10 Best Reusable Grocery Bags That Make Grocery Shopping Easy
As more cities and states ban single-use plastic shopping bags, reusable grocery bags are becoming more popular than ever. Read on to find the best reusable tote bags that are better for the environment!
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Reusable bags you’ll actually want to use time and again
If you’ve wondered if it’s time for you to be more aware of climate change, sustainability, and your consumption levels, it is. And while it may seem like a small change, regularly using reusable grocery bags is an important and impactful habit. After all, when it comes to environmental issues impacting the climate and our planet’s viability, we all have to commit to making daily changes. That’s why you’ll also want to know about the best reusable straws, best reusable water bottles, and best reusable coffee mugs.
According to the website of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), the agency that reports on which states limit single-bag use, “Reducing bag use can mitigate harmful impacts to oceans, rivers, lakes, forests, and the wildlife that inhabit them. It can also relieve pressure on landfills and waste management.” Using eco-friendly reusable grocery bags on a regular basis is better for the environment, will help reduce the use of fossil fuels and dangerous emissions, and may help you reduce your carbon footprint, while committing to more sustainable living.
If you’ve ever wondered if tote bags are bad for the environment, it’s important to understand the manufacturing process before you buy. Does the brand have a commitment to sustainability? Reusable grocery bags are only beneficial if manufacturing them and using them honors natural resources. Look for companies with a commitment not to waste energy or create dangerous emissions or more greenhouse gas or pollution than a plastic bag does. In other words, that cute new tote bag shouldn’t be created in a way that is unfriendly to the environment, or potentially affects climate or our overall environment.
Alexandr Dubynin/getty images
What is a reusable grocery bag?
A reusable grocery bag takes the place of a plastic or paper bag at the store. It should be portable and able to comfortably hold a load of groceries or other goods without ripping or collapsing. Smart shoppers will choose one that either stows comfortably in their car trunk or is easy to carry around in their handbag or backpack for unexpected shopping trips. The New York Department of Health says to reduce the spread of germs, reusable grocery bags should not be used for anything but food or groceries, so you may want an additional set that’s designated for household goods, cleaning products, and the like. They also offer these guidelines on keeping your bags clean:
- Cloth reusable bags should be washed in a washing machine using laundry detergent. They should also be dried in the dryer or air-dried.
- Plastic-lined reusable bags should be scrubbed using hot water and soap, then air-dried.
- Before storing, be sure both cloth and plastic-lined reusable bags are completely dry.
Insulated bags should be hand-washed in warm water and soap, or wiped with disinfecting and bacterial wipes, especially along the seams, and then line-dried.
Francesco Carta fotografo/getty images
Why you should switch to a reusable grocery bag
While there isn’t an exact number available, according to the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year. If that’s not a sobering enough statistic, they also state that Americans use an average of 365 plastic bags per person per year, compared with Denmark, where the average person uses only four plastic bags per year.
CBD also reports that birds often mistake shredded plastic bags for food, fish eat thousands of tons of plastic each year, and sea life including sea turtles have died from ingesting plastics. They also report that the micro amounts of plastic we ingest daily could harm our own bodies.
In addition to helping protect our vulnerable world and being beneficial for the environment, reusable grocery bags, or totes you recycle for other purposes, have loads of other benefits:
- You may end up saving money, as some cities and states have started charging a per-bag fee (generally around 5 to 10 cents).
- You may waste less food. Carry your own reusable bag and you’ll shop smarter as well; after all, if you only have room for a certain amount of groceries per bag, you could end up spending less.
- A reusable grocery bag that’s insulated can keep food cool or warm on the ride home, a factor that’s particularly important to anyone who lives in a warm climate or has a long drive home from the grocery store.
Different types of tote bags
The type of reusable grocery bag or tote bag you choose depends on your taste and needs.
They’re most often made of natural or synthetic fibers
Natural fibers include:
- Cotton canvas. Lightweight, portable, and biodegradable
- Hemp. Stronger than cotton
- Jute. Plant-based and completely biodegradable
Synthetic fibers include:
- Polyester. They come in many fashionable options, last for years, and are easy to carry around. Look for those made from recycled plastic or fabrics.
- Nylon. Not the most environmentally friendly option, so think before you buy. That said, they are incredibly durable, can be used for years, and are easily packed.
- Polypropylene (PP). Though these bags are made from plastic, it’s most often recycled and much more eco-friendly than single-use plastic bags.
