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Recommend Grocery Tote Bag

In LA for groceries checkouts, they stopped giving plastic or even paper bags and started charging extra for the paper bags!

So, I'm looking for a durable but not too expensive Grocery Tote Bag.


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  1. I bought a couple of Trader Joe's bags for 99¢ each. They're made to last (2 years so far), and they're cool. :-)


    1 Reply
    1. re: John Francis

      The TJs bag shown in this link 2nd row from the top, 3rd bag from the left, is my all time favorite. It holds a huge amount of whatever and its long low shape is easy to pack. They haven't had this shape bag for a while but I keep emailing them begging them to bring it back. Mine are several years old and are starting to fall apart. I thought I had bought enough of them to last a lifetime but between heavy use and using them for gift bags, I'm running low.

    2. Interesting query. Does anyone know if USA marketers sell those mesh bags that people use in Europe? They scrunch up into almost nothing for storing in a purse or what not but then expand as needed to the size of a beach ball.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Bada Bing

        For large, heavy loads I like the roller bag which I found at TJ Maxx. For smaller loads, I use a cloth bag that can be washed even though it gets unloaded from the floor. The whole idea of putting a dirty bottomed bag on my counter makes me queezy.

        1. re: Bada Bing

          You will find a selection if you google "string shopping bags" (in Europe they go by their French name, filet"). But I find that I do better with any kind of shopping bag as long as it meets these two criteria: 1) it is long and deep (usually moreso than the filet) and 2) it has LONG loop handles that will go over my shoulder, to distribute weight as I find more comfortable than carrying the bag at the end of my arm.

        2. The insulated bags they sell at WF hold up really well as do their regular ones. Added bonus is that they will replace them for free if they wear out or get damaged.

          I have found European style mesh bags at BBB and places like Home Goods and Ikea. For small, non bulky purchases they are ok but I really only use them when I go to the farmers market.

            1. I live in LA and have both of these. The first is insulated, and hard sided and holds a TON. I know, I know, its Walmart ~~ but I searched all over and couldn't find one like it anywhere else, so I bit the bullet and bought it. Actually, I'm on my second one, the first wore out. It is so great for carrying my 2 liter bottles of diet coke and the meat, cheese, etc. frozen food et al.

              The second is now my all purpose bag that I take everywhere. I have it in black, but a colleague just ordered one because she likes mine so much.



              1. We've been using bags like these up here in Canada for a while and they work really well.


                I believe Whole Foods would sell them in the US. They are either polymer based (made of old plastic bottles) or cloth based usually.
                In my experience, the polymer ones work better since they are water proof and don't tear as much

                1. I used to get up on Sunday mornings and walk from my Federal Hill home to the Baltimore Farmer's Market, passing through the touristy Inner Harbor on the way.

                  For these trips I'd just take a regular backpack to load up with groceries. It worked really well, and it was easier to carry heavy items.

                  Plus, on my way back, I'd pass through crowds of tourists and joggers running around that harbor. I'd look at them and think to myself "I am the only person here with a backpack full of meat."

                  1. I got my Acme Workhorse bags from reusit.com, They've lasted several years, and they hold a ton. Reusit frequently runs specials on purchases of multiple bags.


                    this particular bag is "responsibly made in Taiwan". If you want made in the USA, you can filter the products shown by country of origin.

                    1. Here in Toronto reusable shopping bags are pretty much the norm. That said, the best reusable grocery bags I've found have been the ones I've purchased at Trader Joe's when I'm visiting the US.

                      I especially like these bags because they:

                      • Stand up on their own which makes them easy to load, especially at self check-out counters
                      • Wipe clean easily
                      • Are extremely sturdy which means they stand up to heavy loads and, they last a long time
                      • Are cheap (99¢) and cheerful with their bright, tropical colours

                      Also, here in Canada, they’re not that common so I’m always getting complimented on them!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Breadcrumbs

                        These are the ones I have too, I've had them for 5+ years and they still work great and can hold a good amount. I've fit like $40 worth of groceries into one bag before. I also have a shorter but wider one in a similar material that I got at World Market when Eat, Pray, Love came out, and it's also great.

                        I also keep a rolling cooler like the one laliz linked to above in the back of my SUV.

                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                          TJ's has a sturdy, large, zippered insulated bag too. It's solid red, costs $6. I put a frozen pint water bottle into it before heading out to shop, and it has barely melted 8 hrs later.

                        2. Whatever cloth bags you go with, be sure to put them through a hot wash every once in a while. I've read where there are a lot of bacteria in the averaging cloth shopping bag. I always wrap meat products in one of the plastic bags and then recycle it when I get home.

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: John E.

                            Unintended consequences. I am amazed more people have not posted on the potential for bacteria problems.
                            I googled and found a Chicago Tribune article at http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/...

