Make me actually use my reusable bags!
June 1, 2011 4:38 PM   Subscribe

Now that you've gone all earth-friendly and eco-conscious and bring your own reusable canvas or recycled plastic tote bags to the grocery store, how do you remember to actually use them?

I can't tell you how many times I'd walk into the grocery store, slap my forehead, and remember that my reusable tote bags are waiting for me at home. So then I started leaving them on the front passenger seat of my car, but that looks messy and might invite someone to break into my car thinking I've got goodies in the bags.

So how and where do you keep the bags neatly at your disposal in your car so that you don't forget to use them? The ones I have are made of canvas and a thicker recycled plastic, so they're not the kind that ball up into tiny little things you can stick in your purse.

And as an aside, I'd love to be able to put a bit of support in the bottom of some of the canvas bags. Anybody have any ideas of what I can do to provide a bit more support to them? I tried using cardboard cut to size, but they weren't strong enough.
posted by HeyAllie to Grab Bag (33 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I leave them in the car. I have a couple hundred (okay, maybe 6) and every time I get back from the store, I unload, and then put the dang bag in or near my purse or hang it from the doorknob. And if I forget, I get over the trauma.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:43 PM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hang them on the doorknob after unloading groceries, so that I remember to take them back to the car the next time I leave. I stuff as many bags into one bag as possible, so that if someone sees them, they can tell that the only thing the bag contains is... more bags.
posted by scody at 4:47 PM on June 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seconding ideefixe and scody — I have about 20 or so (thanks, mefi bag swap!) which I keep stuffed into another bag in my back seat. Once I unload 'em in the kitchen, I hang them on the front doorknob to ferry back out the next AM.
posted by mumkin at 4:50 PM on June 1, 2011

Best answer: Plastic canvas like the kind you'd buy from a craft store to do needlework with is a good bag-bottom stiffening agent. Cut it into appropriately-sized rectangles and stick it in there (and if you make your own bags like I sometimes do, you can add a pocket to the bottom just to hold the canvas!). A bonus feature is that it doesn't weaken when it gets damp and if something drips onto it, you can just wash it off and it's no big deal.
posted by bewilderbeast at 4:52 PM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I highly recommend the ones that ball up or fold up. It's definitely easier to remember them when they're already in your purse.
posted by troublesome at 4:53 PM on June 1, 2011

I keep mine in my purse. I have some super-clever bags from Envirosax that roll up really tiny, and come 5 to a carrying case (about the size of a makeup bag). They hold a ton, they're really sturdy, and because they're always with me, I never do the "forgot my bags in the car" head-slap. Seriously changed my eco-friendly shopping life.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 4:53 PM on June 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I have no problem remembering to bring them back to the car. It's remembering to grab the bags as I'm leaving the car to go into the store that's the problem. If I put them in the back seat, I'll never see them and remember to use them.
posted by HeyAllie at 4:53 PM on June 1, 2011

If I'm headed to the store, when I get in the car I grab the ones I need (either from the house or from the backseat) and put them on the front seat next to me, so I remember to take them with me.
posted by cabingirl at 4:56 PM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Like other folks, I use the really compact ones and keep them in my purse... either Envirosax (my faves) or Chico bags. I find that I use them all the time, not just for groceries. I remember to pull them out at pretty much any store or the farmers market, I haul things to the post office in them, and use them to sit on (damp ground or benches). Totally handy.
posted by kimdog at 5:00 PM on June 1, 2011

If I put them in the back seat, I'll never see them and remember to use them.

Then put them on the front seat or on the floor (it won't be messy or invite a break-in if you stuff all the bags into one). Or put a post-it note on your dashboard.
posted by scody at 5:00 PM on June 1, 2011

Another option is to tell yourself that you're not, absolutely NOT, going to bring home another grocery store bag. Go so far as to leave without buying anything if you don't have your bags. It doesn't take long before picking up the bags becomes a part of your pre-shopping prep.