Insulated vs. uninsulated bags
An insulated bag will be made with some sort of filler material that will keep foods cooler for up to several hours at a time. This is useful if you live in a warm climate, live far away from the grocery store, and/or intend to transport meat, eggs, or other perishable food items home from the store. They’re also good at keeping hot foods hot for those times when you’re transporting prepared foods.
So which reusable grocery bag is the right one for you? We made our picks based on recommendations from people who’ve been using (and reusing) grocery bags, user reviews, star ratings, and our own experiences road testing the best of the bunch.
Best for commuters
Pulp Fusion Boardwalk Tote
If you love the idea of paper bags, but not the fact that they break easily and food often comes crashing out, this is the bag for you. Made from water-resistant, biodegradable, and renewable fused paper pulp shells and lined with cotton, this eco-friendly bag is especially handy when traveling because it packs down small and isn’t flashy.
- The Pulp Fusion Boardwalk tote looks great, but not fancy enough to become attractive to pickpockets. It’s stylish enough to wear to work and light enough to pack for a trip—buy two if you intend to use it for more than just groceries.
- We love the cool styling of this tote and the inside zipper compartment (keep your cash, cards, and ID safe) and one on the outside to keep your phone handy.
- This stylish tote also has a fabric lining and a bit of padding and is made from renewable low-impact materials including paper, cotton, and jute, but is still somehow water-resistant and biodegradable.
- We weren’t thrilled with the short strap that makes it a bit hard to wear as a shoulder bag and slightly awkward as a tote.
- We would love to see a wider padded shoulder strap, since the tote became a bit uncomfortable when filled with produce.
Best for large families
Scout Errand Boy Tote Bag
A cute pattern on an extra-large grocery tote? Yes, please! This tote is easy to stow in the trunk of your car and easy to take into the market as needed. And because Scout has so many cute colorways and patterns, you could match your tote to your outfit if you’re so inclined.
- While we love cotton totes, they’re never big enough for serious shopping. And we may be exaggerating, but it seems as though Scout tote bags come in about a bazillion patterns and style variations, which makes grocery shopping a lot more fun.
- We’ve used and reused Scout bags often, and they don’t seem to show any wear or tear, ever. Not even this roomy tote, which measures 26 inches wide, 13 inches high, and 12 inches deep.
- Even though there’s a zipper, you can fill it to the brim and zip, or overstuff and ignore the zipper.
- You’ll have to be sure to balance your heavier items on both sides of this tote, or risk items shifting while you walk to your car.
- Though this Scout bag comes with a zipper closure, some come with velcro. We can’t tell you how many sleeves or knit tops we’ve destroyed while reaching into one. Pay attention to the type of tote closure before ordering.
Best for vegetables
Canvas Wizard Canvas Grocery Tote Bag with Dividers
Love browsing at the farmers market? You’ll fall in love with this tote bag with dividers! What’s great about it is that there are distinct sections so you can keep your onions far from your herbs, while protecting your tomatoes.
- The cleverly divided sections keep your fruit and veggies separate and easy to keep track of.
- Lots of cute colored straps and trim to personalize your look.
- Did we mention how sturdy this beauty is? This canvas grocery tote won’t collapse in on itself if you fill it with heavy produce.
- Despite the variety of trim and handles, the tote itself is only available in one neutral beige color.
- Stains show easily, especially if you’re prone to buying carrots or potatoes with a bit of dirt on them.
Best insulated grocery tote
Hydro Flask 35L Insulated Tote
Need to keep your food cool? We’ve got you covered during the times you need to buy frozen food and keep it that way. It’s also a great-looking tote, so you won’t feel self-conscious using it all day long.
- Like almost all Hydro Flask products, this fantastic tote does what it claims to: Cold food stays that way for up to four hours.
- It’s nice and lightweight, so if you only need a few things you won’t feel too much shoulder strain.
- New colorways mean you can add a fashionable look to your grocery run.
- While we didn’t conduct a scientific study, there were times when condensation stayed in the bag after we removed our cool foods.
- The double-insulated tote keeps food extra cool, but that also means it’s a bit bulky and harder to stow when not in use.
Best stylish grocery tote
Wallace Tote in Dark Chevron
If you head to the weekly farmers market on the way to or from meeting up with friends, or as a pit stop while you run other errands, you’ll want this stunning and extremely roomy tote. It has more than enough space for all your favorite salad ingredients, plus a fresh loaf of bread for tonight’s dinner.
- This is one spectacular-looking tote. It’s smart enough to carry to the office or for an overnight trip.
- This is a big tote, and holds up to 33 pounds. You can easily slip a 15-inch computer into the bag and still have plenty of room for some pre-packaged snacks and a small bottle of wine.