                            The following were highlights from the article:
                            Researchers at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University queried shoppers headed into grocery stores in California and Arizona, asking them if they wash those reusable bags. 97% reported that they do not regularly, if ever, wash the bags.
                            The researchers tested 84 of the bags for bacteria. They found whopping amounts in all but one bag, and coliform bacteria (suggesting raw-meat or uncooked-food contamination) in half. And yes, the much-feared E. coli was among them -- in 12% of the bags.

                            Reusable bags, if not properly washed between uses, create the potential for cross-contamination of foods.

                            The full report is titled, Assessment of the Potential for Cross Contamination of Food Products by Reusable Shopping Bags.

                            For more on food-borne illness check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

                            1. re: Florida Hound

                              I've seen the stories, and they read to me like an attempt to scare people put out (or funded by) plastic bag manufacturers. E. coli comes in a lot of strains, and is present in every human and most mammalian guts: it's relatively easy to test for. It's used as an indicator of fecal contamination - the reason it's associated with raw meat is due to unsanitary practices in slaughterhouses and meat processing plants rather than anything inherent in raw flesh.

                              What these scare stories imply is that bacteria can somehow travel from a bag through common food packaging. Unless you're putting unwrapped foods in your bag and planning on consuming them raw and uncleaned, it's mostly paranoia.

                              1. re: Florida Hound

                                Unless you're in the habit of carrying "naked" meat and produce in your grocery bag, it's not going to happen. Here in America anyway, everything is packaged or bagged, by the manufacturer, store, or yourself, before you reach the checkout counter. It's more likely that microorganisms would find the food when it's on display in the store, or after you get home and unpack it.

                                As for cross-contamination, my local food store does not sterilize its shopping carts and baskets after each use, That doesn't bother me. I don't wash my plastic-based bags either. And I've never gotten sick from food I've eaten in my home. That's never in many decades.

                                This carries the American obsession with cleanliness to a new and even more ludicrous level. Why borrow trouble?

                                1. re: John Francis

                                  I had an uncle who smoked like a chmney and lived to be 87. Anecdotal evidence of the "well I never had a problem" kind is useless and potentially dangerous.

                                  I bag all supermarket meat in the aisle because the packaging leaks frequently. It's not ludicrous to be worried about the risk of food contamiation. People die from it every year, mostly the very young and very old. It's not really the chosen way to die, but it's not an insignificant risk.

                                  1. re: JonParker

                                    I agree that anecdotal evidence is not proof that no problem exists. But the reverse is also true - anecdata do not prove there is a problem. While there is evidence of contamination of bags, I haven't seen anything that indicates the contamination is worse than that on pretty much every other surface. I also have not seen any evidence - anecdotal or empirical - of illness from cross contamination from reusable bags.

                                    1. re: JonParker

                                      Has anyone in the United States ever actually died or gotten ill by eating food contaminated by the bag it was carried home in? The study isn't about food contamination in general but about this specific alleged hazard. I've never read or heard of any such case, nor has anyone I've asked. Can anybody cite specific cases, chapter and verse? If not, then this is a false alarm and we'd do better to focus on real hazards to our health.

                                      1. re: John Francis

                                        The News media loves this kind of "Germaphobia" crap. It gets people all lathered up.

                                        1. re: John Francis

                                          I don't need to cite specific cases to know sticking my arm into a running garbage disposal is a bad idea. Sheesh.

                                      2. re: John Francis

                                        What is the downside to an occasional hot wash for those cloth grocery bags?

                                  2. I am a fan of reusable bags. Once you use em you can never go back to those flimsy (rip-prone) paper or plastic vehicles.
                                    I do agree they should be tossed in the (hot) wash.

                                    If you are cheap like me and like "free" you should be able to find them. I know I picked up a bunch (with a major health insurer's logo) at an employee heath fair. I have also received freebies at home-improvement stores, a bicycle shop, and various conferences and events.

                                    Do you drink wine? Many local grocery stores have a "buy six and get 15% off" deal where I live....and you get a "six pack" tote as part of the deal. I save mine and use them for all sorts of things: canned goods, condiment jars...and even wine. Again, they work oh such much better for these heavier items.

                                    One other tip, is to gather a bunch of bags. Keep some in your vehicle for those last-minute or unplanned shopping trips.

                                    1. In my county you need to bring your own bag too.

                                      I also like Trader Joes the best, but I found some really huge and strong shopping totes by the cash registers at Marshall's. Really sturdy, only a few bucks.

                                      1. The issue for me is Strap Length.
                                        At 5'0", a heavy bag dragging the ground on my "quick walk to<->from the store" Is. No. Fun.

                                        A litle google-time gave me this article: http://bit.ly/10TqnZV

                                        And this company: http://bit.ly/10TqrZB
                                        but I think "as low as $..." implies significant bulk purchasing.

                                        Maybe CHOW could get some imprinted. I'd buy for $5 or less.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                          Oh yes! If Chow made grocery totes, I'd buy several!

                                          1. re: Hobbert

                                            Just wanted to say I am on board..
                                            I think of grocery bags as "disposable" so they need to be light weight and free or cheap (99 cents).
                                            Add this to your advertising budget!

