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Trying to go BYOB with the groceries

So, now I have a large recyclable bag from Whole Foods, 2 smaller bags from Krogers, and a canvas bag from Spec's liquor. I try to remember to take them with me, or keep them in the car, but sometimes I am in my car and sometimes it's his car, so I need to get even more and keep the same amount in both cars. I was really concerned about glass jars banging around each other and breaking, and I wanted a bag with compartments. Lo and behold, I am at Krogers and they have a special offer that if you buy 6 bottles of wine you get a free wine bag, with, Duh, 6 compartments. I don't want 6 bottles of wine so I ask and they let me just have one! So nice to be a well known regular. Well, I had forgotten my bag, so I grab another one (they are only $1.00) and hand that to the checker, first. She asks if I want to use it (I scratched my head) and I said yes, please, and then she asks if I want paper or plastic? Huh! I want to use that bag. I take the bottled items and put in the wine bag, the sacker fills up my blue bag, I hand her my canvas bag and she puts a couple things in it, and proceeds to put the rest in a plastic bag! It's going to take awhile to get these people used to this, but I am determined!

How is everyone else doing with this?

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  1. Many places now charge for plastic bags, that might start the change.

    1. helps to put your reusable bag first at the checkout, so that's the first thing that's handed to the bagger (does not apply at bag-yer-own places).

      1 Reply
      1. re: soupkitten

        I did that and she still asked if I wanted paper or plastic!

        1. re: danhole

          I think it may depend on where you live. At the grocery stores I go to in Toronto it's pretty much the norm to bring your own bag and the stores strongly encourage doing so. In fact, I always feel a bit guilty if I don't have my bags with me and have to use plastic. I just put my re-usable bags at the front of the groceries and ask them to please use them. Keep at it - they'll catch on and it probably won't be a big deal for them much longer as stores become more aware. Every little bit helps!

          1. re: ms. clicquot

            The groceries don't seem to have a problem where I live either, they've all figured it out. It's the non-grocery stores where people seem to be confused - drug stores, department stores, etc.

            1. re: rockandroller1

              Yes, I agree that sometimes there can be some confusion at non-grocery stores. However, I have noticed that some drugstores and the liquor store now have their own re-usable bags available so I think they're starting to come around.

            2. re: ms. clicquot

              I think more and more stores of all kinds will catch on to this. Judging by the reactions of the baggers at my local supermarket when I first began doing this, I must have been one of the first people in their store to request that they put the groceries in my own bag. Now they do this without any reactions of surprise, etc.

              Whole Foods will be discontinuing its plastic bags next week. Here is an interesting article in today's Times. You're damn if you do...damn if you don't.


          2. We have used the big bags from Ikea and just purchased a green canvas, slightly insulated, zippable bag from Stop n Shop. I think it was $3.00. It is hard to remember to take them with you all the time. I love the fact that things do not go flying all over the car when I do 2G cornering or panic stops!
            If you think of it, save some of the cardboard partitions (that x each other) from wine boxes to keep glass things seperated. If you cut some off both ends they will still stay together and will not need to stand so tall.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Scargod

              Thanks Scar. Using the cardboard insertions is a great idea!

              1. re: danhole

                You're quite welcome. One note: I'm not the "God of Scars" but the "God of escargots".

                You can call me S, or you can call me Go, or you can call me Scargo, or you can call me Slow, or you can call me God, or you can call me S-car-God or you can call me SG, or you can call me SCG, but you doesn't have to call me me late for dinner...

                1. re: danhole

                  I saw this thread yesterday and haven't read through all of it so may be repeating what someone else has posted. If so, sorry about that!

                  I was just at Trader Joe's today and they had smaller reuseable bags made for bottles. It holds six and is 99 cents. Just thought I would mention it. Also at this TJ's (not sure all are doing it) if you bring your own bags, you put your name and address on a raffle ticket and it goes into a drawing for $10.00 in free groceries. Great way to get people to use their own bags. It has taken me a while, first I got them in the car, now I usually remember to take them into the store and am loving not having so many plastic bags to recycle.

