In The Bag


The future came and went

The future came and went

A few months ago, our city joined a growing number of California cities and counties and introduced a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags. I understand the reason for the new law. This is a beach town, and the ban is a positive step towards keeping discarded bags off our beach and out of the ocean.

Shoppers here in Surf City now have three options:

  1. Bring their own reusable bags to the store
  2. Purchase reusable bags which vary in price from $.99 to $5.99
  3. Purchase a paper bag made from recycled paper for a .10 “pass through fee”

I’ve been in the habit of toting my reusable bags to the market for quite a few years, but the ban on plastic bags applies to ALL stores:  Groceries, Target, Home Depot, Lowes, drug stores, etc.

Overall, it has been a smooth transition, but we’ve had our rough spots. I’ve witnessed some tense confrontations between shoppers and cashiers and baggers. Unfortunately, none of cashiers or baggers are members of the city council, and therefore didn’t pass the ordinance.

I’ve heard shoppers demand to know what is being done with the revenue generated from paper bag sales. (Revenue stays with the store to cover the expense of providing the costlier paper bags.)

I live near a large retirement community. I’ve seen defiant Seniors wheel carts of loose groceries out of the store. Their purchases rattle and bounce across the pavement on the way to the car. Then they pile the loose groceries into the trunk of the car.

What happens next for these stand-your-ground-shoppers? How many trips does it take to get a trunkful of loose groceries into the house?

Seeing this, I wistfully recalled the days of the “lazy man load”:  looping the handles of at least (8) plastic bags over each outstretched arm in an effort to get all the groceries into the house in a single trip. We’ve all done it, but why? We’re not Sherpas ascending Mount Everest, we’re merely transporting the load from the car to the kitchen.

I quickly discovered that a full day of errand running requires several bags. This is where my dilemma began.

Maybe it’s just me, and my OCD…. but I feel I need to use store specific bags. I mean, is it acceptable to carry an Albertsons bag into Ralphs? I feel sorta hoity-toity carrying a Whole Foods bag into folksy ‘ole Sprouts. It seems downright gross to put my shiny new purchases from Target into a ratty Safeway bag.

This was getting complicated, so I decided to forgo the store-branded bags altogether – well, except for the freebies – I mean let’s be reasonable.

I went online. Since I hate visual clutter, I had the bright idea to buy bags to match my car. This way my cargo compartment would look mono-chromatic and orderly during a full day of errand running. Hey, you find your bliss, and I’ll find mine.

Then I began to wonder: Could the reusable bags technically be considered fashion accessories? Should they match my outfit? Maybe the should match my shoes? Unsure, I went ahead and bought a few in a bold, black and white toile print. Classic, with a twist.

Luckily, until we sort out the style guidelines, I’m confident a Trader Joe’s bag works as a solid neutral. Like nude patent leather, it goes with everything and you can carry it anywhere. It’s what my Mother would call “transitional.” It is widely accepted as the “go-to” bag. Thankfully, I own a several of these, and a few could be considered vintage gems.

Many of us germa-phobes sanitize our shopping carts with anti-bacterial wipes upon entry into the market. But concerns have been raised about the reusable bags presenting a more serious sanitation issue. Cross-contamination is inevitable. Bacteria and viruses can even be transferred from one shopper’s bag to the next shopper’s bag via the bagger.

Oh you think this sounds crazy? Did you hear about the reusable shopping bag that sickened an entire soccer team in Oregon?

Nope, no need to attend a Family Pa-flu-za or embark on the Explorer Of The Seas. Another modern convenience: you can pick up a case of Norovirus right at your local market.

Crap! I may need to just sack everything and start over, because now I need bags that are WASHABLE

For now, the collection of shopping bags in the back of my car continues to grow.


I’m not living in my car, but I am officially a bag lady.


18 responses »

  1. Heavens Annie you are a master writer! This is so u and ur lily P pants in high school! Hysterical concept and I am truly considering different size accessory shopping bags!!


  2. I have been carrying the reusable bags for years! I even buy them on vacation! It’s a nice little reminder of a good time. JC recently brought me two from Switzerland! My favorites are from HEB in Texas where my oldest son Luke lives.


    • What a great idea Jana- How fun to be reminded of a fun time while running mundane errands!
      JC is such a good brother to bring you souvenirs from his travels.
      Those HEB stores are HUGE!


  3. I have to admit, I’m a plastic bag lover because we use them to “pick up” when taking the dog for a walk. I do have quite the supply of reusable bags but have not gotten to the habit of using them. Maybe it’s because they are not in fun colors.


    • I was using one to “pick up” while dog walking in the dark, and found a hole the hard way…when I was a good mile from home. I bought poo bags after that!

      I sure do miss Target bags for lining waste baskets, though!


  4. I am soooo bad at remembering my bags. I suppose if we had a ban here and I had to pay for bags I would get better at remembering. I love funky fashionable bags. But, you are right. What if chicken “juice” falls to the bottom of the bag and then you re-use it. Or egg yolk. Ay. Now I’m feeling paranoid. I am going to have to get organized like you from now on! Thanks for “giving me” your OCD. LOL. 🙂


  5. I had to laugh. I was right on board with the green bags when they first surfaced years ago. But sometimes I’d stop by after work and not have them with me as they were in another vehicle, or I’d get the cart full and realize I’d forgotten to bring them inside. Then I started noticing how ratty they were getting and how nasty the ones in front of me looked. Washing them made them even more ratty, and they looked as if they needed starching to get their shape back. I think the majority of us just gave up. It was such a nightmare.

    When we get plastic bags now we either recycle them, (our store has a box right inside the door for returns) or use them to sack up trash, which saves another plastic trash bag.

    Paper is my choice. Trader Joe’s has the best paper sacks and their baggers know how to use every inch of space. They can get things in a couple of bags that would take a dozen plastic ones. And nobody has to risk disease. Yay.

    Perhaps a local chapter of an elderly organization could have a fund drive to furnish bags for the elderly so the cost wouldn’t be transferred to them. Or better still, the stores could just add a few pennies to the washing powders and furnish the paper bags.


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