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Do you have any idea how many plastic, single-use shopping bags are created every single year?
They leech microplastics into the ocean, kill grass and poison soil on land, and are responsible for an astronomical amount of emissions just from factory productions.
Wouldn’t you like to be part of the reason that the numbers lower? That we endure less environmental damage?
You’re here because you want to be environmentally friendly while saving money, so it’s time to take a look at these reusable grocery bags.
Made out of cloth and other durable materials, the goal of getting reusable grocery bags is to have them for far longer than it would take to use up the same manufacturing cost and emissions as the equivalent number of plastic bags.
We’re chosen the toughest bags with the most user-friendly features, so you can shop with confidence, and avoid those $0.05 fees for purchasing plastic bags at some of your favorite grocery stores (more of them are doing it every single day).
Best Reusable Grocery Bag Reviews & Recommendations 2020
Best Overall – SMIRLY Folding Reusable Grocery Bags
How in-depth can the best reusable grocery bags really be?
Surprisingly so. As the best quality and best priced bags on our list, you get a massive value at less than $1.50 per bag, all grouped together in a bulk buy of 15.
Let’s be real here: most people aren’t only coming home with two grocery bags. If you’ve got kids or a spouse that you also do the shopping for, then you need as much space as possible. SMIRLY gives that to you.
Crafted out of eco-friendly cloth and mesh, it’s basically as green as you can get during the buying process.
Yes, these still take energy to manufacture (more on that in the buying guide below), but based on their efficiency and durability, you’ll be using them for years to come. That cuts down on the lifetime cost of these over plastic bags, both for you and for the environment.
Being super easy to clean out, these bags by SMIRLY are an obvious choice if you’re bringing home a lot of fresh produce, poultry, beef, and anything that runs a risk of making a mess in your bags. Now you don’t have to find milk soaked through a plastic bag and saturating your back seats. That’s got to be nice, right?
With multiple sizes for different loads, all of these bags come with a relatively high weight capacity. It’s still recommended to disperse the weight evenly between your bags, but if you just had one on you, it has enough power to be of use.
The straps are ultra tough, because they’re stitched along the entire side of the tote bag, so you won’t have any problems hauling them in.
Runner up – Lotus Trolley Bags
The problem with cloth bags is that you get to checkout, and you put everything in your cart onto the belt or self-scanner, and then you have to put them back in the bags right away. It’s tedious. Lotus has these trolley bags that are designed to make your grocery shopping experience much more streamlined.
These cloth grocery bags hang right onto the sides of your cart, and hold up to 50 lbs in each bag (including the high capacity bag).
That means you just drop items in here as you shop, and proceed onward without having to worry about checkout time. Everything goes on the belt, then into a whopping four bags instead of a dozen, saving you plenty of time.
Everything on these bags is stitched into place, so you don’t have to worry about the sides coming undone from bearing the weight of your groceries. In terms of pricing, I’m going to let you know right now that Lotus gets away with a high price point for these.
Compared to our top pick, you’re getting a lot less maximum weight and overall storage space, but it’s far more convenient.
These trolley bags are designed to last for a long time. Lotus understands that things happen though, and their customer service team is basically ready to help for anything. Very pleasant people to contact if need be.
There’s a full money-back guarantee if the bags fail or if they’re just not up to your liking, so don’t hesitate to be honest with them if these bags don’t tickle your fancy.
Alternative – Anleo Grocery Tote Bags
Anleo almost won the top spot for the best grocery bags, but they just fell short in a few areas in comparison to SMIRLY. Nevertheless, they still came out with high performance reusable bags with a 44 pound maximum capacity.
Because you get half-a-dozen in this purchase, that’s 264 lbs of maximum storage. I don’t know if you get carried away from time to time with your shopping (like I do), but that extra weight cap is very nice. Even if you forget half of them, that’s still 132 lbs for a short grocery store run.
That’s thanks to the fabric design with a stitched-on handle system. The strip of fabric runs down the entire side of the bags and underneath, so the straps are actually supporting the weight of the bag.
That, and they aren’t being overly strained since weight is evenly distributed on both sides. That weight distribution is thanks to the way the plastic plate in the bottom of each bag keeps things nice and steady.
I’ll tell you one thing, though: when you unpackage these for the first time, you might have to leave them out on the porch. The plastic bottom plates in the bags come with a very strong odor.
