Reusable shopping bags

Reader Danielle sent us a suggestion for collapsible, reusable bags, and totes. These bags fold into handy carrying cases when not in use. Their small size makes storing them simple, and the bags keep you from collecting a seemingly endless supply of paper/plastic bags from the grocery store. And, since they’re reusable, they help the environment. There are a number of brands on the market, but these two look pretty nifty:

Both brands are made from rip-stop fabric and can hold a significant quantity of groceries. The bags are also machine-washable so it’s easy to clean up spills and leaks. They fold up into an attached pouch and, once folded, can fit inside a purse or pocket.

Thanks Danielle for your suggestion!


This post has been updated since its original publication in 2007.

47 Comments for “Reusable shopping bags”

  1. posted by CSS on

    I really like One Bag at a Time. Except for not withstanding cat claws very well, they’re very durable and recyclable when they wear out.

    (Please be warned there’s music on the home page, for anyone reading at work.)

  2. posted by Marie on

    I really need to figure out a way to transition to reusable grocery bags. I’ve avoided the switch so far by telling myself that my grocery store trips are usually spur-of-the-moment events, so short of keeping bags in my purse, it really wouldn’t work for me. Plus, I live in NYC so I usually get my food delivered or I will go out to eat. I realize that these are bad excuses . . . . any suggestions?

  3. posted by Kathy W on

    I have been looking at Goodwill for used canvas bags, and in the past year have found 8 large sturdy (Land’s End type) tote bags…I keep 3 in my car for groceries, have given 3 to other family members for shopping use and have another two for emergency “go bags”…

  4. posted by gumnos on

    One of our local grocery stores (Kroger) even gives a $0.05 discount for every bag you bring (and use). We usually manage $0.40/trip in addition to the usual coupon savings and the enviro-friendly benefits.

  5. posted by Jacki Hollywood Brown on

    My favourite shopping bag is made by Mountain Equipment Co-op ( It is black nylon, water resistant and has a square bottom so it stands up on its own. They are great for lugging groceries home in a shopping cart (even in the rain and snow). They are washable too.

    They also hold beach towels and bathing suits for the entire family!

  6. posted by Linda on has a huge selection of bags (and other reusable products like water bottles and travel coffee mugs).

  7. posted by Stephanie on

    Small reusable bags aren’t that practical, because you’d need quite a few of them for the average grocery shopping trip. I would get some that are bigger than the ones pictured.

  8. posted by michelle on

    I always had trouble remembering to bring bags when all I had were those bulky canvas totes, but I absolutely swear by these mini-maxi bags now. The roll up compactly and are so small I have now begun carrying at least one in my purse at all times, but they can each hold up to 25lbs. Plus, the have long handles so I can sling several on my shoulders, and they come in pretty floral prints too. It doesn’t completely eliminate the need for plastic bags but it has certainly helped me to cut way back, especially on those last-minute grocery store stops.

  9. posted by nehal on

    Check out (Another reusable shopping bag)

  10. posted by Patychag on has also a varity of colors & prints. They are very stylish so they can double duty as a purse. I love my set of 5. They are great to store and youc an actually put more stuff than in your regular plastic bag.

  11. posted by Ana on

    I’ve picked up a bunch of Target’s $1 Zipbags, they aren’t quite as sturdy as some of the ones pictured here, but they’re very cheap, zip up into their own container when not in use (no clutter from a pouch to hold the bag), hold as much as a large shopping bag, and are small enough to fit into my very moderately sized purse, so I always have one with me.

    I don’t own a car so I plan ahead and go to the grocery store on the same day each week. That day I take my Trader Joe’s insulated shopping bag with me to work, and throw in several extra canvas bags, which together get me and my groceries home on the bus without a lot of hassle. The rest of the time, I just carry a zip bag.

  12. posted by Jen on

    I’m with Patychag! Envirosax are one of my favorite things ever! They hold much more than a normal shopping bag, plus they are REALLY durable. I don’t just use them for groceries; they’re pretty enough that I use them for picnic baskets, transporting books to/from library, beach bags…everything. They are wonderful. And, they fold up really small so that I can always carry one or two around with me in my purse–or even my a coat pocket–to have for those spur-of-the-moment trips to the market.

