Reusable Grocery Bag Nirvana
March 6, 2017 11:22 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for the best reusable grocery/shopping bags. Parameters within.

I bring my own bags to the grocery store. I have a ragtag collection of freebies, one-offs and remainders and I'd love to upgrade to something that can replace all of them. The closest thing to ideal that I've been able to find are no longer made but were sold at Target like these. What I love about them is that they are lightweight and strong, have two shoulder straps, have structure, can be folded neatly away, are wipeable, have a cute print. My ideal bag would also be washable and come in insulated versions as well though I know that not all of these criteria are probably possible in one bag. What else is out there?
posted by otherwordlyglow to Shopping (25 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have Trader Joe's where you are? They have the best reusable shopping bags of all time, including an insulated version.
posted by blnkfrnk at 11:28 AM on March 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

I can recommend these. They do not fit all your criteria, but:

- They are fairly structured. They stay open if you open them, but they are not stiff-sided.
- They have straps long enough to hang off my shoulder, but short enough that I can carry them in my hands with my arms straight also.
- Roomy and strong. I've overpacked them with heavy stuff and they've never felt like they were going to break.
- Lightweight and very long lasting - we abuse ours and they last for years. Eventually the ones that are used a lot develop some little holes though.
- Fold up nicely, like paper grocery bags.
- Washable.
- Many lovely colors, though not cute prints (though apparently they are "Great for decorating as a craft project, or silkscreen imprinting", if that's your thing - also the seller does sell some patterned ones).
posted by brainmouse at 11:28 AM on March 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I like these IKEA Cooler Bags. They don't fold quite as neatly as the Target bag, but I fold mine in half when I put them away, and I've even rolled one up and put it in my (large) handbag. I use 1-2 of these and stuff some cotton tote bags in the pockets. My favorite cotton tote bags can be washed/dried so they are especially good for groceries.
posted by beyond_pink at 11:41 AM on March 6, 2017

I have a set of first gen Envirosax that I've had for literally 10 years (just went and checked my old gmail receipts). They've seen abuse off and on for a decade. One busted a seam a couple years ago, another is getting a bit bare on the bottom, but the others are still pretty good. I've run them through the washing machine several times as well. I like them a lot. They roll up with a little self-snapping thing like an umbrella kind of so you don't have to worry about losing a pouch or folding them just so. I don't think they have an insulated option, but for regular old shopping bags, they're great.
posted by phunniemee at 11:59 AM on March 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

I also have a set of Envirosax. I use at least one of them every day for some purpose or another. The main thing is that they are self-contained and roll up tiny, so I always have at least one in my bag--even my tiniest bag can hold a couple along with my wallet and phone. The straps are long enough to go over the shoulder which makes all the difference when walking with a heavy load.

I've had mine for a little over 3 years now and they're holding up great (I am not gentle with them and often load them up pretty heavy) with the exception of one bag whose snap popped off.
posted by mama casserole at 12:06 PM on March 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am a fan of Chico Bags - I have three now, bought years ago and all have lasted well, and the little attached drawstring with carabiner that they fold into is nice and compact - I always have one at least in my bag.
posted by tardigrade at 12:12 PM on March 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

slightly outside the box but my wife just bought these, and they are RAD. plus the part that makes them hang is easily removable for shoulder carry or if they break, or to chuck in the washing machine.

just google the name, there are dozes, usually like 4 or 5 for $20??

seriously, so cool.
posted by chasles at 12:20 PM on March 6, 2017

Baggus are the greatest invention ever.

I keep some in my work bag, in the glove compartment, in my backpack, in my suitcase, etc. Can't recommend them enough.
posted by bowmaniac at 12:32 PM on March 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

Baggu Large size. They're huge but very lightweight. Kinda pricey for a bag, but hey.
posted by mike_bling at 12:34 PM on March 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Most of the bags we use are from Wegman's when we visit my wife's family. May not fit your definition of "cute print" (although I like it), but very sturdy.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:38 PM on March 6, 2017

I have a couple Baggu bags as well that I received as a stocking stuffer. They're a year old and already showing significant wear/distress, plus they have an unattached pouch to lose, plus they have to be folded up right to fit into them, plus they're not as roomy as my Envirosax.

Not to harsh y'all's groove, I just don't particularly like my Baggu bags that much.
posted by phunniemee at 12:51 PM on March 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ikea sells an envirosax/baggu-type nylon bag for $0.99 - cheap enough to keep everywhere. I've seen a few more prints and colors in the store (maybe seasonal), though they're all similarly neutral. If you're looking to coordinate, they have some other cool stuff in the same line - a collapsible duffel bag, a collapsible backpack, etc. Surprisingly well-made for the price.

