for next time. =)

    Also, I re-use them whenever I travel. They make great bathroom toiletry bags.

  6. Some are hanging on an over-the-door hook on the closet door near the front door, the insulated one is hanging next to the fridge (which has the white board with the ongoing grocery list), and a few in the backseat of the car.

  7. We got a bag hutch! It's actually an end table with a full-depth cabinet and drawer (Unfortunately I can't find the same one at Pier One anymore). Bags get folded and stacked in the cabinet, the drawer holds pens, scissors, nail clippers, and other random junk that we need and can never find, and the top surface holds our dog walking supplies. It's on the path out the door so that as we're walking out, we think, "Oh, let's bring a bag. Get one from The Bag Hutch!"

    • Ah ha! I might have a thing for a bag hutch! I picked up this counter-height shelf thingy with a tilt out bin, maybe intended to hold a trash bag? There's a built in cutting board on top, so I think it's a kitchen thing….Anyway, it was $3 so I grabbed it. I felt like maybe it would be a good mud room thing, with hats and mittens in the tilt out bin, and other stuff in baskets on the shelves…..But NOW I think maybe this will be a bag hutch.

  8. I pared way down – when we had too many there was no way to keep them looking neat and contained that worked for me. I ended up using a lot of the 'extras' when i donated a bunch of stuff to Goodwill.

    I figure the most we will ever use in one shopping trip is 4. So we have the best 4. I have one nice plain black one that sits on the bottom shelf of our bakers rack, near the door, and the others just stay in there. I also keep any plastic bags we end up with in there as we use them for cat litter.

    • My "oops I forgot my reusable bag" plastic bags get used for kitty litter too. Double bagged, because I will not have that shit (literally) on my carpet.

  9. I fold them and put them in the largest bag, and hang that on the back door. Since that's closest to where the car is parked, I can grab one or two on my way out. I've only accumulated mine through gifts and "Oh you can keep it" so I don't think I have an excess. I have about 5 total.

  10. I keep a bag of bags in the backseat of my car. When they're in my trunk, I forget about them. When they're in the back seat I am much more likely to remember to grab a few *before* I go into the store.

    Now the question is what to do with storing all the plastic grocery bags. My mother in law heard about our city's bag ban and now every time we visit she gives us allllllll the plastic grocery bags she's saved up since our last visit. She's so happy to do this for us, and they are handy for cleaning out litterboxes – but the cat doesn't poop *that* much.

    As an aside: Where do you people find pretty reusable bags? The choices at the grocery store are plastic covered, that nasty feeling material (like nails on a chalkboard), or awesome but tiny tyvek bags.

      • Shop in LA? The bag ban doesn't start until the first. (I worked at the now-closed Trader Joe's in WeHo and transitioned customers through the bag ban.)
        I saw a man at my local grocery (I live in LA) do the following:
        Take every single one of his items that was in a full grocery cart
        Put them each in a produce bag
        The cashier then double plastic bagged all of his stuff. It was an unbelievable amount of plastic.

        Anyway, I'm gearing up for the bag ban in LA. One thing I tell my customers is to get a few of those bags that fold up to nothing and keep them in their purse or backpack. But you have to buy a good quality one. I got one from a museum store that was flimsy, and the handles shredded after three uses. Get a good, sturdy one with thick seams.

        And folks, for the love of everything, wash your bags. I can not tell you how many bags people hand me that are smelly, moldy, filled with receipts and stained with god knows what. Bags are a haven for germs, and bacteria. People stuff them full of food, leaky chicken, etc, and put them in the trunk and then never ever clean them and they get foul.

        Last, it's a really good idea to pack your own bags at the checkstand if they'll let you. Not only does it get the line moving faster, it makes it so you know what can fit in a bag, and gives you an idea of how many you actually need. Post-ban in West Hollywood, I would get people with big carts and two bags. They'd say "Put it all in the two bags." It's not possible.