    I bought myself a set of 5 a few months ago–I’m giving them as stocking stuffers this xmas.

  13. posted by Susan on

    I absolutely love the flip and tumble bag. It’s too bag they didn’t show a picture of it there soo cute. There so stylish I can take it anywhere because it doesn’t look like a grocery bag and you can wear it on your shoulder and they hold soo much stuff! They also turn into a little ball when your not using it. 🙂

  14. posted by Leslie on

    I love my EZ Bag from! I live in NYC and it rolls up into a tiny case that weighs only an ounce or two, so it’s always in my purse. It holds way more than you would expect–it’s about the size of a plastic grocery sack, but holds far more. I gave them to all my female relatives, and it’s a great bang for the buck at $6!

  15. posted by Shannon on

    I like the chico bags. I keep one in my purse for trips to the mall or other stores, so I never have to think about having a bag. Remember, reusable bags come in handy in many places besides the grocery store! I’m putting these in everyone’s stocking this year.

  16. posted by Lux on

    So, what do you people use to line rubbish bins? I reuse most of the plastic bags from groceries that way.

  17. posted by Amy on

    I would definitely recommend Envirosax as well. I get compliments on them almost every time I’m at the grocery store! Plus, I carry a small purse and can still manage to fit one in there so I’m never without one. I wanted to make the switch for months but couldn’t bring myself to do it until I found these bags – they’re really cute. Worth every penny.

  18. posted by Stephanie on

    I also use my grocery bags as trash bags. One less thing a starving grad student needs to buy 🙂

  19. posted by Bag Monster on

    Reusable bags? What’s wrong with plastic bags and the monsters they create when they accumulate?? Bag Monsters aren’t so bad, you know… I’m a family monster with millions of little Bag Monster spawn to worry about. Some of them live under kitchen sinks, but most of them live in the bay and ocean. Go to my blog, to learn more about how we’re being oppressed world wide. All these bag bans are supposedly because we make an expensive mess, cause “environmental damage,” and because a few of us were eaten by marine animals… Don’t they know better than to eat Bag Monsters?

  20. posted by STL Mom on

    I heard someone (from the plastic industry, I believe) say that when Ireland banned plastic shopping bags, the sale of small plastic garbage bags went way up, so the total amount of plastic was the same.
    Maybe she was right, but at least small garbage bags rarely end up stuck in trees or sewer grates.
    I want to buy or make some reusable bags. If you sew, there are tons of free patterns and tutorials online. If you use recycled fabric from a thrift store (like old sheets), you’re really helping the environment!

  21. posted by EricaLucci on

    If you’re crafty, check out the instructions to make your own bag –

  22. posted by Christine on

    Wegmans grocery stores have reusable shopping bags (similar to the “one bag at a time” bags mentioned above. They sell for .99 a piece. I keep 5 folded in the trunk of my car. Five seems perfect for a week’s shopping for two people. I’ve been using them for months, and they are very durable.

  23. posted by Kelley on

    I use these:

    Same concept and look but I can vouche for the fact that these do, as advertised, unfold and fold away easily.

  24. posted by Adam Snider on

    I love the fact that these bags fold small enough to fit into a (large) pocket.

    I use reusable bags when I do my big shopping trip every month, but I usually forget them in the car if I’m just running in for a carton of milk. As a result, I end up using a lot more plastic bags than I’d like.

    If I had a small bag like this, I could always have it in my back pocket…or at least in the front console in the car (as opposed to the truck, where my bags are currently stored), where I would be able to see it and remember to take it into the store when I’m making smaller trips for the perishables that I need to replace more than once a month.

  25. posted by bert fresno on

    Sainsbury’s in the UK offers “Fold-a-shopper” bags for only £0.75 each.

    You just unfold it, fill it and re-use it. This bag is designed to fold away neatly, small enough to keep with you for those unexpected shopping trips.

  26. posted by Mags on

    I always use reuseable bags, or use my extra big ‘purse’ (see previous thread).

