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Tips for Proper Care and Feeding of Reusable Shopping Bags

Did you get a nice, new reusable shopping bag for Christmas? Were you one of those people who resolved to be a greener consumer in the New Year? Whether you're just transitioning from one-use plastic grocery bags or have been toting reusable shopping bags and tote bags for a while, there are a few things you should know about caring for your reusable totes, especially if you regularly use them to bag your groceries.

Wash Tote Bags Frequently

It's one of those things most people don't like to talk about anything that gets reused over and over gets dirty, and that includes reusable shopping bags. If you're carrying your groceries in them especially if you're carrying produce and other unwrapped foods you want to make sure that your bags aren't harboring harmful bacteria.

Tip: Buy machine washable and dryer-safe fabric tote bags. The crinkly, crackly bags that many grocery stores pass off as 'reusable' can be difficult to clean, and the reusable plastic grocery bags are even worse. There are many affordable, washable tote bags available.

Don't Store Them in Your Trunk

It may make it easier to remember your grocery bags when you go shopping if you toss them in the trunk of your car, but it's definitely not a great idea for a few reasons. It's a great place for your bags to pick up nasty things you really don't want all over your food. Even worse, in warm weather, the temperature inside your car trunk is just right to promote the growth of bacteria.

Sort Your Purchases

When you pack your groceries, pack food and non-food items in different bags whenever possible. If you carry detergents, dishwasher detergent, shampoos and other chemicals in a shopping tote bag, wash it before using it to carry food to avoid transferring harmful chemicals to your food.

Tip: Color code your bags. Choose reusable shopping bags in several different colors so that you can always put food in red bags, or always use yellow bags for household chemicals. That way, you don't even have to worry about it.

Put Fish, Meat and Poultry in Clear Plastic Bags

The juices from meat and animal products can carry all sorts of bacteria, and transfer it to other things in your grocery cart and in your shopping bags. Many meat and seafood departments have clear plastic bags you can use for this purpose.

Bag Fresh Produce in Clear, Plastic Bags or Green Bags

Avoid contaminating fresh produce by bagging loose produce in clear plastic bags available in the produce department.

Keep the Bags Off the Belt

When you're loading your groceries onto the conveyor belt at the register, hand your reusable bags to the cashier, or carry them to the end of the belt if you're bagging groceries yourself. Conveyor belts pick up all sorts of bacteria over the course of the day. Why take it home with you on your bags?
These simple tips can help you transition comfortable and safely from disposable plastic grocery bags to reusable shopping bags.

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