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Question regarding Market Tote bags

It appears that the green movement regarding reusable market tote bags is starting to reach mainstream customers.

I am doing some research regarding tote bags and am interested in what foodie types use at local stores or farmers markets. I personally love my french blue basket that I probably paid $35 or so for.

I have found mass produced 12 oz canvas totes selling for $10-15. Also more custom made versions with separate areas for baskets of berries and pockets for c-phones and plastic bags. These are around $35-40. I also have found totes with a thermal liner to keep the contents cool.

What do most folks use for totes? Is there are market for the $35-40 dollar high quality tote? Do you like them plain or do you get them with design, pictures or local advertising on them?

Thanks for your responses!

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  1. I have a fantastic straw market bag with leather straps that I got at a French boutique in Toronto. It holds a surprising amount of stuff and the straps are sturdy and long enough to go over my shoulder. It was fairly expensive at around $35 but was worth every penny - I use it almost every day.

    There is a picture of it here: http://theseasonalgourmet.ca/2009/04/...

    1. I guess there's a market for everything, but I wouldn't pay that much for a tote. Instead, I have a motley selection of cheap/freebie totes that I stash in various convenient places -- to me, the most important thing about a tote is that I have one when/where I need it. I think the most useful is the insulated zipper bag I bought at Trader Joe's for $5. One consideration for me is that I don't like to pile everything into one large tote, as I either have to constantly rearrange things or the things on the bottom get squished.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        I also have a boatload of free totes, from Macy's, World Market, drugstores, grocery stores etc. Some you basic canvas, others like a rice sack but with really colorful graphics. (World Market, in particular, is always giving out free colorful totes.) I also have some free insulated zipper bags from my credit card company.

        I guess my answer to OP's question is $0.00.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Same with me. I shove all the totes inside the largest and leave them in the trunk of my car. I also keep one in my laundry room for things to go to the tailor/dry cleaner. A few of the smaller totes live in the kitchen- convinient if I'm bringing cans or something to a friend's house.

        2. I couldn't bring myself to pay more than $10 for a bag meant only for market use.

          I do have one of those straw totes that ms. clicquot points to, but truthfully, it just stays at home and looks pretty (this is more a beach/vacation bag for me).

          The tote I use all the time for groceries is a recycled rice sack:

          I've got a few freebie shopping bags that I liked enough to keep in the car. The ugly freebies get given away or I just don't take them.

          And I've got a large boat bag that stays in the car and does grocery duty when I do a big shop.

          None of these bags were purchased for the express purpose of grocery shopping. They are bags I had or purchased around the time that bringing your own bag began to come in to vogue.

          (I'm a bit of a bag fiend.


          Edited to add:

          Rethinking this last bit to say, if that rice bag went south, I'd probably pop for another one. It's sturdy and lightweight, the graphics are cool, and it's served me well. So I guess, once a bag has proved its worth, I'm willing to go over that $10 mark I mentioned above. But it definitely still has to be reasonable in price.

          1. Most of my bags cost me no more than $2 - $3. They look like everyone else's, and I keep them in my car, so I have them with me. I have found that these totes soil easily, and like being able to toss them in the washing machine. The couple that didn't do well being washed, I just tossed.

            1. I think the best tote is one you can have with you at all times for those unexpected stops.

              Also, no need to just use them for groceries... I use them at the pharmacy, Target, bookstores etc.

              I use these because they hold a lot, they're sturdy and they roll up so small (about the size of large egg roll)... that I can always have one or two in my purse.


              I get mine from eBay. Cheaper.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Jennalynn

                I flirt with these bags from time to time..great patterns! Maybe time to buy!

              2. I have a number of different styles.

                I also have several Chico bags, since they are so small and can clip onto my key chain or bag.
                This way I'm not caught short when a quick stop for one item turns into a bigger shopping trip than I anticipated.