                  1. re: jodymaryk

                    All the TJ's I know of (in the Bay Area) do that raffle thing.

                    I really like the red canvas insulated zipper bag I got at TJ's. It was cheap, too, for the quality of the bag. I'm trying really hard to remember to put the bags back in the car after I take the groceries in, and to take them into the store with me.

                    Now, if they would make paper receipts optional, I'd be happy. I really don't need a receipt for every purchase I make, especially when it's under $10. And when it's food, I'm not going to return it (except at TJ's, where they don't require a receipt anyway) so why do I need a receipt?

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      Unfortunately, that's the way cash registers work, and I doubt you could jimmy one so that it would generate a receipt only on request (some people will still want them, if they're budgeting or want to make sure that the checker didn't make an error; and of course some things you buy at the grocery are returnable). But yeah, when I get home, I rarely look at mine -- and of course when I do want to return something, I can never find the receipt. I wish there were a better system.

              2. IMO some checkers just don't know how to bag groceries at ALL, never mind in a canvas bag, and therefore can only know how to jam a few items in all over the place and move on to the next plastic bag. Also, if that person isn't buying into the whole BYOB themselves, they may not understand what all the hoo-ha is about and not make an effort to make sure your canvas bag is blocked before moving onto plastic (and sadly some checkers are barely even aware there's a customer there, just swiping away while they talk to the next checker over). Some people don't understand either that the BYOB's are a LOT stronger than plastic so you CAN fill them to the brim.

                Our local liquor stores had the buy 3 bottles and get the free bag promotion and I got one too, they're pretty neat ! But my problem is i never remember to bring them, so i really love the LUGZ bags and (thanks to a fellow poster's recommendation) Baggu, because they fit in my purse, always on hand (yes i carry big purses, and don't tend to buy more than three or four bags of groceries at a time). I have used these in my small town grocery stores, big chains, lots of markets, conveniences stores, drug stores you name it, no problem.. Only once or twice have i ever run into a checker who didn't seem to grasp that you could put more in them than regular bags.

                You could just try a friendly "could ya please fill that one to the brim...i find it SO much easier just carrying one bag" and a nice thank you :) They'll catch on . Perhaps the bagger had it drilled into their heads to ALWAYS ask the customer "paper or plastic". My bags sometimes spark conversation with the checker/bagger too, and i'm usually pretty quick to say how great they are for many reasons, including how strong they are and how much you can CRAM in there !.

                3 Replies
                1. re: im_nomad

                  I'm sure I annoyed one sacker, because as they were trying to put items into a plastic bag, instead of my bag, I was taking them out and putting them in my bag. She looked at me like I was a loon, but I told her it was less for me to carry, and she seemed okay with that response.

                  1. re: danhole

                    Many when they do this then throw away the plastic bag. Argh!!

                    1. re: lgss

                      Yeah, when they throw away the bag I have just refused - really! There is this one counter guy at the corner store who, whenever my husband and I refuse the bag, proceeds to put it on his head like a hat, as a joke. Ha ha very amusing - but then he throws it away (as well he should, since it's just been on his head). I am not kidding - he has done this 3 times...

                2. I usually tote my canvas bag for most grocery stores and the farmer's market, but for Whole Foods, I actually liked coveting their plastic bags, b/c they were just the right size for my food garbage bin, and are really sturdy. No other bag comes close in terms of sturdiness. So I'm actually sad that they got rid of their plastic bags. Besides which, they still use plastic bags for produce, plastic packaging, etc. etc. so I don't quite get their half-assed attempt at going "green". Ah well.
                  I don't really need the paper bags, so now I've started bringing my canvas bag to WF.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: anzu

                    I had a great system for recycling grocery store bags. Jewel (our local grocery chain) bags are perfect for picking up after my dog on a walk.

                    Whole Foods bags were the perfect size and strength for cleaning the cat litter. With WF having eliminated their plastic grocery bags, it's hard to find something that is the right size, thickness, etc.

                    The last thing I want to do is to have to find bags to buy that would work as well. Any body else have that problem or found a solution?

