Weighed Down by Grocery Bags

I want to care. I want to be with the “in” crowd carrying stylish mesh bags.

My first Minnesota grocery-shopping trip was in 1998.

We had just moved to town from Washington. I made a list, located a local store and headed out.

I was able to navigate the aisles of a west metro grocery chain easily enough and felt pretty good about the whole experience until I checked out. I patiently waited for my items to be scanned. Watched them roll down the conveyor to the bagging area.

Paid my bill. Then looked at the cashier. Awkward silence.

“What, do I have to bag my own groceries or something?” I asked the cashier.

She smacked her gum and nodded her head. A blank look of unconcern on her face.

I’d never bagged my own groceries in any of the three states and multiple cities where I could recall buying food. I fumbled with bags and jammed my items into them in frustration. I was so slow that annoyed and more experienced grocery bagging customers went around me to expertly bag their Cocoa Krispies and Ragu spaghetti sauce.

Later, I learned that most Twin Cities grocery stores required customers to bag their own groceries at that time. WHAT?!

Fast forward to 2012 and has added baggers, sometimes. , , Trader Joe’s and all bag your groceries.

But I’ve actually become a proficient grocery bagger. Only now, I’m annoyed by another cultural shift in the grocery bagging landscape: bringing your own bags. WHAT?!

Would I rather not have a heap of plastic bags on my kitchen counter after unloading my broccoli and beer? Yes. But I need those bags for picking up dog droppings and keeping dirty shoes and wet bathing suits separate from other packed items on road trips. I could recycle extra bags by bringing them back to the store. But I often forget.

I have accumulated a few reusable grocery bags so that I can look like a haughty Earth-first kind of shopper. But I often forget those too. Maybe if Woodbury banned plastic bags like other cities have done, I wouldn’t forget. But then I’d get my big government crank on.

A friend once said, “I get so angry when I see people using plastic grocery bags. Don’t they even care?”

I wanted to say yes. But the truth is mostly, no.

I want to care. I want to be with the “in” crowd carrying stylish mesh bags. But then I get indignant when thinking about cashiers who look at me with distain when I don’t help bag my own groceries. Or other customers who judge me if I use a store bag.

I don’t even know which kind of bag to request when asked: paper or plastic? Anxiety overcomes me and I just blurt out, “Whichever is easier for you.” Because who would want the grocery shopping experience to be easier for me?


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Edward July 24, 2012 at 12:18 PM
This should help you remember http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVh15aUt8-c ;-) Have a nice day.
Kris Janisch July 24, 2012 at 12:37 PM
Ha! OK, I could only watch a bit of that. More than a million views though.
DeAnn P July 24, 2012 at 02:23 PM
I agree Angela! A couple of years ago I too aquired some of the mesh reusable bags but often forgot them at home or in the trunk of myc ar until I was at the checkout. I do however reuse my bags - we use the paper bags for sorting our recycling at home and the plastic for cleaning litter boxes or around the house for various reasons. I cringe every time I throw one of those plastic bags away, but often time they get torn by whetever was in them and I can't reuse them. I don't know what the solution is.
Dana July 24, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Reusable mesh bags hold more and don't break. Use your Sunday newspaper bags (Gasp! someone still reads the paper?!) for doggie doo doo, etc. I use both plastic (for meat and frozen) and mesh (for everything else). Please reduce your footprint, future generations will thank you.
Kris Janisch July 24, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Not to get gross, but I have big hands and things can get... messy with those newspaper bags because they're so narrow. We try to reuse our paper bags in general. They hold up fairly well for the most part.
Denise July 24, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Amen, sister!
Angela Johnson July 24, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Haha! I DO still get the paper although I actually read it on an iPad. Those newspaper bags are usually good for dogs unless they have a hole! Gross. I am trying to be better about using mesh bags. They are larger and easier to carry. It's the righteous judgement that's most annoying. Thanks for reading folks!
Paul Whackernutz July 24, 2012 at 05:46 PM
If you are having environmental angst, most stores have receptacles to accept your used plastic bags so that they can be recycled. We use ours to line our kitchen trash can (Target bags work best). The whole BYO Bag isn't new to our generation. When I was kid, I would go with one of my two grandmothers by bus every Saturday morning to the market downtown (yes, we even had "local" fresh fruit and vegetables back then!). Both of them carried their puchases in a big ol' canvas bag (with green stripes as I recall). Looks a lot like the ones that LL Bean is selling now.
Kris Janisch July 24, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Maybe there's a market for "vintage" reusable grocery bags Paul?
Paul Whackernutz July 24, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Could be! And as long as we're talking grocery bags, I believe Aldi charges you for a bag if you don't bring your own (vintage or otherwise).
Kris Janisch July 24, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Ha! I've heard they make you deposit a quarter for a shopping cart. Hadn't heard about the bags though. I have seen some action over at Borders too. Looks like they're digging up the sidewalk out front or something.
Angela Johnson July 24, 2012 at 09:50 PM
Don't some stores give a credit if you bring your own bags? Incentive might be better than penalty. Just saying...
Kris Janisch July 24, 2012 at 10:47 PM
I think places like Mississippi Market donate 5 percent of your purchase, or something like that. Anybody know?
Edward July 25, 2012 at 02:06 AM
At Trader Joe's you get to enter your name in a drawing each time you bring your own bags. I think it's a chance at a gift certificate.
Kris Janisch July 25, 2012 at 12:54 PM
That's kind of cool, thanks for the info Edward.
Sheila K July 26, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Target also credits you $ if you bring your own bag too!
Kris Janisch July 27, 2012 at 01:12 PM
Good to know Sheila, how is the grocery selection at Target? I usually just go in for essentials, then end up spending way more than I planned, so I don't grocery shop there often.


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