Plastic bags of all descriptions make up more of our budgets than we would like. Sandwich bags, storage bags, trash bags, and yard waste bags all contribute to our monthly spending. However, I have a friend who claims to have spent nothing on storage or trash bags for over two years. How does she do it? She substitutes other, “free” bags in place of the ones you buy. There are lots of sources for “free” bags.
- Cereal/snack liner bags: My friend uses the waxy bags found in cereal and snack boxes in place of storage bags. All she needs is a twist tie or clip to seal them and keep the freshness in. She’s also been known to cut open these types of bags and use them as storage wrap, since their waxy consistency doesn’t make them that different from waxed paper.
- Zipper bags from other foods: Many foods come in zipper bags. Generic cereals are a great example. These bags not only zip, they are generally tough enough to go in the freezer. Other foods come in zippered bags including some brands of tortillas, chips, and many frozen foods.
- Newspaper bags: The bag your daily newspaper comes in can be used as a lightweight storage bag, or as a sandwich bag for your lunch. They are also lightweight and clingy enough that they can be cut open and used for plastic wrap. (My friend suggests cutting the top off to make the bag shorter and easier to handle.)
- Produce bags: When you bring home produce from the store, the plastic bags can be reused for lunch or short term storage. As with newspaper bags, they can be used for wrap, as well.
- Bread bags: Bread, buns, and bakery items all come in plastic bags that can be reused for storage or lunch carrying purposes. Some of the lighter weight ones work for wrap, too, and some of the heavier duty ones can be used in the freezer.
- Plastic shopping bags: The ubiquitous plastic shopping bag makes a great bag for a small trash can. They’re also good for collecting pet poop and can replace store bought poop bags. If you buy big items, many department stores like Target, Kohl’s, and WalMart will give you a bigger bag that will fit a kitchen trash can. A plus: Most have handles, a feature you pay extra for if you buy trash bags.
- Paper grocery bags: If your grocery store offers paper bags, these work well in kitchen trash cans. They can also be used for yard waste since many municipalities now require you to bag yard waste in paper instead of plastic.
- Paper shopping bags: Some stores give out nicer shopping bags that fold out into sturdy shapes with handles. Some have reinforced bottoms. If they’re big enough, they might fit into a trash can. Otherwise, they make great tote bags for carrying lunch to work, carrying picnic items, or helping pack and organize things for a road trip.
Note that my friend takes care to thoroughly wash all bags before reusing them. She also will not reuse anything that has stored meat since the contamination risk is too high. It may seem strange to reuse all these bags, but with the sheer number of bags around you every day my friend would argue that it’s stranger to pay for bags.