By the way, if they are in the car, you can go out and get them before you check out. If it makes you feel better, park your cart by the customer service desk and tell them you'll be right back.
posted by cabingirl at 5:04 PM on June 1, 2011 [7 favorites]

I have no problem remembering to bring them back to the car. It's remembering to grab the bags as I'm leaving the car to go into the store that's the problem. If I put them in the back seat, I'll never see them and remember to use them.

In your case, it might make sense to go back to your car and get the bag after you get to the store and realize you've forgotten it (obviously making exceptions when you're really in a hurry). After a few repetitions you'll probably start remembering it.

(Basically, you need to make taking the bag with you when you go into a store a new habit.
It'll take a little practice to establish that.)
posted by nangar at 5:16 PM on June 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

I keep mine in the trunk of my car. Yes, I often forgot them as I was walking into the grocery store, but it was easy enough to walk back to the parking lot to get them. Once I did that a few times, I never forgot them again.

We have two cars, so I keep one set of bags in each car. I unload the groceries and then the bags go straight into the car after that. If you don't have a garage attached to your house like I do, perhaps put the bags in your departure path for the next time you go to your car.

It really is just a matter of making it really, really easy to get to them when you need them (keep them in your car).
posted by cooker girl at 5:19 PM on June 1, 2011

Best answer: when i'm on the way to the store, i put my purse in the canvas bag that holds all my canvas bags. that way i can't shop unless i bring them inside.
posted by nadawi at 5:19 PM on June 1, 2011 [9 favorites]

Seconding troublesome's comment. I use Flip and Tumble bags and always have three of them in my purse. They're really sturdy and I'm always impressed with how much they can carry. I have them in bright colors so I can easily find them in the dark corners of my purse.
posted by Gusaroo at 5:29 PM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you can't leave it on the back seat, or the front seat, why not hang it from the mirror or tape it to the passenger window?
posted by fire&wings at 5:32 PM on June 1, 2011

I have a "grocery shopping purse" it's a canvas cross-body with a big main compartment. It is where all of my shopping bags and my little shopping list notebook and purple shopping list pen live permanently. When going to the store, I just throw my phone and wallet in, and I'm ready.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 5:33 PM on June 1, 2011 [5 favorites]

I have no problem remembering to bring them back to the car. It's remembering to grab the bags as I'm leaving the car to go into the store that's the problem. If I put them in the back seat, I'll never see them and remember to use them.

Then put your purse along with the bags when you enter the car at home. That way when you get to the store, unless you pick up your purse (and the reusable bags along with it), you are not going to be able to pay for your groceries. If you forget the first couple of times, you can leave your cart by the checkout, let someone know you'll be right back, and then go get it. It's unlikely that you'll forget after such an experience.
posted by babbyʼ); Drop table users; -- at 6:00 PM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I hardly ever leave mine in the car, because I will forget to take them in. Since I have a host of physical difficulties, going back out to the car is not always doable. Therefore, I hang them on the same hook as my purse. This way, I see them and take them with me when I'm heading to the supermarket. When I get into the car, everything goes on the front seat. This puts it firmly in my mind that they are part of the shopping experience and need to come along with me into the store. I've hardly ever forgotten them that way.
posted by patheral at 6:07 PM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, just go back to the car for them if you realize you forgot them. It's a pain in the ass, but it'll teach you a lesson about remembering your bags!
posted by mskyle at 6:47 PM on June 1, 2011

Just keep forcing yourself to go back out to the car and get them. Eventually, you'll get tired of that and you'll remember to grab them on your way in. This morning, I was in my wife's car and I spent five minutes looking for our bags before I realized they must have been at home.