                    1. re: chicgail

                      occ. (often) I find bags thrust upon me, and the newspaper bag is the perfect size, so in my 'hood a lot of us will drop off a bag of bags on the wrought-iron fence at the dog park the afternoon after trash p/u.

                      sometimes the owners might forget to bring one and hey, sometimes the dog poops twice. my shoes stay clean and it all ends up in the landfill anyway.

                  2. Albertsons got a rack of reusable bags so I bought a bunch of them... the first checker thought they were a great idea. Next week I forgot to put the bags in the car (oops) so I bought some more - the second checker didn't quite get the concept, and she took the bags that I'd bought and put them into a plastic grocery bag for me to take away! lol I had to point out to her that they were meant to be used, and she filled them up. Sadly, the bags turned out to be incredibly flimsy and she overfilled them and they all ripped on the first or second use... so I went back to plastic. I'm not going to risk dumping my expensive groceries all over the sidewalk because they put them into a bag that's flimsier than paper! The bags they had in Australia were much sturdier...

                    But I do have a nice big sturdy mesh shopping bag that I always take with me for small shopping trips and then I can put my purchases in that to carry... it's hard to get the shop people to put the stuff into it instead of into plastic bags though - it's programmed into them to use the store bags!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Kajikit

                      you can get your money back if they broke within a certain time frame (I think 30 days)

                      Also a good idea is to get canvas bags from a flea market or discount store. I bought a ton of them at Building 19 for $1 each!.

                      1. re: Kajikit

                        "and she took the bags that I'd bought and put them into a plastic grocery bag for me to take away"

                        that reminds me of the MONTHS it took for a neighbor to successfully throw away or recycle a clearly destroyed trash can.

                      2. I got so irritated one time with a bagger that put one or two items in each canvas bag then wanted to use plastic, so much so that I grabbed the 3/4 empty bags out of the cart and began to fill them myself and said "These won't break, load 'em up!"

                        I now just say "I prefer to bag my own thank you" They just shrug and go off to another cashier.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: gryphonskeeper

                          gryph, that's exactly what i have begun to do. Since I always bring my own bags, it's no hassle for me to pack them. There is, however, a learning curve for the checkers/baggers. I am always polite, but I don't want extra bags.


                        2. What do you all do with meat, poultry, and other cross-contamination items? Do you put them into seperate plastic bags as normal and then put them into your BYOB bags?

                          11 Replies
                          1. re: anthrochick

                            I don't buy meat at the grocery so there it's not an issue for me. At my farmer's market where I shop for meat, I carry several bags. Meat in one, bread and stuff in another (this is a lightweight stretch cloth-"string" bag) and everything else in the third. I layer them when I carry them so the bread is on top since it's the lightest.

                            I've mentioned it before but if you guys want truly large and sturdy bags you should check into eco bags (www.ecobags.com). I got their organic cotton "kit" and it comes with everythign I need.

                            1. re: anthrochick

                              Last time I went I bought some meat, and I did have them put it in plastic, and then put in my bag. Didn't seem right, but I didn't know what else to do. Now I am either going to have to get a bag with a plastic lining (like a diaper bag) or another canvas bag that I can throw in the washer. If I dig around the house I probably have more canvas bags, since they pass them out at trade shows and my DH brings them home.

                              1. re: anthrochick

                                We have this lovely "cooler" bag that folds up and is light and seals up and also keeps the meat colder than a regular bag. All meat goes in there and it rocks!

                                1. re: moh

                                  Where did you get it? Sports dept? Camping?

                                  1. re: danhole

                                    I think you may be able to get them in those places. But we were actually given it by a store that specializes in Brome duck products! The outside looks metallic, the walls are padded with insulated material, there is a velcro seal at the top, and a nice handle. I tried to find a manufacturer, but I can't. This duck company is used to customers who drive out 1-2 hours to their main store in the countryside, who then want to take home a mess of duck products without spoilage.

                                      1. re: danhole

                                        Yes I think it is! It is great for grocery shopping. And plus I don't have to worry about raw meat juices soaking my strawberries.

                                        1. re: moh

                                          And did you see how inexpensive it is? I'm ordering from them! Thanks Moh!