                                            Agree it would be cool do do a longer strap length that would be bicycle friendly, My most basic courier bag strap is measuring as 36"--cross body. I am a 5"2" female.

                                            1. re: pedalfaster

                                              umm... part of the idea of this is that things not be disposable. might as well just get the bags the store gives or sells.

                                              1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                By "disposable" I meant "not-dear". As in something that won't be written into the will or passed on the kids. I don't want to have to worry about my shopping bags. If somethings spills, if one gets torn, if a strap becomes frayed, if one is left behind at a potluck etc, I don't want to loose any sleep over it.
                                                Sorry for the confusion.

                                        2. My sister gave me these, and they are great. They fold into small squares and I carry them in my purse.


                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: SilverMoth

                                            Oooh, love all the pattern choices!

                                            I just picked up something kind of similar, a nylon bag that packs into a pouch about the size of an apple. I like that I can just keep it in my purse and not have to carry a bulky bag all over if I'm on foot or remember to grab it from my trunk if I'm driving. Their produce bags look good too.


                                            1. re: babette feasts

                                              Those are nice too. I, too, used to forget the bags in my car trunk all the time. Nylon bags are great in that they fold into small packets and I always have them. They also hold a lot of groceries.

                                              1. I don't like the mesh bags as is because they have no shape, which makes it hard to pack them neatly and I wind up getting poked by corners of boxes which will be crushed/dented by the time I get them home. So I have crocheted mesh bags in the same dimensions as a brown paper grocery bag, and keep one of those inside the mesh bag. It can be re-used many times. I have mulled over ideas for how to make a crocheted bag that will stand on its own but haven't come up with a good idea yet.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: greygarious

                                                  What if you did cross stitch on a plastic frame?

                                                2. These simple Mexican style Bags work great and should be easy to find in LaLa Land

                                                  1. I am an urban shopper with no car so the matter of transporting groceries is basic in my life. Two things: 1) Walter Drake sells a folding canvas shopping cart that will stand alone and on public transportation doesn't take up as much space as a metal mesh cart. It folds for easy carrying, to a size only slightly bigger than a laptop, so is manageable but unfolds to hold lot--I have taken one of these to Europe on numerous trips when we rented a flat or house and would be marketing. 2) The kind of small cooler on wheels, insulated and about 18 inches square, meant for picnic drinks, also works well. Even if you drive to your grocery shopping and are just coping with the problem of the market no longer giving bags, you still have to get everything to your car and if you have a lot, a shopping bag isn't adequate.

                                                    1. I make a joke that I've never had to pay for a reusable shopping bag. I have three from the local grocery store, a Baggu from Serious Eats that I keep in my purse, one from Whole Foods which once held some of my co-op stuff, and two ENORMOUS cloth bags from Williams-Sonom (you can get them if you get a lot of stuff or something big in one of their stores. They're surprisingly sturdy, can hold a ton and has long enough hands so I can sling it over my shoulder. If you're buying, I highly recommend Baggu. Cheap and really durable.

                                                      1. I prefer canvas bags with handles long enough to go over the shoulder. I also have some of the nylon fold-up bags which are great for purse or car.

                                                        We have a couple of the polymer bags from TJs that my spouse likes to use. I prefer canvas because I can throw it into the wash periodically.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: tcamp

                                                          Chico Bags are my number one for carrying in my purse for several reasons: they are not too expensive, they last quite well, they hold up to 25 pounds, they weigh next to nothing and they are super easy to "deflate" -- just like a stuff sac for a sleeping bag. I just can't deal with bags I have to fold or pleat, worse than the old days of paper maps! Another plus is that Whole Foods in Canada buys these in bulk, puts their logo on one side and sells them for less than the non-logoed ones: http://www.chicobag.com/category/orig...

                                                          When I'm doing a big shopping trip, it's all about these Rume bags in the original medium size: http://www.myrume.com/SearchResultGri...

                                                          Lots of nifty patterns (and plain colours too), durable, can go over your shoulder or be held by the handle without hitting the ground (I'm 5'10" though; YMMV), carry up to 50 pounds. Only downside so far is that they sometimes get small holes in the bottom, prolly from pointy clamshells and such. Never had one actually rip though and my oldest is more than five years old.

                                                          Both the Chicos and the Rumes wash like a rag.

                                                        2. I really like Baggu bags. They are really sturdy and the handles are really comfy, even when they're really full. They come in lots of colours too, I have coral and a navy and white stripe!

                                                          1. The last time we were in Europe, I bought several of the large plastic bags at Carrefour and Coop (?). They're like the bags at Trader Joes, but a little bigger and, IMO, they hold up better. So, you know, the next time you are on vacation...

                                                            1. Thanks for all the responses folks...

                                                              So I ended up getting inexpensive bags from TJ's and they seem to work fine for now...pretty roomy, remarkably strong and they can stand up unlike some I've seen. Not sure if they're washable.