                I have many freebie and inexpensive bags which live in my car. If I am doing a big shopping trip I bring them into the store with me. I particularly like bags which fold up into neat packets and bags which have a defined base and sides (can stand upright on their own). I am not a fan of the crocheted loose bags that expand - they jumble the groceries about too much for my ocd tendencies!

                For cold items in the summer I had a nice insulated bag from IKEA that I loved. I plan to replace it next time I am in Ikea. It was shaped like a half circle and had lots of pockets inside. I found it in the food area of the store for perhaps $5.

                Lastly, I have a metal and canvas market basket that I like for the farmers market. I found it at a thrift store for $8. I just found the following link, boy they have come down in price! I have seen them go for $35.


                1. I use these string bags I got at Sur La Table. They ball up very small when not being used, but can hold a TON of groceries. The ones I bought have two sets of handles, one for the hands, one for shoulders.


                  I bake a lot for parties and my bakery boxes always look kinda cool in the bags, which is just a bonus for me.

                  1. I have spent $0.00 for my totes. I got 2 envirosax bags for Christmas from my sis-in-law and use them (they're great!) Then I have a mixed plethora of bags--from one of my co-ops, from Wild Oats, and various bag from conferences I've attended (since they always put conference materials in these bags).

                    My sister has one of those baskets with the hard frame (by Reisenthel, available at Sur La Table). She loves hers and I see quite a few people with those at the farmer's market, but I'm pretty frugal and wouldn't spend the $35 on it.

                    1. Personally I like them a)sturdy and b)CHEAP! If the price point is low enough they become semi-disposable so that if the eggs break or the meat leaks it's not the end of the world...

                      I have a bunch of reusable shopping bags - a couple of the Dollar bags from Publix, a pair of insulated (zippered!) bags that Publix sells for less than five bucks each, a cute printed canvas bag that doesn't hold a lot but was $5 on sale at Kmart, a handmade fabric bag I've had for at least a decade, and a cheap woven nylon beach bag from Walmart that is my favourite everyday bag - it's super-big, it has sturdy handles that aren't going to break and which are long enough to comfortably sling over my shoulder, and since it's nylon it's waterproof and easily cleanable.

                      I would pay ten dollars for a tote that was sturdy, durable, cute, and practical. I wouldn't pay more than that because I'd be afraid that somebody might steal it!

                      1. PS. I forgot. I also have one of those collapsible shopping baskets. I bought it to take to the farmers market but found it impractical to carry with a large weight in it. But it's great for taking stuff to potlucks/parties because you can fold it up and stash it away in a corner... And I also have a tiny nylon shopping bag I got at Office Depot. It came with a carry case but I don't keep it in it - like an umbrella, once it comes OUT of its neat little case it's almost impossible to get it back IN again! It folds up small enough to fit into my purse or pocket anyway so I have it with me at all times for small impulse buys.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Kajikit

                          I love my collapsible shopping basket! It does get heavy, but for a quick trip to the market it's great, and so very cute!

                        2. I just keep taking back the paper bags from the store. They are reusable bags, after all. Unlike the rest of you, I've been doing this for years.
                          When I go to the farmer's market, I take the canvas tote bag that my daughter used for her books in kindergarten (the school insisted on this), still decorated as she requested, with fireworks. She's a senior in college now.
                          When I grew up in Europe, people used the plastic mesh string bags because you could stuff them into small places and always have one with you.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: 512window

                            "Unlike the rest of you, I've been doing this for years."

                            What makes you assume that others who have posted here (or those who haven't) have not also been using reusable bags for years? I don't have paper bags to take back to the store, because I have been using cloth bags for my purchases for years. Paper bags are reusable, but they don't last for years.

                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                              Yes, that was quite an assumption. I've been using my own baskets/bags for years, too.
                              I only take paper bags as often as I need to to collect newspapers for recycling. The baskets I use hold much more weight than any bag, and are incredibly durable; I haven't lost one to wear and tear yet.