It’s nothing like when you buy a mattress and need three days to air it out, but I’d still do this so you don’t bring that synthetic chemical smell into the house.
So why didn’t these beat SMIRLY? The price point is excellent, but because you get less bags, we just couldn’t justify it being in the top spot. Six bags versus fifteen is a very big difference.
However, it’s important to note that in terms of quality and expected durability, they’re completely even stevens. If you go with Anleo, you can expect these to last for a long time.
Alternative – Foraineam Extra Large Reusable Grocery Bags
If you like things a little premium, and you feel awkward or embarrassed bringing your reusable totes to the grocery store (it happens, even if you know it’s because you’re doing something good), these bags by Foraineam will help you out.
With a light gray-blue exterior, accented by the black handles, bottom rim and straps, these look like high-end totes that could be used for anything.
Surprisingly, they didn’t even hit the highest price point for the best reusable grocery bags—we found others with the same amount of bags, which is three, at nearly double the cost.
Foraineam’s bags hold a lot of weight, but the problem is, we had to do our own test for that. There’s very little information available on their site or sales page.
We concluded that you’ve got about 30-35 lbs of storage before you should start to worry. Much like the other bags we’ve reviewed with stitched handles, most of the weight is distributed through the bottom. The thickness of the material just doesn’t give us the same level of confidence that the other brands did.
Because of the plate in the bottom, they stay upright with little to no intervention by the shopper. I wouldn’t doubt for a second that the handles may outlast the bottom plate, because there’s a total of eight rivets keeping those handles in.
The good thing is, if you need to, you can repurchase bottom plates and replace them through a third-party manufacturer. Overall, they’re good bags, just not the best.
Alternative – Gramercy Kitchen Company Washable and Reusable Grocery Bags
Remember when I said there were some bags in higher price points? Well, this trio of bags averages a 75% higher price point than the Foraineam bags, but it has a lot of the same specs.
We wanted to give you a varied range from premium to the more inexpensive bags, and Gramcery Kitchen’s premium reusable totes fit the bill perfectly.
These are rated for up to 30 pounds, but the manufacturer states that their 40-pound toddler inside of the tote during playtime without any issue. After using these, I have to say that the sidewalls are extremely thick and durable, so I wouldn’t be surprised if these reusable tote bags could hold upwards of 40-45 lbs and Gramercy is just playing it safe.
Apart from having the separate fabric straps stitched underneath the totes, you get a bit of extra durability from the eight rivets that keep them in. Hey, you’re paying premium, you’d better get premium features, right?
Out of every bag on this list, even though the value is the lowest in terms of cash-to-bag ratio, these are the highest quality bags on our list that I could justify purchasing without going overboard.
Gramercy Kitchen has a history of making great eco-friendly products, and their customer service is stupendous. If you have to deal with them over a return or anything of that nature, you’ll be taken care of.
Last but not least, you also get a free digital download with your purchase: a guide to using your bags in farmer market runs, with a few tidbits of information scrapped in there along the way. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s a nice little informative read.
Reusable Grocery Bag Buying Guide & FAQ
What is the Lifetime of Average Reusable Grocery Bags?
For average bags, you can get between eight to twenty years of use if proper care is applied.
For heavy duty reusable grocery bags with fortified materials, I would be surprised if your bags did not last an absolute bare minimum of a decade, and they may last for as long as thirty years or more, accounting for natural materials with an average decomposition rate and weathering.
Those bags that they sell you in the grocery stores—the ones with ultra thin straps and flimsy materials (usually without a bottom as well)—aren’t what you want to put your money into.
More often than not, they’re easier to clean, but last for two to five years at most without becoming extremely ratty. If you want to extend the life of your reusable bags, we have some tips for that as well.
How Can I Extend my Reusable Grocery Bag Life?
There are a few tips you can apply time and time again to maintain the life of your reusable grocery bags.
Utilize them regularly, and you could have them for decades to come.
- Long Cycles: If you’re careful with how you put your food in the shopping bags during a visit to the store, then you shouldn’t endure any messy spills along the way. If you can get your bags to stay clean, you can go two to three months in between washing them, and still keep them fresh. Eventually, some odors from the food will absorb into them, but if you can get away with four washes per year, I recommend you do so.
- HE Washing Machine: Since you know you’re only supposed to wash your grocery bags four to six times per year, you should absolutely be doing it in an HE washer. These don’t use agitators in the center, so they’re not as abrasive against the fabrics and materials of your reusable grocery bags.
