I love reusable shopping bags. Really. But I can’t carry 35 of them into the grocery store with me when I go on one of those big, I-need-absolutely-EVERYTHING sort of grocery trips.
I also love paper bags, but not every grocery store even offers them.
So of course that means I end up with A LOT of plastic grocery bags around this house. You probably do, too! And while many stores have recycling bins where you can drop off extra bags, there are also so many ways I can reuse those bags around my home and elsewhere.
So if you have plastic grocery bags coming out of your ears like I do, (not literally maybe, but close enough sometimes!) here are a few ideas for putting those bags to use.
Trash can liners
You mean you’re still paying for bags to line the small garbage cans around your house? Umm…why? I realize not all plastic grocery bags are an attractive color, (my local store’s bags are a pretty ugly brown,) but, hey, they’re free! I reserve white bags for my trashcans when I can, but, honestly, they’re for TRASH, so in the end the color really doesn’t matter.
|I stuff empty cookie butter jars with bags and keep them in both of my bathrooms and my van.
Empty tissue boxes make a great, (and CHEAP!) container for bags, too.
Travel garbage bags
Keeping a few bags in my van is always a good idea for collecting drink cups, napkins, paper, moldy leftover lasagna… (Totally kidding there! Kind of.) Having those bags on hand for clean up can be very convenient, particularly on longer trips or any time people will be eating and drinking in the vehicle.
Car sickness bags
Thank heavens we haven’t had this problem in a while, but two of our children had occasional car sickness issues when they were younger and I wish so much I had thought of this then. Whipping out a plastic bag in those emergencies could have saved us all a lot of time and stress. And nausea of our own when it was time for cleanup!
Travel laundry bags
I’ll admit to being a little obsessive about it, but when we’re traveling, my dirty clothes CANNOT touch clean ones. We often carry large mesh or canvas laundry bags with us, but when space is tight, that may not be an option. If we have to keep dirty laundry in our suitcases, having plastic grocery bags on hand to keep it separate makes a germaphobe like me feel a whole lot better.
Vehicle seat covers
When you have small kids, you never know what messes they’ll get into! Should your kids find their way into wet sand or mud or should the whole family get caught in a downpour, plastic bags across the seats may help spare the upholstery or leather.
Dirty diaper disposal bag
Sometimes you find yourself in a place where you don’t feel comfortable trashing a dirty diaper. But putting it back in your diaper bag can be dangerous, too! You can purchase little rolls of plastic bags to contain dirty diapers until you can dispose of them, but grocery bags work just as well. Tuck a few in your diaper bag for on-the-go.
Baby laundry bags
Because you want to tuck a soiled onesie in your diaper bag alongside pacifiers and sippy cups, right? Umm…WRONG. Carry plastic grocery bags for keeping dirty baby clothes separate from everything else in your bag.
Textured painting “sponges”
Did you know you can do this? Paint sponges for creating textures can be pretty pricey, but a wad of plastic bags will provide a very similar effect at no cost. I’ve done this twice and been very pleased with the results. Choose two paints close in shade. In the pic below, I used white over a khaki color. Could I do it over, I would have chosen two colors just one or two shades apart or added white to the the khaki paint to lighten it just slightly. The contrast is a little more than I wanted, though it has worked well in my kids’ seascape-themed bathroom. Guests have even thought my bathroom was papered rather than painted!
After you’ve painted the walls in the first color, lightly dip a wad of bags in the second color, dab off the excess on newspaper, (or more plastic grocery bags,) and tap away at the walls to get the desired effect. The bags do become saturated with paint quickly, so you may go through 10-12 bags in even a small room. The effect doesn’t have to be perfect or uniform, so this technique is incredibly easy and takes very little extra time. Plus you can just throw away your “sponges” when you’re done with them!
|It’s a little hard to tell it in my little picture here, but the textured
effect is perfect for this bathroom. And it was SO easy to do.