        For reference, it's: Heavy stuff on the bottom, large boxes, cans, bottles etc. Then small things to fill in the space and large or fragile items on top. So many folks grab their bags and start to fill them by putting the chips in first. That leaves no room in the bag for pretty much anything else, plus it crushes the shit out of your chips.

        This turned out longer than I thought. Sorry about that!

        • Unrelated: *SOB* My life has not been the same since that TJs closed. My heart breaks every time I drive by that big 'ol empty parking lot. I haven't been to a TJs since, my loss has been too profound.

          • Come to third and Fairfax. That's where I am and I'd be stoked to meet you! And we still have plastic bags, at least for a little while. I'll be happy to give you all the ones you need.

          • Oh no! The nightmare parking TJs! I think that's gonna have to be my new go-to. I come by for my plastic hook-up. ๐Ÿ˜‰

        • I appreciate a well-packed grocery bag so much. (Not even a glimmer of sarcasm in that statement. Or that one.)

          And from now on I'm only getting reusable bags that you can wash with hot water. The weird plastic ones you can wipe out with antibacterial spray, but it's a pain. And other ones have washing directions like "hand wash in cool water and line dry." And I've destroyed a couple by washing them in hot water! I need to kill the germzzzzzzzzzzzz. So I was contemplating using that stack of old t-shirts to make some sturdy washable bags, but if only there were a tutorial ANYWHERE on the internet for that…

      • Megan: I'd be glad to send you some of my spare plastic bag supply. There's a plastic bag ban in Seattle (where we just moved), but I still have way more that I'll ever use (because my parents sent me a whole bunch of them as padding for packages full of wedding presents that they had to ship to us from our wedding on the other side of the country from where we live.)

        Seriously, I'd be glad to send you some.

        • You can also recycle extra plastic bags (the grocery kind, not produce kind or cling wrap) at most grocery stores (at least in Oregon, Washington, & California).

          • Yep, I know. I can actually put plastic bags in the regular recycling here, as long as I put bags inside each other and don't toss individual bags into the recycling bin. When I lived in California I brought them to the grocery store to recycle.

      • We use the produce bags for cat litter. Sometimes it takes two but still works. We also have reusable produce bags but buy so much produce that it evens out.

    • Container Store has a really great variety of reusable bags. I keep accumulating mine by accident but if they all disappeared that's where I'd buy new ones.

    • I have a weakness for cute reusable bags, even though I don't really need any more. My reusable bags are mostly from the Disney store or from comic conventions (amazing source of giant free bags!). I also have some reusable bags that I got at Forever 21 for $1 around Christmas-time that are pretty cute.

      Very minor downside to the cute nerdy bags: I try to remember not to use my Lion King bag on the same day I wear my Simba t-shirt, or carry a Tokidoki bag while wearing a Tokidoki sweatshirt, for fear of looking too matchy-matchy. ๐Ÿ˜›

  11. I have taken to rolling cloth bags as it makes them easier to stash in a box, or your bag.

    1. Fold the body of the bag in half so that the handle straps are together.
    2. Then fold the body of the bag in half again from the bottom to the top.
    3. Roll the bag from the last fold to the straps.
    4. Wrap the straps around your bag like a scroll.
    5. Tuck the ends under the wrapped straps – there should be enough friction to keep it rolled.

    Boom – Easy to store bags. The only problem is you can't tell which bag is which!

    I can do a "how to" video if I haven't explained that very well.

    • That's exactly how I wrap mine up. They're in a pile on top of the wine rack (ahh tiny condo with minimal storage) and we keep several in our cars as well. We have a TON of plastic ones from before the ban, so those are used for kitty litter. Most of them are Disneyland printed, actually…

  12. Kind of like everyone else they are either stuffed under the sink or in the trunk of my car. I feel like I never have them when I need them though.
    When my husband and I moved this last time I actually used them for padding when packing fragile items. It worked really well!

