MAKE: Reusable Produce Bags

 Photos by Eric Rankin  @ericrankinshoots

Photos by Eric Rankin @ericrankinshoots

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Over the last few weeks I have been trying to watch how much plastic is involved in buying groceries. After some practice I have gotten into the habit of taking a tote bag with me to the grocery store so that I don't need to use the plastic or paper bags provided for carrying groceries home. However, I have noticed that when I am buying produce I instinctually reach for the plastic bags to wrap the produce in before putting it in my basket. This leaves me with too many plastic bags accumulating in my kitchen cupboards! Solution: reusable produce bags. They are light to carry, great for separating fruits and veggies from the rest of the contents in your tote bag, and easily washable if they get soiled. I have already started using my produce bags and they are amazing for carting my veggies and fruits from the grocery store. 

These reusable produce bags are great for carting produce home, but not the best for storing food long term. I found a great resource through the Ecology Centre based in Berkeley, California. They have a lot of links and resources that can be used to help you live more plastic free as well as a PDF about how to store produce so that it stays fresh. 

How to make your own reusable Produce Bags 

The fabric I used for these reusable produce bags is a pink slightly stretchy mesh mystery fabric that I found in my mom's scrap bin years ago. To make your own reusable produce bags I would suggest using any cotton or muslin fabric that has a little bit of stretch. The stretch makes it easier to fit produce into the bags. Cotton and muslin are also easy to wash and durable for carrying your produce from the store or the farmers market. If you are buying new fabric for the project, I suggest choosing an organic cotton or a recycled fabric. I have noticed that a lot of reusable produce bags available for purchase are made out of a polyester. Polyester is made from petrochemicals just like plastic so if you are trying to go zero waste or be more conscious about your plastic footprint, it is best to choose an organic cotton or recycled fabric for this project.

Materials:

  • cotton or muslin fabric
  • fabric scissors
  • thread
  • sewing machine 
  • 14" of rope or leftover fabric to make a drawstring

Process:

1. Fold your fabric in half. With the fold as the bottom, measure out a 11" x 15" rectangle. Mark out 1" for the hem at the top, and 1/2" for the seams on the side. This will make one produce bag. I cut out four rectangles to make four produce bags. The finished bag size will be a 10" x 14" rectangle. 

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2. Pin the fabric together so that it doesn't move when you sew up the edges. Sew up the sides to the top. To increase the durability of your reusable produce food bags, zig zag the side seams to reinforce the fabric or use a serger to bind the edges.

3. Fold the top edge over an inch and pin in place. Sew around the hem but leave an inch open. This will be the space for threading the drawstring.

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4. To make a drawstring I used leftover fabric salvages and cut them into 14" long strips that fit the mouth of the bags. You could buy some rope or ribbon to use, but I find it easiest to use the leftover fabric I already have. Thread your drawstring through the open hem by attaching a safety pin to one end and moving it through the fabric tunnel with your fingers. Knot the end to finish. Voila! Reusable produce bags! 

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Cost Breakdown:

Buying from a supplier:

Simple Ecology Organic Cotton Muslin Produce Bags - set of 6 for $25.95 (on sale from $41)

Making it yourself:

1 metre of cotton fabric for four 11" x 15" produce bags - approximately $16
Thread - approximately $1.50
Drawstring - approximately $1.50 (Or make one for free with your leftover fabric!)

If you buy the materials new, the cost to make your own reusable produce bags is about $19 for four large bags. I had the fabric sitting around, the thread sitting around, and I made my drawstrings from the excess fabric so there was no real cost for me to make these since all of my supplies were a sunk cost already taking up space.  

Happy making!

xx Cady