After you get them in the store, here's my tip for getting the cashier to actually use them: put them on the conveyor belt FIRST, before you put down any goods. That is confusing enough that the cashier will stop his/her routine grab-scan-bag and look up long enough for you to explain that you have reusable bags, etc.
posted by MrZero at 6:47 PM on June 1, 2011

Mine live in the same cupboard in the hall where I keep my keys, coat and purse. They are stacked on a shelf at eye level there. I see them as I collect my keys etc, and can't imagine forgetting to take them.
posted by lollusc at 7:14 PM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had this problem all the time in the beginning, but you just have to keep trying and eventually it will become a habit (it took me like 6 months to get into the habit, but it did happen). I do keep one flip and tumble (someone mentioned it above) bag balled up in my purse just in case I stop at a store while I'm already out and about. Before that I had a baggu, similar concept, but it tore after I'd had it a year and a half. I hate the envirosax bags, they are a pain to roll up (I know you did not ask for these recommendations, but just in case you decide to go the fold up route at some point...).
posted by echo0720 at 7:45 PM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For slightly reinforcing the bottoms, I'd suggest plastic canvas, cut to fit:
posted by jacquilynne at 8:15 PM on June 1, 2011

I keep my shopping bags in the trunk of the car when not in use, and do the whole hanging them on the doorknob thing, which seems pretty universal, to remember to take them out to the car,. When I head out to go shopping I make sure to stick my purse and shopping list in the bags and then throw them on the front seat next to me, I might forget the bags but my mental alarms go off if I get out of the car without my purse.

In South Australia, where I used to live, they banned the flimsy plastic grocery bags you got at check outs and will charge you for reuseable ones if you forget and want a bag. Its amazing how quickly you learn to remember to bring bags when you are too cheap like I am and you have to try and carry an armload of groceries across a carpark without a bag. Maybe you could make a self imposed fine for yourself like that, if you forget the bags you have to buy new ones. Bet you'd get in the habit of remembering fast . .. or have the worlds largest shopping bag collection.
posted by wwax at 8:41 PM on June 1, 2011

I bought one of these giant carabiners, clip all the bag handles together and keep it in the back seat. I also put all the loyalty cards on a little key chain that's on the big clip. It helps me to remember to bring it in.
posted by Marky at 9:17 PM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

My reusable bags are in one huge bag that always hangs in the kitchen. I grab what I need before I go out the door, and put them in the front seat with my purse.
posted by luckynerd at 9:41 PM on June 1, 2011

Best answer: I don't remember to take them into the store very often, either. I just have them put the groceries back in the cart without bags, then I load up the bags as I put the groceries into the car.
posted by northernlightgardener at 9:53 PM on June 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

I keep mine in my bag that I take to work or the glove compartment. I would suggest trunk for you. As for remembering to take those bags back with you to the car later, maybe attach the car keys to them after you've put your purchases away.
posted by Seboshin at 10:00 PM on June 1, 2011

I only had to leave the shop twice without carrier bags, with the bottom of my coat rolled up to carry all of the stuff, before I remembered to take them with me. the problem at the moment is that there is another option for you: bags from the shop. There's no reward for taking your own bags, so you don't "need" to learn the new habit.

Take the bags-from-the-shop option away, and you'll have to adapt.
posted by Solomon at 3:02 AM on June 2, 2011

I load up the bags as I put the groceries into the car.

I do this at Costco, since if you bag up stuff at the register, they can't see it to count it at the exit and it ends up taking longer to get out of the store.

Otherwise, I empty the bags in the kitchen, the empty bags go on the kitchen chair and then out to my car when I'm running low out there or they become too much of an eyesore, whichever comes first. They live in the back end of my car, under the retractable cover thingie, and I just trained myself not to forget them. It helps that my Trader Joe's has signs in the parking lot that say "don't forget your bags".
posted by jvilter at 10:10 AM on June 2, 2011

I often forget them when they're in the trunk. So I now keep one or two folded between the seat and the front divider (which in my car is also a CD holder/change compartment.) It's right by my hand as I'm getting out, so I often touch it as I unbuckle. Much higher success rate this way.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 1:47 PM on June 3, 2011

Best answer: It may be overkill, but you could get a Tote Buddy, which keeps the tote bags all nicely organized - so they wouldn't look messy at all on the front seat. The bags the company sells to go with it have bottom stiffeners.
posted by jeri at 1:34 AM on June 4, 2011

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