For some time now, we’ve struggled with the plastic bag problem. Not shopping bags – we’ve got that figured – we just carry a cute fold-up bag in our everyday bag. We’re talking plastic food bags. What is a really feasible bag for collecting messy things like bunches of grapes, piles of cherries or loose mesclun from the market? It needs to not take much room so we can take a bunch with us on our daily forays out, AND be washable.

We love the idea of furoshiki – the Japanese tradition of transforming a big square into all sorts of carrying bags and packages and are inspired by Ambatalia’s transformations of a big square dishcloth. (We found a trove of simple techniques for knotting and folding cloths online). Still we can’t quite imagine ourselves making bags in the heat of produce shopping.


Lately, we’ve been seeing some nice light bags designed for produce. There are lots of cloth plastic produce bags for sale on Etsy; just search “food storage bags”, adding a keyword if you prefer a certain kind of material.  We like this set of 3 plain cloth ones for $10 including shipping.

Baggu’s kits of smallish bags, in brightly-colored nylon are charming, but we’re wondering how bulky they are:

We’re thinking that Crate & Barrel’s simple set of 5 polyester bags might be the portability we’re looking for:

You’ll find more bags at ReUseIt and EcoBags. For inspiration and tips on how to cut down on plastic usage, check out My Plastic Free Life.

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5 replies on “alt plastic food bag solutions: re-usable cloth, mesh, or freeform…?

  1. Worth checking out as well as they are indestructible/washable and can handle the mess of produce AND bulk food: kootsacs!

    They’re so great– no leaking, like with cotton bags– and they really are hard to damage.

  2. Andrea, thank you SO much for this hot tip. These nylon bags look really great and according to their maker, they weigh the same as plastic bags. And the woman that makes them provides a trove of information about using them, and other food bag alternatives (she even sells silk ones).

  3. An addendum: I’ve got a LOT of plastic bags saved for re-use, but have been lax in packing them up and into my carry bag so I have them on hand when I’m in a market. That’s the first step of what I can do: use and use and re-use what’s already there.

  4. Great post! Along these same lines, there is a fun book about using fabric to wrap gifts. It is Wrapagami by Jenn Playford (she also has a website where she sells her fabric: I’ve used fabric gift wrap a few times and love the feeling of choosing something reusable to wrap a gift, rather than spending lots of money on wrapping paper which will be immediately thrown away. Hope you enjoy it too!

  5. I use the very lightweight nylon mesh bags that are available at the local organic-y store. So far no problem – they work just as well if not better than plastic and are pretty cheap and wear well. But I do love the idea of fabric. The challenge is for weighing stuff @ checkout. The other thing that I do which could work for cherries/green beans/etc. is pre-weighed containers of whatever sort. That way you have a tare weight. You could do that for heavier fabric as well – at least at places which are used to people bringing their own containers and therefore know how to take the original weight of the package off. 🙂

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