Wet paint brush/roller covers
This is one of the most wonderful painting tricks I’ve ever discovered! As I mentioned during my whole bathroom vanity makeover, cleaning paint brushes and rollers every time you have to take a break in a painting project can get really old, really fast. So long as you intend to come back to the project within a day or so, simply wrap the brushes or rollers in plastic wrap or, even better, plastic grocery bags! When you unwrap them, they’ll be moist and ready to go again. And it works for little brushes, too, when there’s an interruption in a school or art project.
Cheap shipping/packing material
Why pay for packing peanuts when rolled or bunched plastic bags easily serve the same purpose? I’m obviously not the first one of to think of this because many of the things I order from Amazon or eBay now come cushioned in…you guessed it! Plastic grocery bags!
Protect glassware and china during a move by wrapping in layers of plastic bags and cushioning with bags in-between. Slip items with multiple parts or trays of loose items in individual bags to make the unpacking and organizing easier.
Shoe/boot shaping for storage
My boots are precious to me, so I DO NOT throw them in the back of my closet or toss them in a bin for the summer. Granted, I could pay a small fortune for fancy boot shapers, but stuffing my boots with plastic grocery bags for storage seems to work pretty well. And it’s cheap!
Pet waste bags
I always have a bag in hand when I clean the cat’s litter box. And if you walk your dog in one of those neighborhoods or parks that requires pet cleanup along the way, put a couple of bags in your pocket before setting out. They work well as both gloves and disposal bags.
Place mats for messy projects
And speaking of school or art projects…I like to cover my entire table for most of these, but a plastic grocery bag adds a sufficient layer of protection to my table when we’re using less dangerous items like washable paint, school glue, or glitter. Simply flatten the bag for a smaller project, cut along a side and bottom seam for a larger one, or even make a mat of several bags together. Then any excess glue, paint, glitter, etc., can be wrapped up and thrown away!
Kitchen scrap bucket liner
I remember my grandma always using a round metal pan for containing scraps while she cooked. I generally use a plastic bowl instead, but lining it with a plastic bag makes clean up a breeze!
“Mess-catcher” for opening packaged meats
If you buy plastic-wrapped meats like pork loin or turkey, then you know what a nasty process it can be to open those packages. Rather than dousing your counter top with salmonella, try slipping the package into a double-layer of plastic grocery bags before slicing the wrap open, then transfer the meat to a cutting board or roasting pan and throw the liquid mess away.
I use zippered freezer bags often, but sometimes pre-bagged items like bread or tortillas need an extra layer of protection from freezer burn and plastic grocery bags are the perfect solution. Add an outside label with masking tape and a marker.
And with the husks left on, corn on the cob keeps perfectly in the freezer when wrapped in 2-3 layers of bags.
If the foods in your freezer aren’t well-organized, smaller items can fall to the bottom or be pushed to the back where they are lost forever. (Or at least lost until you clean out the freezer…which for some people might as well be forever!) Plastic grocery bags can be perfect for keeping smaller foods separate. I shred all my own cheese and freeze it in 2-cup portions, and I like to grill chicken in large batches and divide it into freezer bags for salads and soups. Keeping those small bags of cheese and chicken in separate plastic bags makes it easier to keep up with them, especially in our chest freezer.
Foot covers for snow play
Even “waterproof” boots don’t always keep feet dry, and wet feet make for COLD feet. Slip a plastic grocery bag over your kids’ socked feet before putting on their boots and sending them out to play in the snow. Tuck the tops of the bags under snow pants or long underwear and nobody in the neighborhood will know the difference! (Incidentally, many of the older generation did the same thing with bread bags.)
Protective door/floor mats
Granted, it won’t likely get your entryway on the cover of Southern Living, but it might spare your carpet! Make a simple mat of plastic grocery bags and duct or masking tape and use it as a temporary protective rug to keep water, sand, or mud out of your carpet. Headed to the beach or a muddy lakeside? Do the same in the floorboard of your vehicle.