                                        2. re: danhole

                                          oh, thanks! these would be perfect for meat and other perishable items. Thanks for the link.

                                          1. re: anthrochick

                                            I ordered the largest one that has an 8" gusset on the bottom. At $3.99 you can't beat it. I was thinking about ice cream. Meat, too, but those half gallons of ice cream are pretty big, and it gets awful hot in Houston.

                                  2. re: anthrochick

                                    We've been using large canvas bags for groceries for years now. Bought 5 of them at the Vermont Country Store. One bag is dedicated to meat and poultry and one to cold food/dairy. They hold ten times more items than either the sad plastic or light weight paper bags. DH bags at the checkout counter cuz he does it better than the store baggers. We keep them in a basket in the back of the car, always at the ready.

                                  3. I don't use store-branded bags, because then it's weird to try to use them at other stores. Instead, I have some Envirosax, some ChicoBags, and some Eco Bags.

                                    The Envirosax fold up nicely, and they come in sets of 5 with a little carry case. They are rather large, though.

                                    I bought Eco Bags Produce Bags next. Little drawstring-top canvas and mesh bags to use in the produce department. Plus, I could fold up two of these babies and put them in my Envirosax carry pouch.

                                    Finally, I got a whole bunch of Chico Bags. If I only had one style, I would prefer this over the other two. Each bag has its own stuff sack attached, and when it's all stuffed up, it has an attached carabiner, so you can clip it to anything. I keep several in my car, a couple cliped to my purse, and some clipped on my backpack.

                                    I have also had a problem with checkers not knowing what to do with them. I make sure to unfold the bags *before* reaching the front of the line, and clearly stating: "I brought reusable bags for my groceries today. Here, would you like to use them, or should I bag them myself?"

                                    At the grocery, I either bag my own (using self-checkout whenever possible) or place them, opened, on the table for the bagger's convenience. At Walmart, where they use a carousel of bags, I hang them right on there in front of the plastic bags (sometimes, this gets the point across, but other times they'll still wrap food or breakables in layers of plastic bags before putting them in my bags...).

                                    I think it is going to take a long time for stores to get the hand of BYOB.

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: Aimi

                                      i'm repeating myself here, but i love the chico bags too & i think they are great for people who forget to bring their bags-- they squinch up super-small & you can clip them to your keychain so you can't forget them. they are also very commodious and sturdy, i've schlepped #10 cans in them!

                                      1. re: Aimi

                                        I recently bought a straw French market bag. It wasn't inexpensive but it holds a LOT (maybe even more than the fabric ones they sell at the grocery stores), is strong and I can put it over my shoulder so it leaves my hands free. It also looks pretty decent and is wide enough to fit a baguette without it falling out.

                                        1. re: ms. clicquot

                                          Wide enough to fit a baguette? Awesome! I hate it when my baguette falls out of my bag onto the ground.

                                          But I just have to be careful of large bags, i have to resist the urge to fill it up and make it too heavy.

                                          1. re: moh

                                            Yes, the baguette kind of pokes out the top but is not in any danger of falling out. I was so mad last winter when I picked up a nice fresh baguette and they put it in a shopping bag with a few other things and it fell out into the slush! I had been really looking forward to eating it.

                                          2. re: ms. clicquot

                                            I'm not sure how strong the one you have was, but we were out shopping one day and my friend purchased what i'm guessing was the same thing at a boutique type place, (it was 50% off so still not cheap). She put her items in there, and when we got to our destination and she got out of the car, the handles ripped right off it.

                                          3. re: Aimi

                                            These are very cool. Do you prefer them over regular canvas totes? We have a nice accumulation of canvas and cotton totes, from various free sources, that we could also use....but none are mesh and none have a solid bottom in them. Do you find that you would prefer the mesh and/or solid bottom ones to some nice freebie bags that you might already have? Are there some nice features to these that the good ol free ones might not have ( such as not being able to squnch up into a little stuff sack)??

                                            1. re: anthrochick

                                              I like the idea of canvas totes, but I have never seen any that I like enough to justify getting them. I much prefer my Chico Bags, mostly for the squnchy factor ;-), and because since they're regular plastic-bag sized, they get the fewest "weird looks" from cashiers.

