Here is a short history of grocery bags from my perspective.
When I was a kid, grocery bags were made of brown paper and had no handles. You had to hug them to carry them. They were the perfect size to line our kitchen trash can, but they weren’t very practical since they weren’t waterproof.
Sometime in my teens (I think) is when plastic bags with handles appeared. You didn’t have to hug them, and they made better trash can liners. My grandma had the bag boys at her local grocery store put her groceries in paper bags inside the plastic bags. She liked the sturdiness of the paper along with the plastic handles for easy carrying.
At some point in time, paper bags with handles were introduced. But you had to hold them just right, and not fill them too full, or the handles would tear off. Or, worse, the handles would tear the bag.
Then the age of “reduce, reuse, recycle” dawned, and all these bags became no-no’s. Paper bags were killing trees. Plastic bags were filling landfills. So, non-disposable, reusable bags hit the market. Groovy. However, most of those cute little bags are not washable. The long-handled plastic-y ones shaped like the old brown paper bags may go through the washing machine, but not repeatedly over years of use. And do not put them in the dryer. The non-woven polyester bags are not machine washable. I mean, you can put them through a wash cycle, but the result (in my experience) is a weakened, fuzzy, limp bag with small holes in it. And if there was a design printed on it, that will be mostly gone. If you’re going to reuse bags over and over again–for groceries–don’t you want to be able to machine wash them? And machine dry them? Absolutely!
Now we leave the history behind and enter the present and future of grocery bags: fully lined, fully washable, fully adorable fabric bags.
These are just a few of the many bags I’ve made over the years. I used a plastic bag from my local grocery store as a pattern. (I’m still using the same pattern after 5+ years. How’s that for reuse and recycle!) Therefore, these bags are just the same size as the plastic bags, but my fabric bags can hold a lot more. Why? Because they won’t stretch, or rip, or split at the bottom seam and spill your groceries all over the ground. Also, the fabric doesn’t cut into your hands like the plastic can when the bags are heavy.
I have 7 bags that stay under the center console in our van. When I go to the store, they go in with me. I have “trained” countless baggers to stuff these bags full. I think they’re scared of overloading them, but I reassure them that the bags are sturdy and will hold more than the flimsy plastic ones. One cashier knows me and my bags and will instruct the bagger working with her to “fill ‘em full!” She told one of the young guys that both gallons of milk will fit into one bag. Disbelieving, he gave her a look that said “no way,” then proceeded to place both gallons of milk into one bag. He looked at me and said, “Mind. Equals. Blown.” (I think that’s teen-ese for, “That blows my mind!”)
So until the stores start offering free fabric bags instead of plastic or paper, I’m sticking with my homemade version. They’ve held up for about 7 years, through multiple shopping trips, washings, dryings, and foldings. I love ‘em!