    I do have to buy black bin bags to line the large kitchen swing bin, but I get biodegradeable ones. I don’t need to line the bins in each room of the house because:
    I bought plastic bins for each room
    I put dry recyclables straight in the council-supplied recyc bins
    I put dry non-recyc in the room bins
    I put wet rubbish straight in the kitchen bin.

    On bin day, I simply take the kitchen bag out of its swing bin, add any dry non-recyc from the room bins and put it straight into the street. So all my rubbish which *has* to go to the landfill is not double-wrapped in plastic.

  27. posted by Karen on

    I just don’t get this thing about buying bags. Don’t we all have a zillion canvas bags, backpacks, small duffles, gym bags (if they’re not too rank) lying around the house anyway? Why do we have to buy special non-store “grocery” bags? I take my groceries home in the same bags I use to carry my lunch to work, my library books to/from the library, my maps and knitting for long car trips, etc. I keep a bag of bags in the way back of the car and am rarely without a bag.

    For people who are mostly on foot and shop on the spur of the moment, I guess I could see a special folding-up bag that could be carried around all the time without being a pain. But, what about just rolling up a previously-received store bag really small and sticking *that* in your purse/pocket? Not as stylin’, but cheaper, less clutter ultimately, and better than buying a brand-new bag that had to be manufactured and shipped from China just for you. And then shipped again from wherever you ordered it from to your home. Come to think of it, I have one canvas bag (got for free from a Hallmark store around 1998) that is quite thin and would take up very little room in a purse. Wouldn’t put two gallons of milk in it, but it holds lots of lighter things and takes up almost no room.

    Anyway, I didn’t mean for this to be such a diatribe–just wanted to encourage people to look through their closets, etc., before buying *more* bags to replace the store bags.

  28. posted by susanne on

    Another reusable bag option that’s eco-friendly is a canvas shopping bag from Hero Bags. Hero Bags are designed for grocery shopping, they have a flat bottom, full side panels, velcro top closure, sturdy handles and come in 2 sizes. Check them out at

  29. posted by rejin on

    I agree with Karen. Going green doesn’t mean going shopping. I have a few give-away canvas totes (from conferences, et c) and haven’t had to use a plastic bag in ages.

  30. posted by Lori on

    Count me in with the Envirosax lovers. And I also love my Trader Joe’s insulated bag.

    I don’t have a collection of canvas gimme bags because I turn them down when offered. The freebie ones are generally small and cheap, and I’d rather not have the clutter in the first place.

    The Envirosax bags hold as much as two or three regular plastic shopping bags and are much stronger — they *will* hold two gallons of milk. They fold up so small that I keep one in my smallish purse and the others in the car. It took some time to get in the habit of grabbing the bags when I head into the store, but now it’s a reflex.

    With the addition of a reusable freezer pack, the TJ’s insulated bag doubles as a sleek cooler for picnics and keeping drinks and yogurts cool for my all-day art shows.

  31. posted by Mike Dunham on

    Just curious, what do you reusable-bag-lovers who have dogs use to clean up after your best friend when he does his business on the sidewalk? That, frankly, is the only reason I haven’t made the switch yet.

  32. posted by Sam Jones on

    Mike, I’d be willing to bet that if you asked almost ANYONE that doesn’t use reusable bags for their used ones, they’d be soooo happy to give them to you for your dog poo!

  33. posted by Steve on

    I just got a Flip and tumble bag last week and I love it! It is so cute and easy to compact. The other bags I have are so hard to fold or compact or are not attractive. I just ordered more to give as gifts. My wife and kids will love them!

  34. posted by Stacey on

    Looking for fashion when you shop?
    Bags are quality made in the USA. Matching coupon pouches also available.

  35. posted by McKay on

    I have a rather large nylon shopping bag that folds into an attached pocket that then zips around on 3 sides. When folded it is about 3×5 inches total. My mum in Ireland bought it for me when they first went bag-less a few years back. I carry it in my purse or pocket so am never without when I need a bag.

    My bag has no label, and I have searched far and wide for another one. Does the description sound familiar to anyone? It most closely resembles the Baggu, but the pocket it folks into is attached so you can’t loose it and it is a nifty blue floral pattern. Any ideas anyone?