                                          4. In Mexico, where we worked for many yrs, they use these nice plastic mesh/woven bags with handles. They come in all sizes; from tiny to med to large gusseted with a zippered top. They are inexpensive, maybe a few dollars for the big ones. Everyone there uses them for groceries and shopping. I wonder if there is a place in the States to get these, like CA or Arizona or Tx??

                                            1. Ikea has a large, bright blue woven plastic one for 60 cents that works FANTASTIC at
                                              Costco because it's so large. I have a few from Publix that are very strong, and one designer one that is all natural fibers and handle (and I don't trust it to carry too much)
                                              I do recycle plastic veg bags- fold them down and put them in the bottom of the other bags and use them over and over. The biggest problem for me is remembering to bring them in. I notice Publix has little signs posted on the front door "Did you remember your recyclable bags today?" - I turned right back around and grabbed them from the trunk!

                                              1. my grandmother has been doing it my entire lifetime. I remember going to the store with her when I was in kindergarten and handing bags to the checker.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: odkaty

                                                  odkaty, my mother has too, except that she used to carry a big 2.5-ft-wide basket to the stores. I think she must have stopped doing it when I reached the 'oh my god my mom is so embarrassing' stage.

                                                2. my local co-ops recently went plastic bag-free and started selling great reusable bags. they are very sturdy and have a flat bottom insert so they are easy to load up: thought i'd pass along the website: http://www.onebagatatime.com/index.ph...

                                                  here's some info that came with the bags:

                                                  14 plastic bags contain enough petroleum to drive a car a mile.

                                                  380 billion plastic bags or wraps are thrown away in america each year.

                                                  making a paper bag emits 70% more global warming gasses than making a plastic bag.

                                                  0 paper bags biodegrade in landfills, due to a lack of oxygen.

                                                  cities spend up to 17 cents per bag in disposable costs, wasting millions of tax dollars.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                    Love one bag at a time. I am trying to justify ordering bags with my company name on them, just cause I can!

                                                  2. Since I promised my daughters I wouldn't drive a car for a year - they're on a green kick - I've been doing my grocery shopping using a bicycle. Bought a large back pack at Wal-Mart for $14, and use that all the time now. Gets a bit heavy when I try to take advantage of 3 12-packs of Coke for $10, but other than that, it's OK. The only problem is bread - it gets squashed a lot, but since I went on low carbs, I don't eat it all that often.

                                                    The only place I use plastic bags now is the garbage can.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: KevinB

                                                      Wow KevinB, I am impressed about the promise!

                                                      Re: food shopping and biking, we sometimes bike to our local market for food, and I have found that packing a few appropriately sized tupperware helps a lot. So for squishy bread, we pack our plastic bread saver if we know we are planning to buy it. Same for squishy things like berries, although if they are sold to us in a container, we'll put them in a bag and let them swing from the handlebars on the way home.

                                                      1. re: moh


                                                        Thanks for the suggestion - never thought of it, but will implement it!

                                                        As for the promise - I think the best people lead by example. To be relevant to this board, I used to work at the Keg (steak and seafood chain) in Toronto. We had one manager, who, when a customer dropped an entire plate of salad in front of the salad bar, would immediately grab a broom and sweeper, and start cleaning it up in his three-piece suit. We would go through the wall for him. Later, he moved on to his own place, and the man who replaced him would say, when a similar incident happened, would turn to the nearest waiter and say "Find a busboy", the place went downhill pretty quickly.

                                                        And next year - I'm going to amend my promise to "I won't drive a car when I can I ride my bike." I don't mind when it's nearly 80 degrees out like it is in Toronto today riding the bike, even though it takes 15-20 minutes more than driving the car. But if you've ever stood shivering for the 4:15 bus in temps of minus -30, only to find it was cancelled, and you won't see the next one until 5:00 pm? I've got nothing against trying to diminish my environmental footprint, but not at the cost of spending nearly an hour in the cold, and spending 2 hours on a shopping trip that would otherwise have cost me 30 minutes. Especially when certain "environmental" advocates live in houses that use 10 times the average energy of other homes in their states, fly all over the world in jet planes, and need a six car motorcade to go the mile from their hotel to their venue. They talk it; I live it.

