From bags to boxes to old wicker baskets, TH readers have weighed in on this surprisingly spirited debate.
Grocery shopping is a highly personal activity. Everyone has their own (strong!) opinions on how to transport food from the store to their home, which is why, when I wrote about how I like to use grocery boxes instead of bags, there were lots of great comments from readers on TreeHugger's Facebook page.
To my surprise, the majority disagreed with my opinion on boxes, citing awkwardness, the fact that they're plastic, and that they're only useful for people shopping with cars. Those are all valid points. So how do others get their groceries home? It turns out there are lots of interesting options, ranging from historical to high-tech.
Wicker baskets: This is the ultimate green grocery-carrying solution, sturdy baskets made of plant-based material that last forever and will biodegrade when their time comes. One reader said she uses baskets that belonged to her grandmother and date back to 1900.
"They need to get wet occasionally (submerging them in a bath tub for maybe an hour or so maybe twice a year) and you can clean them with brushes and salt water."
Cardboard boxes: Cardboard boxes are great, especially if they're taken from the grocery store. Often lower-cost stores have these available near the checkout, but you can also ask the produce department for them. Alternatively, bring your own from home. I like cardboard, but my only complaint is that you can't load it up as much as I'd like, for fear of the bottom collapsing.
Milk crates: One reader suggested milk crates, which are made from plastic but are highly durable and long-lasting. I haven't shopped with them myself, but my father uses them to transport all kinds of goods for his work as a custom home builder, and he's still using the same ones he had twenty years ago. That's impressive in this day and age of disposability.
Snap baskets: A more modern take on the shopping basket, these are collapsible box-bag hybrids, with soft sides and hard bottoms. I got one from CleverMade that I quite like; it folds down flat when I'm not using it. One commenter said, "The Russians have nifty collapsible metal ones," although I haven't been able to locate these online.
Backpack: We cannot forget the good old backpack, useful for pretty much everything. Backpacks are tough, expandable, and designed to carry weight. Particularly if you're walking to and from the store, backpacks are the logical solution for transporting groceries.
Foldable nylon bags: Plastic again, but very long-lasting. These are among my favorite reusable grocery bags and they fold up into their own stuff sacks that are the size of my fist.
Trolley bags: I wrote about this company a few months ago because I thought their product was so interesting. The Lotus Trolley Bag is an accordion-like set of grocery bags that sits on the edge of the grocery cart and unrolls to fill it. You can separate bags to put into the car, then roll up the entire thing to the size of a yoga mat with a carrying handle. It's quite brilliant.
Packbasket: One reader named a specific company, ADK Packworks, as having the greatest bags for transporting groceries, so I had to take a look. The company's Packbasket is a hybrid between a two-handled bag/basket and a backpack. It has a folding metal frame, padded handles, adjustable carrying strap, and lid. They come in canvas or ripstop nylon, both of which can be easily removed from the frame for washing. It also sells a wider market-style basket.
Pillow case: Béa Johnson, author of Zero Waste Home, shops for her weekly supply of baguettes using a pillow case. I understand if maybe you don't want to be that person with the pillow case in a grocery store, but hey, it's a good idea -- and it would work well for produce, too.
Laundry basket: In keeping with the pillow case/household goods theme, one reader said she saw a family using laundry baskets in Aldi to pack their food. It's another logical idea -- a sturdy, reusable container that can hold a lot and that most of us already own.