- The shoulders are roomy and padded, one of our favorite features.
- There’s no zipper or pockets, so you might end up scrambling for your phone, keys, or wallet.
- If you plan on using this while commuting, you might end up bumping into people, since it really is a larger tote than most.
Best grocery totes for perfectionists
Lotus Trolley Bags
If you have dietary restrictions, shop for others, or simply want to keep your food as organized as possible while you shop, check out this filing system for food. Simply prop up the rods on either side of the cart and place your groceries into your bag of choice. Some reviewers on Amazon commented that they don’t use the bags while shopping, but do like them for organizing food after checkout and toting their groceries home.
- The patented designs mean these grocery bags fit shopping carts from most supermarket chains including Whole Foods, Vons, and Walmart.
- Mesh bottoms keep spills from pooling all over everything else. There’s even an insulated cooler bag, and specialty egg and wine pockets.
- Color coding means you can always keep track of what goes where.
- We felt a bit self-conscious lining up our grocery carts while testing them out, but we didn’t have to, since other shoppers kept coming over and asking what we thought of the Lotus Trolley Bags.
- We worried that we’d poke people with the rods that were sticking out on both sides. This wasn’t an issue in large supermarket chains.
Best for meats
Stasher Stand Up Bags
The Stasher system comes with nine different size reusable bags, so you can pick the right fit for a single portion or enough to feed even a group of hungry teens. New York State Department of Health says to separate meat, fish or poultry, fresh produce, and ready-to-eat foods when shopping. They also recommend keeping these foods separated “in your shopping cart, on the checkout lane’s conveyor belt, and at home. This will help prevent germs from spreading.”
- These bags are excellent for keeping meat from oozing onto everything else.
- Color-coded bags mean you can keep track of steak or salmon.
- Despite being designed to stand up, you can lay these flat to make more room in your bag.
- Since the design isn’t see-through, you have to wait till your items are scanned to store them in your Stasher.
- Maybe we’re a bit clumsy, but these always feel a little difficult to open or close.
Best nylon grocery bag
Gophra Love Reusable Grocery Bag
If you tend to shop when the spirit moves you rather than on a regular basis, you should keep the lightest possible reusable bag on you at all times just in case. When unfolded, this high-density nylon bag is big enough for the basics and holds up to 42 pounds of groceries. The best part is that it’s foldable, and barely takes up any room when it’s not in use.
- It’s huge! It’s waterproof! It’s so pretty and happy looking with bold patterns and colors.
- Lightweight nylon means you can carry it with you without added weight or bulk.
- It’s cute enough to use as a beach bag as well.
- There’s no zipper, closure, or sections, so you’ll have to pile everything in and hope for the best.
- There’s also no base, so if you’re transporting something fragile, you’ll have to position it between other items.
Best overall reusable grocery bag
If you prefer to buy a bag that’s a workhorse instead of adorable, check out the Snapbasket by Clevermade. This isn’t a bag that you’ll show off, but it does do exactly what you need it to. Need to keep food hot or cold? Check. Want a zipper to keep the temperature controlled? It’s got that too! Do you prefer a long shoulder strap instead of those too short handles most reusable grocery bags have? Oh, you got it!
- While it’s extra roomy when in use, it collapses flat for easy storage.
- That shoulder strap is fantastic. Since this is a slightly cumbersome bag, it’s easier to balance on your shoulder somehow.
- The zipper, since some items are meant to be private.
- There’s no nice way of saying this, but it’s not terribly attractive.
- It took us a while to get the hang of the snap-up hinges and metal wireframe (ouch).
Best canvas grocery bag
Target Bullseye Canvas Tote
When you want to go one step up from the grey Target bags available at their checkout but don’t want to splurge on a fancy reusable grocery bag, this is a great (and cheap!) option. At only $5.99 you’re not going to get too many bells and whistles, just a super cute Target bullseye branded white tote.
- Who doesn’t love a Target tote?
- You can keep it in your car or desk drawer so it’s always handy for a Target run.
- Surprisingly comfortable shoulder straps…as long as you don’t shop too much!
- No compartments or pockets.
- It gets really dirty really quickly.
If you’d like to take your commitment to the environment to a new level, we also have a slew of great content on how to deal with climate anxiety, how to grow food sustainably at home, how to recycle (the right way), plus how to conserve water.
- National Conference of State Legislatures: “State Plastic Bag Legislation”
- New York State Department of Health: “Reusable Grocery Bags: A Smart Choice but Play It Safe”
- Center for Biological Diversity: “10 Facts About Single-Use Plastic Bags”