  13. We keep two in the trunk of the car (in case of last-minute, I-wasn't-planning-on-stopping-but-dammit-we-need-ice-cream-and-bananas-and… shopping).
    The rest (and oh, boy, do we have a lot) are folded mostly-neatly and filed upright in a couple four-sort dividers (http://www.containerstore.com/shop/?productId=10000707) in a cabinet. That way we can grab what we need when we're heading out on a planned grocery run.

  14. Not much to add, but yeah, I keep mine in the largest (and sturdiest) bag, and then they go on the top shelf of a little shelving unit with doors that sits right by the front door. It also holds the big bag of laundry stuff for going to the laundromat, and the cookbooks that I never ever open… ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. We exit the house thru the laundry room, so we installed two huge industrial hooks, stacked so that the bags hang above each other (admittedly, I can't reach the top ones, but that's what my hubbi is for :). We do sort thru the bags a few times a year as ones fall apart. Plus we have some emergency Chico bags (the kind that stuff into a little ball) in the car & I have one in my purse, in case of random store trips. We're never without a bag!

  16. We have a stack of plastic boxes for recycling (they came from ikea) and all the reusable bags go in the bottom box.
    When we go shopping we grab the reusable bags and the 5c deposit bottles to return

  17. I mean this as no disrespect to Americans and your flag folding method, but I fold my bags the same way it is recommended to fold the American flag (and this method of bag storage was recommended in Girl Guides, so don't blame me entirely!). It makes them in to neat little triangles that are easier to store and carry. I find it works for both the plasticy kind and the cloth kind. For an example see: http://www.wikihow.com/Fold-an-American-Flag

    • I do that too after seeing it on Pinterest. Literally changed my life….not more overflow of plastic bags read to burst out of drawers or cupboards. Fold them up tiny and neat, and they can be lined up tidily in a drawer, tucked into a pocket (for dog walks), or slipped into your purse.

  18. You could try one of those little mounted holders for the normal plastic bags, and then fold them all up and put them in that. Here's a link to the ikea one I have, for reference: http://www.ikea.com/au/en/catalog/products/10136512/
    We keep ours mounted inside a cabinet by our sink. You can grab them out the top or the long opening in the front.
    I live in a city where mostly we walk to get groceries, so I also keep one of the little ones that fold up into a tiny pouch in my purse most days, in case I decide to buy groceries (or anything) on the way home from work.

  19. I see plenty of people commenting about leaving them in the car, but I don't use a car. So I generally have an extra in my purse at all times, and when I'm biking I try to take an empty pannier no matter what, even if I'm not planning to do a shop.

  20. My housemates keep all their usable bags folded flat and stuck like files into one of the larger reusable bags in a corner of the kitchen (They are the slightly rigid variety of bag sold by many grocery stores. This probably wouldn't work with softer bags). This is also how we store paper bags for re-use as trash bags.

  21. When you do have extras to get rid of, ask your local homeless shelter or food shelf if they'll accept a donation. I can tell you that my clients at both really appreciate them!

  22. when I travel and go to a grocery store I buy a reusable bag for myself and my mom (cheap souvenir! haha) but then when I fly home I put my purse and extras in the shopping bag so I can have a huge carry on with all my travel goodies.

    • This is how I got my bags from Poland, Ukraine, Uganda, and Germany. They're my favorite bags and some of the best souvenirs from those places!

  23. I keep all of ours flat, stacked upright, and in one large laundry basket on the top shelf of our coat closet. On the way out the door, and out of sight during normal use. It's a *BASKETS* moment!

  24. Just get a slightly bigger bag, stuff the other bags in it and slap up a command hook by your front door or in your kitchen. I actually have two bags on two hooks: one for smaller tote bags and lunch bags, and one for grocery bags. Then take the whole tote bag o bags with you when you go grocery shopping. Restuff them into the bag as you unpack your groceries. And voila! You're done.

  25. We keep half of ours in a tall basket next to the door with our umbrellas and the other half are in my car! The hubs never remembers to use them, so he just has one in his car. ๐Ÿ˜›

  26. I work at a Montessori school with ages 3 to 6. I have seen parents use them as wet bags for soiled clothes and to carry napping supplies!