                          2. I would never pay $35 for a grocery tote bag. When I decided to stop taking plastic bags, I started picking up strong and attractive totes during my forays into thrift stores. I have a great collection in my car -- Most of them cost 89 cents apiece, a few really high end ones were as high as $3.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: mr99203

                              I wouldn't, either. I use these:

                              But I've only ever bought them at Marshall's for $9.99, several of them for us and for my daughter. It's amazing how many items and how much weight they hold, and they balance very well and are easy to carry even when loaded.

                              I keep them in my trunk and load my Costco stuff into them from the wagon, too, no icky boxes from the warehouse.

                            2. All of my totes come from my local supermarket--I bought a couple of them and a couple were given to me when I participated in Race For The Cure (yes, they're pink). I've thought about getting one of the Trader Joe's insulated bags, particularly since I've started buying meat from a local co-op and it comes frozen.

                              1. I have a stack of reusables I got from various grocery stores, but my very favorites are the Target bags because they fold up without affecting the appearance or sturdiness. They take up so little space I can carry the small one in a purse or just grab the large one.

                                1. It turns out that I ended up paying a lot for the bag I use to take to a local store that charges for bags if you don't bring your own. I use an L.L. Bean Boat Bag. It's huge and strong and washable. I don't recall if it was $50, $80... I have a couple of them and use them all the time around the house and in the car.

                                  I never remember to take the bag with me if I go to our other supermarket, where the bags are gratis. My bad.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: shaogo

                                    I have Bean Boat Totes too... but you hit on the big problem. They're huge, don't fold and are heavy even empty. I use them for the beach and for weekend trips, not the supermarket.

                                    The ones that roll or fold up and you toss into your purse are the ones that you will use.

                                    1. re: Jennalynn

                                      Exactly. No sane person is going to spend $35 on a tote when the 99-cent one from the supermarket is better for the job.

                                  2. Until recently, all of my market bags were free from various markets/stores. I purchased a couple of cool looking totes from Trader Joes for $1.99 each.

                                    I've actually seen this a couple of times, ladies using Louis Vuitton totes as their grocery bag not including the one they used as a purse. Personally I think it's a little too much but to each his own.

                                    1. I love it: conspicuous consumption as a performance of 'green' thinking.

                                      What's wrong with the average reusable tote? The sustainable development department at my Uni was giving these out. I have two of those I use, plus the usual reusable' Tesco/M&S bags crammed here and there for use. The supermarket bags are a few pence each- the totes are a bit more, but hardly as expensive as what people in the states seem to pay.

                                      Is it because I am in Europe that this kind of cost strikes me as silly at best?

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Lizard

                                        Did you read the other replies? A majority of people seemed to think it was silly, although no one mentioned the conspicuous consumption angle. But yes, I agree, the best way to be green is to consume less, and that includes using/"repurposing" things you already have and not going out and buying new "green" products.

                                      2. My favorite ones are mesh ones that I bought 15+ years ago from Fresh Fields (when there was a Fresh Fields). They were inexpensive and stretch to hold more than any other bags I've bought. Since then, I've gotten quite a few reusable tote bags for free for as race giveaways so other than my original mesh bags, I haven't bought more. Great giveaways, race name on it, sponsors printed so they get their advertising out.

                                        1. Just got a Patagonia tote that folds into a nice little carry pack. When unfolded it is a great size with the carry pack being a zippered pocket. Cost was $15.00.
                                          Downside is it is nylon and not natural fabic etc, but it would be especially good for travel since it folds up so nicely.

                                          I have several more on the way coming for evaluation.

                                          1. I use BlueQ totes. They're made from used grain sacks and plastic water bottles, very sturdy, easily wiped down and hold a nice rectangular shape while folding up easily. And they have adorable designs. I discovered that I was completely incapable of using reusable bags that I thought were ugly. Finicky I guess. For some reason I also hated the tiny envirosax things because I disliked the flimsy feel of them and I guess I just like things structured. Sure I should have used ones that I was given for free but if I couldn't bring myself to use them then they were pretty useless:( I paid about $10-15 retail for my BlueQ's and get constant compliments.. PS I don't work for the company...