  36. posted by vladimir on

    I use my nylon bags for the garbage. what else could I use for garbage? so its plastic anyway. any ideas how to get rid of that too.

  37. posted by nisiwi on

    There are quite a few variations of these folding bags and wholesale suppliers of them in the UK. Here is one such familiar bag I found recently.


    Various materials also.

  38. posted by Sandra on

    This site has a great tutorial for making your own bags that look just like the Envirosax!

  39. posted by Bill J on

    Many US groceries carry the .99 cent totes but they don’t offer the typical shopper any “convenience” other than the consumer’s desire to “go green” and eliminate another guilt trip in our cluttered minds. Personally I disliked having to carry 8 mini-totes with me every time I go shopping… So last year I founded a company to market a tote that is functional first….and “green” as a side benefit.
    This tote is expandable and clips onto the shopping cart to load the goods. The best part is that all you need are 2 of them, which fit perfect in the cart; $100.00 worth of food in 2 bags!!! They have a folding flat bottom so on the drive home they don’t fall over…and once home…1 trip to the kitchen…I also market a beverage/wine bag which is great for wine or soda bottles and heavy cans. (Holds up to (6) 1.5 liter bottles).
    They are made from polypropylene because it is safe for food, unlike the canvas/cloth bags can harbor mold and mildew and food borne bacteria. They wipe clean and drip dry if food spills in them, making them more eco-friendly than a bag made out of cloth or canvas which has to be washed month after month to keep it bacteria free.
    Read the testimonials on my web-page and you can tell the consumer response to the product…they are real people excited about a simple tote…because it has made their shopping experience better.
    I am dedicated to introduce more products to the line, such as wheeled totes for the elderly and urban shoppers, as well as insulated totes to transport frozen foods…all with the same functionality as my eco-totz product.
    Winning the war on plastic bag pollution means delivering a functional product first…and oh by the way that has green benefits….
    Take a look at and please contact me with any suggestions or comments.

  40. posted by Jessica on

    I love my Use It Again Sam bags, they are light and compact, come in great colors, and are affordable. You can carry them on your shoulder or by the handle. The owner donates a portion of her proceeds to Operation Homefront!

  41. posted by Reusable Bags on

    This site has 7 different custom bag options. We just purchased the Wine Totes for our wine shop. They are sporty and cool. customers love em.

  42. posted by carrie on

    Check out for shopping bags. There are tons of styles. I also have a shop that sells grocery totes. All bags made from recycled material like vintage drapes, tablecloths, and sheets! It is a great way to recycle material that would have otherwise found its way to the landfill.

  43. posted by Meeka on

    For a great spur of the moment shopping bag, have a peek at this new one called Kozy Karma. The website is It zips up into itself and you can keep it in your purse at all times. It’s made of sturdy cotton canvas

  44. posted by Reusable Bags on

    I like compact reusable bags that fit in your purse so you can always have it with you.

  45. posted by Michelle on

    In Australia, Adelaide anyway, we do not have plastic bags anymore. They were banned earlier this year. Everywhere sells bags or has these plastic ones that can be recycled.
    So you always have to remember to have a bag with you.

  46. posted by Teq on

    I have canvas bags that are 30 years old and I still use them. I have bought canvas bags at thrift stores and garage sales for pennies on the dollar and use them. I’ve only had a couple of bags that I’ve had to resew, so reusing canvas bags is a lot cheaper than “sturdy” plastic bags.

    In my opinion we will never get rid of plastic grocery bags. The other day I was sick and I lined a pail with plastic grocery bags so I could be sick in it. So there are reason’s to keep them and reason’s to get rid of them.

  47. posted by SkiptheBS on’s Workhorse mesh bags wear like iron. Side benefit is that they are semi-transparent so no one will mistake you for a shoplifter. The bags also are made in ripstop nylon, which is serged to actually stop rips. They have a pouch attached and are easy to fold. They are machine or hand washable and dry incredibly fast. I’d definitely recommend them for Christmas stocking stuffers.

    The Baggus sold on eBay at discount prices apparently are counterfeits. The
    seams are unfinished and ravel when washed.

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