  27. We have the bag-o-bags in our kitchen, and a bag-o-bags in each car, but we still seem to never have them when we need them…so I started sneakily using resuable bags to carry routine items that might normally not have their own bag, but without which we can't ever leave the house. Basically, we picked something from my purse or my husband's pockets that everyone in the family uses or needs, and now that bag is always someone's responsibility. We have a reusable shopping bag with a single tube of sunscreen, water, and a bottle of bugspray during summer, and a chapstick, extra gloves, and thick socks during the winter…so there is always at least one reusable grocery bag around because we can easily shuffle the extra stuff to make room for new purchases.

  28. We also have WAY TOO MANY reusable bags, but I hit on a good idea for using the spares: organizing the closet! We put our winter clothes, spare yarn, etc. in reusable bags and then put them on the shelves in the closet. That really helped to organize the closet and prevent our kitties from knocking down all the things when they climb around on the shelves.

    For organizing our other bags, we just put them in one large reusable bag. I find them handy to cushion fragile things when moving, so we keep some in our basement storage space. The ones that are used regularly are scattered all over our car trunk at the moment.

  29. I hang my prettiest ones on coat hangers and use them all over the house to store things. I have one in my closet which houses all my socks. I have a hanging rail in my sewing room and I have clothes hangers with reusable bags hanging off them to store all my different colours of scrap material. Super easy to access and means the prettiest reusable bags get a more glamorous life than being stuck inside another bag! X

  30. Similar to others in the post, I have one of the larger ones on top of the refrigerator, filled with all the others. In our last home we had them all folded and shoved on a smallish shelf.

  31. I have 5 reusable bags and when I come home from the store and unload my stuff, I put them all inside one of the bags and hang that bag on a hook. THEN, the next time out the door I take my bag of bags and put them in my car. That way, they are there waiting to be used. Since I live 45 minutes from the nearest grocery store I also keep a cooler in the trunk to put cold groceries in, in the summer. Meat, cheese, milk, ice cream, frozen veggies etc. I put the bags in the cooler.

  32. We found a second-hand wicker hamper at our local Goodwill to store our reusable bags in. It lives in the foyer of our condo. Every so often I stash some in our car (for use when we go on our major shopping trips)… usually these are those super-durable, shiny ones you can get from Trader Joes. The fabric ones usually live in the hamper so they're accessible when we want to hoof it to to one of the stores within walking distance.

  33. Instead of sticking my bags on a hook, I clip them to one of these (recommended by Offbeat Home!):
    http://offbeathome.com/2012/05/make-grocery-shopping-easier

    At the moment they're clipped to a rod in the closet. The brand of grocery shopping bag holder that I have isn't the sturdiest, so I would be careful clipping it to things because the bags can fall off. But it's great for when I want to clip them someplace handy so I'll remember them, and then I always remember the bag holder too!

  34. They all live inside one bag, which lives inside the thermal bag; it means that the thermal bag can easily be used for cold foods, but without wasting the space inside during storage. All of that lives in my car. But since my car is 2 floors down and out back now, there's a hook on the bottom of the coat rack they live on between emptying groceries and the next time we go back downstairs (or, more likely, the next time Hallway cleaning comes around on the To Do list).

    If we forget to take them inside the store: We put everything unbagged back into the cart, and bag them at the car. If they didn't make it into the car, sometimes we get paper bags and sometimes we just put everything in the trunk, run inside & grab the bags to carry everything inside with. That last happened exactly ONCE and my partner (whose job it is to deal with carrying in the groceries) decided it was Never Happening AGAIN and made sure the bags get back to the car on time ;).

  35. I have the ones I use regularly on hooks in the kitchen. Then I've got a bag of bags shoved in a closet somewhere. The reason I haven't gotten rid of them in a housecleaning purge is because I use them every time we move. This won't work the greatest for long-distance moves, but for in-town moves it allows you to use fewer boxes.

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