Saturday, September 22, 2007

Produce Bags

For a long time now, I have been bugged by the plastic produce bags at my local grocery store. It's bad enough that MOST of the produce already comes in a plastic bag. Why did I need to grab a separate bag for each type of produce that didn't come in its own bag? If I put all my veggies in one bag, would the cashier get annoyed or think I was trying to sneak something past her? So each time, I still put separate produce in separate bags. 1 head of garlic, 1 bag. 2 lemons, 1 bag. (Yes, I am trying to eat more locally, but sometimes ya gotta have a lemon!)

The the store started using EVEN BIGGER produce bags! Oh, I guess that gallon-size baggie wasn't big enough for the 1 head of garlic; we need a 6-quart size!

So what if I used no bags? Well, some things would get squashed in the cart, grapes would go all over, etc.

Another blogger (who I would link to if I could remember who it was, sorry), puts a hand-held shopping basket in her cart to hold her veggies. An excellent idea, if you remember to grab one (which I haven't), and if you are organized enough to not set the basket on top of other items that could get squashed (which I'm not).

Then, two weeks ago at the farmer's market, I realized that not only was no one selling reusable bags, every single booth was giving out plastic bags to shoppers. Grrr. I had Nettie, but avoiding plastic bags meant that all my veggies mixed up therein. Not a tragedy, certainly, but annoying.

Finally, my brain kicked into gear - why couldn't I make my own produce bags? Made from lightweight cotton or muslin, they would not add (much) weight when buying items sold by the pound. A drawstring close would keep things inside.

So, after WAY too much thought... here are my produce bags:

The first one - "gallon" size. I traced a standard zip-top food storage bag, adding a little extra at the top for the drawstring casing. Before I started, I realized that using a drawstring would make them hold less than intended. (Next task - learn to sew in a zipper!)

Using 30" of 45-inch-wide fabric, I was able to make a set of 2 "gallon" and 3 "quart" size.

Field tested today at the local farmers' maket. Big bags held four smallish bell peppers and 6 lg tomatoes, respectively, with room to spare. Small bags held a pint of smaller tomatoes (not quite cherries) and a quart of green beans. I had one small size bag left over.

Nettie held everything quite well! (Yes that is a to-be-reused plastic shopping bag at the bottom, just in case.)

You could make these with reused lightweight cotton woven fabric such as dress shirts and sheets. Four yards of drawstring trim was not even close to enough, so I improvised by reusing clean old shoelaces. Other drawstring alternatives could be: cotton yarn, ribbon, bias tape, scrap fabric. Just make sure they are washable unless you enjoy rethreading your drawstrings every time you wash the bags (I don't).

Overall, I'm really happy with how the bags worked. Besides not adding to my plastic problem, the cloth allowed the veggies to "breathe" vs. steaming in their own juices when left in the car for a couple hours afterward. (Bad, I know, but I owed the kids a trip to the park.) I will try to get an actual pattern up here soon, but I'd like to make the zipper improvement first. In the meantime, find a basic drawstring bag pattern and give it a try!

Up next - Field Test #2 - the grocery store. Stay tuned.


Crafty Green Poet said...

Excellent idea! I've been thinking about solutions to that problem for a while. Luckily the shops where I do most of my food shopping use paper bags and don't mind if I don't use bags for most produce.

Pfeng said...

Can't wait to see your grocery store results -- plastic produce bags are one of the few things I haven't yet found a good solution for :-)

Frequently, onions or celery or tomatoes or things like that, I'll just leave loose. But grapes, parsley, a few other things really need a more secure packaging method.

And on a crafting note, I love your fabric choice -- great for food bags!

Anonymous said...

Your blog reminded me of this Youtube video I saw the other day. Its also another really great way to make a reuseable bag for shopping. As well as reducing some of your guilt you have stored away under your sink. - Necrowitch

Noel Wright said...

Great blog! I love your ideas and the links are so helpful! Keep up the great posting.