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: rdnnyc

                                              They're great - I want the Queen Elizabeth one!

                                              I have a big selection of reusable bags. Most of them were free, or about a pound from IKEA. The most useful ones are the sturdy Whole Food ones I got at a food fair for free, a Selfridges hessian bag (free) and another hessian one proclaiming my love for my local market in Brixton! I also have a foldable one I keep in my handbag for impromptu shopping trips on the way home etc. I wouldn't pay more than a couple of pounds for any shopping bag.

                                            2. Does no one else have a granny cart? The vertical wire baskets on wheels, or the fabric ones on a metal frame, also on wheels. I only use that to tote heavy things like cat litter or bushels of tomatoes to put up in tomato season. If not, I don't care much about the aesthetics but do care if there is a long handle in a fabric that doesn't dig into my shoulder.

                                              Some basmati rice comes in little cotton bags with a zipper: these are handy to put in your larger bags for small things like a few fruits.

                                              ms. cliquot's seasonal gourmet post shows the cotton bags available at LCBO in Ontario and also at SAQ in Qu├ębec (our wine and spirits monopoly). Those bags have compartments for bottles, and are useful for many kinds of bottles and jars other than wine.

                                              1. We have a pretty large collection of reusable store bags (free or cheap), canvas bags from professional conferences (free and generally ugly as sin), and a small but growing collection of reusable bags from various farmers markets I've visited on trips. I do pay for those, usually around $10, but they are fun reminders of happy travels.

                                                1. We also have a pretty big collection of reusables picked up from various places, but my everyday bag is one I bought at the Museum of Art & Design in NYC a couple of years ago. I forget how much I paid, certainly less than $10.

                                                  It's intended for kids, but I find it amusing in an absurdist way and get lots of compliments on it when I pull it out (the clerk in my local bakery says it's a high point in her day when I bring it in). It's also made of some kind of synthetic that folds up quite small so it fits easily in a pocket, unlike the majority of the stiffish reusables.

                                                  1. My jaw has dropped at a number of these posts - double digit prices for totes? The supermarkets, and many other stores, now all sell them for $1, or a few dollars more for the insulated version. That said, I'd recommend www.etsy.com to those 'hounds who simply MUST have a designer tote. Etsy hosts online "stores" for thousands of craftspeople and other artisans. Click "handmade" and type the sort of item you want, and you'll find scores of choices.

                                                    1. When totes are free or less than a dollar, why would anyone spend $35 for one??? I've gotten quite a number of them over the years from various and sundry grocery stores. I love having all the different store logos as memories of the markets I visited in different cities where we've visited. I keep both canvas and net bags as well as an insulated cooler bag in the trunk of my car so that they are always available when I go grocery shopping, to Costco, etc.

                                                      We use them for carrying all kinds of other things, too. Most of mine are canvas or cotton net so they easily come clean in the washer. My oldest one is some 30 years old. It is a rainbow coloured net bag that I got in Key West. Recently I've gotten a couple of the recycled bags that are made to hold wine bottles. They are also great for olive oil, vinegar and any other items that come in jars of similar size.

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: decolady

                                                        Decolady -- you mentioned washing your canvas bags. Do they shrink in the washer? I have some nice canvas once that could really stand a cleaning, but they'd be rather useless if they were any smaller.

                                                        1. re: comestible

                                                          Wash in cold water and hang to dry (maybe with a little stretching) and they should be fine.

                                                          1. re: comestible

                                                            I wash mine in cold water and let them air dry. The air drying is important. The bags will shrink in the dryer. I do tend to stretch them and smooth them out a couple of times while they are drying.

                                                            1. re: decolady

                                                              Thanks to you both for responding!