There Is A Right Way To Shop With Reusable Grocery Bags

Anytime a new cultural idea is introduced, it can take a while for etiquette to catch up. For example, when the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020, it became the wild west of social interactions. Does one shake hands, fist bump, or wave politely from six feet away?

The same goes for reusable grocery store bags. Yes, canvas tote bags and similar items have been around for a while, but a recent rise in eco-consciousness has made them practically mandatory for any grocery store trip. In fact, eight U.S. states have made them mandatory as they have outlawed plastic grocery bags. While these have also introduced more paper grocery bags, many states charge a small fee for their use to incentivize reusables.

A report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) points out that it may take more than 100 trips to the grocery store with these bags to actually reduce an environmental impact. That means that the truly eco-conscious won't dare step foot inside a Kroger without their bags. Still, that doesn't mean that there isn't a certain amount of care that you'll need to apply to make sure all those bags aren't making the shopping process more difficult for others.

Organize and plan

There's nothing worse than the feeling of getting to the checkout line and realizing you don't have enough bags, or you didn't bring any bags at all. That's no excuse to bring along every bag that you own though. Leave some of the bags in the car, and the cashier will thank you for it. 

Also, take the time to carefully untangle them all from each other as you place them onto the conveyor belt before any of your food. This lets the cashier know that you have the bags with you (if they didn't see the pile rising out of your cart), and if there is a devoted bagger at the end of the lane, they can get themselves organized before any food starts coming at them.

These might sound like little annoyances, but for cashiers who spend most of their day dealing with these little problems, it can go a long way to make their work easier. Also, if you're loading up on frozen foods at Aldi and bring along a freezer bag, make sure it isn't tangled up with the rest. It might help to set this bag on top as well to be clear to the employees that you'll want cold items packed in there. 

Clean your bags

Keeping your bags in the car might make it easier to remember your bags, but it doesn't help remind you to clean them from time to time. Grocery store workers don't want to handle your dirty bags, and when you're dependent on them, they can easily fill up with scraps of produce or end up covered in stains from spilled sauces.

That's why it can be helpful to clean them out from time to time. Reusable bags are made out of several different types of materials these days though, so it's important to make sure they're washed correctly if you want to see them make it to the 100-use landmark.

Cotton and hemp bags are among the easiest to clean. They can be thrown in the washing machine on cold, and left to air dry. This will keep them from shrinking up, and it should be harmless to other clothes or towels in the load as well. Gentler bags like those made from jute or recycled PET will require a simple hand-washing session. Plastic or laminated plastic bags shouldn't be submerged in water, but they can simply be wiped clean with a disinfectant and towel instead.

Keep your bags clean and organized, and you just might make the cashier's day.