Reusable Bags for Produce and Bulk Items

Eliminating – and even lessening – our waste has been a very frustrating undertaking. I got Zero Waste Home from the library last week and read it, but the main advice in the shopping chapter is “buy everything in bulk using your own containers.” While I’d love, love, love to do that (she even has access to shampoo and conditioner in bulk in her area!), the bulk foods near me are sadly lackluster. So I’m coming to the (unfortunate) conclusion that a true Zero Waste lifestyle just isn’t possible for my family. Unless the local stores start offering more than nuts and organic chocolate chips (at $9 a pound!) in bulk, we’re going to end up sending more than one quart of garbage a year to Junk Mountain. Especially since I have a friend who’s seen with her own eyes what I’ve suspected for years: the garbage company dumps our recyclables instead of recycling them, even when you take them directly to the recycling center (as opposed to using curbside service). I’m going to try to make additional strides this summer by canning my own tomatoes (never tried before…) and making my own freezer jam (did that once) in reusable glass jars. My first step, though, is a little less advantageous: I made reusable bags for the bulk items that are available (including produce). And with even a smidge of sewing experience, you can too! It’s super easy.

First, cut your fabric to whatever size you want your bag(s) to be. 12×15 is a pretty good size. For a nice strong bag, you want the bottom to be folded, not sewn, so for that 12×15 size, cut your fabric 12×31 (that extra inch allows room to insert your draw strings without compromising the size of your bag).

Next, fold over 1/4″ on each of the 12 inch sides. You can finger press or iron, whichever you’d prefer. Lay your drawstring material (I just use yarn – 18 inches is a good length, and you need 2 per bag) near the raw edge and fold it over again, capturing the yarn inside. Pin into place.


Sew that seam down on both sides of each bag, being careful not to catch the yarn – it needs to be free for the drawstring property to work.

I forgot to take a picture of the next step, but it’s easy; you should be able to figure it out. Fold your bags in half, right sides together, with the yarn ends lined up. Sew up the sides, again being careful not to catch the yarn in your seams.

Turn your bags right side out and knot the yarn together on both sides. This keeps it from from just sliding out of the casing.

You’re done! Now go enjoy using your new bags instead of the single-use plastic ones the store provides.


Feel free to leave me comments with questions; it’s possible I’ve forgotten some details.



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5 thoughts on “Reusable Bags for Produce and Bulk Items

  1. Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom 05/19/2013 at 2:05 pm Reply

    I always try to carry reusable bags with me when I go shopping but this is a great solution for produce. So easy!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Wishing you a blessed day.

    • wendy 05/19/2013 at 10:20 pm Reply

      You can also make them out of mesh for your produce; that’s cheaper than regular fabric (I used scraps from Small Fry’s nursery set) and allows your produce to breathe. The steps are identical – it’s just a little harder to pin mesh. I love having my own bulk bags for everything from produce to bulk flour or oats to doughnuts from the bakery :).

  2. Deliberate Mom (@DeliberateMom) 05/19/2013 at 2:07 pm Reply

    I always try to carry reusable bags with me when I go shopping but this is a great solution for produce. So easy!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Wishing you a blessed day.

  3. sanz 05/21/2013 at 6:47 am Reply

    Great idea! I should do that!

    • wendy 05/24/2013 at 6:06 pm Reply

      You totally should! They’re so easy and so useful. I’ve used them pretty much every shopping trip (which is almost daily for me – I might not get out of the house if I don’t buy groceries) since I made them. Get some washable crayons and you can mark PLUs right on the bag and not even need the twist ties either.

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