There can be too much of a good thing when it comes to reusable shopping bags for your groceries. Those bags are tempting to buy — so many supermarkets have cute seasonal designs, and they’re usually pretty affordable (especially if you’re buying a week’s worth of groceries, what’s another dollar or two tacked onto your receipt?). Plus, what else are you to do when you forget your bags at home, except buy another one (or three)?
But when the bags accumulate and take up all your trunk space, as has been the case with me, it’s time to find other uses for those shopping bags. Keep 5 to 8 shopping bags on hand (I probably never use more than four at a time, even on post-vacation-replenishment shopping trips), and find creative ways to use or get rid of the rest. And of course, for the ones that you use, don’t forget to wash them regularly to eliminate bacteria!
1. Tote and store library books. If your kids — like mine — check out an unmanageable armload of books each time they go to the library, bring a sturdy tote along to carry all the books. My library issues a receipt for the books I check out, so I like to use a bag that has a front pocket, so I can tuck the receipt in there. The bag can also serve as a place to corral the library books until they need to be returned. We keep ours alongside our sofa.
2. Hold pool, beach or bath toys. Poke holes in the bottom of a PVC or plastic mesh bag to make the perfect tote for pool or beach toys. You can even rinse the sand off the toys by dipping it into the water and letting it drain. At home, mount some heavy-duty suction cups on the tile wall and you can hang the bag of toys from it between baths.
3. Donate to a food pantry or a canned food drive. Chances are, spending a couple of bucks on a reusable bag means nothing to you… but to someone on a fixed income or in financial distress, it’s a luxury. Consider donating any bags that are clean and in good condition to a food pantry, homeless shelter, or senior center, to the organizers of a canned food drive, or to another charitable organization.
4. Plant with it. If you can’t bear to part with a particularly cute shopping tote, turn it into a planter, which can sit on a step or even hang from a hook. Bags would be cute filled with flowers, and are actually quite good as a vegetable container garden because they are deep.
5. Make cleaning and organizing easier. Try keeping a shopping bag each at the top and bottom of your stairs, or hanging from the banister. Use it to hold miscellaneous items that need to go upstairs (or down), and every day or so, carry the whole bag to its rightful floor to put the items away. The bags are also handy to keep inside of a car to fill with items that need to be brought inside.