                                                      2. re: KevinB

                                                        Kevin, have you considered Soda Club? http://www.chowhound.com/topics/381990 We got so tired of schlepping those 12-packs of Coke around and hassling with recycling all the empty cans that we decided to start carbonating our own. So much easier.


                                                      3. We use a backpack, several canvas bags and a string bag. We walk to the WFM and back so have to assist with the bagging in order to distribute the weight and not have things stabbing us in the back through the backpack. Most baggers don't even consider that someone might walk to the store. We're vegan so don't have to worry about cross-contamination factor. We take the backpack with us to various other stores (Home Depot, etc.) and I keep a canvas bag in my Prius.
                                                        Does anyone else remember the old Tonight Show (Johnny Carson) grocery bagging competitions?
                                                        Some of the local stores use paper bags with no handles or plastic bags. Many of the elderly people request both (paper inside plastic) because they want the handles but they also want a strong bag which will stand up. Argh!

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: lgss

                                                          There are so many people here in Boston without cars that in many stores, the baggers are REALLY good about packing backpacks so nothing is poking you on the way home. I think it's because they also walk home with backpacks full of groceries.

                                                        2. We were talking about reusable bags at work and one person says she puts them on her grocery list to remind her to take them in with her.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: lgss

                                                            I keep all of my bags rolled up inside one large canvas bag, so when I go into the store, I just grab the 'bag of bags'. This way I don't have to decide in advance how many bags I think I'll need, and it also keeps them all neat and organized in the trunk of the car. It's enough of a habit that I usually remember to grab it now.

                                                          2. I try to keep reusable bags in my car, but that doesn't help much lately since I've been commuting by bike and often make spontaneous stops at the grocery store on my way home. Also, while I might always have some reusable bags in my car, my spouse doesn't always...

                                                            One thing that works really well for me, don't scold, is I actually keep several plastic grocery or drugstore bags in my purse. No matter how much we try to avoid getting plastic bags, we still end up getting them at places like Walgreen's and Target or when we've bought more groceries than we have bags. So, I end up wadding those up really really small, and stuffing them in the inside pocket of my purse (2-3 easily fit without any overcrowding or even creating an unsightly lump) so I almost always have a couple of bags with me when I shop. Otherwise, I use them as trash liners. The Union of Concerned Scientists is pretty indifferent about whether choosing plastic or paper is better for the environment, so, now I don't feel so bad when I get one of those plastic bags and use it 3-4 times. And, they can be recycled (my local grocery store collects them) when they get too many holes in them to be effective.


                                                            5 Replies
                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                              The other thing to do if you want a reusable bag you can carry in your purse is to buy an "ultra-compact" bag. See for example: http://www.reusablebags.com/store/sho...

                                                              1. re: jlafler

                                                                The ultra-compact bags are great, but they aren't as compact as those plastic bags (that I'm looking for an excuse to get multiple uses out of)--I can get several in my purse for the same amount of space the "ultra-compact" ones take.


                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                  True, and if you've got the plastic bags, it's better to do something with them. I almost had a fit a few days ago when I said "I have my own bag" and the clerk said "okay" and took the plastic bag she was about to use and *threw it away.* Talk about unclear on the concept. This was at a kids' clothing store, not a grocery store, where they're more familiar with the BYOB idea, but still.

                                                                  I use plastic grocery bags (there are always a few, no matter how careful you are) at the farmer's market for things like green beans.

                                                                  1. re: jlafler

                                                                    >>I almost had a fit a few days ago when I said "I have my own bag" and the clerk said "okay" and took the plastic bag she was about to use and *threw it away.*

                                                                    I've had that happen, too. I was stunned.

                                                                    1. re: manraysky

                                                                      Unclear on the concept, I say. I've almost brought myself to the point of saying, "If you're going to throw it away, I'll take it. It's not about the bag, it's about not being wasteful. You know, a save the earth thing." I've never actually said it because, like both of you, I'm always so stunned.