If you carry your bags for long distances, though, I highly recommend that you take the length of the handle drop into account - I switched from nylon-style bags to these Trader Joe's ones (which ROCK, but don't really meet your criteria) and heavy groceries are about a million times easier to carry since they fit comfortably on my shoulders. I don't know of any nylon ones with a drop that big, but I'd recommend keeping an eye out!
posted by R a c h e l at 1:09 PM on March 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I also have a Baggu and I really like it - the main reason is that I just HAVE it, all the time, because when folded up it's about the size of my wallet. If I decide to stop by the store on my way home from work, I'm all set. For me, that outweighs pretty much every other consideration, because I don't commute by car. If I didn't have a Baggu or something equivalently light and fold-y, I wouldn't be able to carry a reusable bag at all.

I haven't found the folding to be an issue, you just smoosh it over on itself until it's small enough to fit, it doesn't need to be in a precise orientation. I toss the pouch in the bag when I use it.

As for wear - I don't use mine more than a few times a month, but it seems fine after around three years.

It's washable, but after some fruit stayed in there for an unfortunately long time, it's now permanently stained. That's my only current gripe with it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:17 PM on March 6, 2017

Response by poster: I should have specified that I'm looking for something NOT in the realm of Baggu/Chico/Environsax. I have a couple of that type and they're fine for stowing in purses but I hate using them for groceries since everything tumbles out as soon as I set them down in the trunk or on a counter. I really want structure and a rectangular bottom with straight sides.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 1:32 PM on March 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Chico bags don't have as much structure you're looking for, but the attached pouch + carabiner clip means that I have 2-3 on me at all times (I just attach them straight onto my purse or my keyring).

The Chico Vita might be close to what you're looking for.
posted by dinty_moore at 1:33 PM on March 6, 2017

TJ's bags all the way. We have a few in each car, all stuffed into the freezer bag.

I keep a cheap carabiner on mine so I can hang them fron the cart handle while I shop, which saves jostling all the food out of the way when I get to the check out.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:49 PM on March 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh, in that case, these Trader Joe's ones (and some other store-brand ones - I have some old similar "green" themed ones from, I think, stop & shop) are pretty awesome - definitely structured, definitely wipe-off, definitely strong. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if they meet your "cute" requirement. However, they do do city-themed (buy one on vacation?) versions (and maybe seasonal versions?) so it's worth checking it out. They make the best store-brand grocery bags I've used.

On preview, nth!
posted by R a c h e l at 1:57 PM on March 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Tom Bihn Shop Bag!
posted by praemunire at 2:54 PM on March 6, 2017

I've been pretty happy with the Blue Q Shopper bags. The dual handles are nice for hand or over the shoulder options.
posted by doctord at 4:32 PM on March 6, 2017

however, they do do city-themed (buy one on vacation?) versions (and maybe seasonal versions?) so it's worth checking it out.

My family is in Minnesota and we are in New England, and we have swapped the locally-themed TJ's bags for some variety. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 7:15 PM on March 6, 2017

So, since you're in SF: Monterey Market in Berkeley has THE BEST reusable insulated tote bags. Seriously, I've tried/own most of the suggestions in this thread and the MM ones rule by a wide margin. They look like this (although I've also seen them in a brown/green color scheme). You should come over here, check out the awesome produce, and buy a stack of them. 3.99. You're welcome.
posted by The Toad at 8:05 PM on March 6, 2017

2nding the type of bag The Toad recommended. The brand name is Therm-o-tote, they are available from a lot of vendors as a "Your company name here" promotional item. The batch I have have seen weekly use for the past 5 years and the only casualty thus far is a zipper on one of them is beginning to tear off. Their downside is while they fold flat, they don't fold down any smaller than a flattened brown paper grocery sack.
posted by jamaro at 9:46 PM on March 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

These bags from a small-town Alaska business that caters largely to the fishing community. We have three of their original bags, made of heavy-duty vinyl. Five years and counting and used weekly.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 10:32 PM on March 6, 2017

Since the bags everyone is recommending don't seem super machine-washable, thought I'd chime in with advice on how to keep them clean.
posted by purple_bird at 3:29 PM on March 7, 2017

I like to use my LL Bean tote bags as grocery bags, and have gotten compliments from baggers who appreciate that they're easy to load up. The drawback is that they're thick canvas, and you're not going to carry one in your purse for just-in-case.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:18 AM on March 8, 2017

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