- Decommissions: If you have one bag, and it’s usually what you put your heavy drinks and foods in, and it’s starting to tear, stop putting the heavy stuff in it. You’re going to see your bags deteriorate at different rates, because they’re never handling the same weight or sharp plastic packaging twice. If your bag is getting worn down, you can still use it, just try to mark it and use it for lighter goods, and try picking it up from the bottom when possible. Use the straps to hoist it up a little, and position your palm underneath it for additional support.
- Rotate Bags: If you buy our top pick, which has fifteen bags in it, and you only use seven of them on average, you can put them into a rotation. Use seven bags, and after three months, clean them and store them. Use the other eight bags for three months, clean, store, swap out. Keep this up, and they’re going to feel like new every time you reach into storage to pull the rotation out.
- Quality Over Quantity: This is more of a preventative measure, but for real, don’t just go for whatever is on sale at the grocery store with their logo on it. Put in the effort to read this guide, to do some independent research of your own, and get decent quality bags that will last you for ten to twenty years or more. I would rather pay a little more now, than replace these bags as the years go on and end up spending more in the long run.
What is the Best Material for Reusable Grocery Bags?
Fabric. Fabric is ultimately the best material, especially if it can include 50% recycled materials that include some levels of plastic for rigid durability.
Even large reusable shopping bags will be made out of fabric, it just might be a thicker cut of cloth.
Reusable grocery bags are supposed to have a solid bottom, which usually comes in the form of plastic plates or hard cloth plates wrapped around cardboard (depending on how high end you go with your reusable bags).
Can I Wash Reusable Grocery Bags?
Absolutely. Nearly all reusable grocery bags are made out of a durable fabric, as well as recycled plastics which are pretty sturdy in their own right. Just like with your cotton t-shirts, you can throw your reusable bags into the wash, and have them emerge nice and clean.
You have a major advantage here, because after all, when you buy reusable grocery bags you want them to last for life. That advantage is the thick, durable material of these bags that sustain a lot of aggressive wash cycles aren’t going to fade to split or unthread just because they go through the wash.
Second, it’s that you don’t have to clean these nearly as often as you’d think. With generally non-porous, tightly woven materials and blends, you’re not going to saturate these bags easily.
Apart from complete spills or major accidents, your bags can go a few months without going through the wash, effectively increasing their lifespan.
How do You Keep Reusable Grocery Bags Organized?
Committing to reusable grocery bags comes with its own set of difficulties, but since you really want to try your best at keeping the environment as green and lucious as possible, you’re going to need a good game plan to maintain your grocery bags and keep them organized and convenient to use (so that we don’t fall prey to buying plastic bags and undoing our efforts).
Here’s what you can do to stay organized:
- Clean Your Bags Out: As you remove food from your bags, clear them out with a cotton cloth, and position them upside-down (if possible) so that any remaining debris can simply fall down at the hand of gravity. When you’re done putting your groceries away, take the propped up bags and go to the next step.
- Remove Your Plastic Plates: Not all bags are going to have bottom plates, but if they do, now is the time to remove them. We can’t predict what you’re bringing home, but onion skins, dairy, and blood from poultry and beef can absolutely get onto and under these plates. It’s important to wipe down as you go.
- Fold and Go: Now that all of your bags are empty of debris and folded, stack in the order of plate, bag, plate, bag, and so on. After you’ve stacked your bags, whether it’s two or ten, you’re going to prop the last one open (without the plate), and place the stack back into the bag. If they don’t all fit, do this with two bags. The end result is a single bag filled with the others, which you can then carry out to the car.
- Bring it Out: You can’t forget your bags if they’re already in the car. We’ve all been guilty of leaving the bags behind by complete accident, but the goal is to mitigate that from happening. Good organization leads to remembering your bags, because when you’re properly organized, you place these bags right in front of you. If you generally go shopping solo, leave them on the passenger seat. If you have a minivan with a ton of space in the trunk, place them there. Put them somewhere that you’ll remember them in the car.
Reducing Your Carbon Footprint, One Grocery Shopping at a Time
Every time you use these bags, you’re actively reducing the number of plastic bags that grocery stores need to order.
To do it effectively, more and more people need to use reusable bags. Share this guide with your friends right now, and explain the benefits of using reusable bags when they go grocery shopping.
It’s time to start making a ton of change with one small shift in your own routine. Spread the word, and mitigate the problems.