48 Uses for Plastic Grocery Bags

Plastic Grocery Bags are not Just for Groceries.

Plastic or paper is a question often heard at the check out of the grocery store. Even though paper is better for the environment, I usually choose plastic, because I know that I will be reusing them.  Plastic grocery bags have so many more uses than just bringing home the groceries.

Plastic bags are not just for bringing home the groceries. They can be used in many ways. See my 45 Creative Uses for Plastic Grocery Bags in your home and garden - thegardeningcook.com

Image adapted from photo on Flickr Creative Commons

So, now we have the dilemma of saving the environment or using plastic but recycling them for other uses. (and saving money in the process.)  A fairly even choice, in my opinion.  If you choose plastic and are wondering what to do with those plastic grocery bags when you get home, here are 48 interesting ideas for making the most of the plastic bags. 

1. Do double Duty. The simplest and most environmentally conscious decision is to use them for the purpose that they were intended – to carry groceries.  Just put them back in your car and take them to the store and reuse them to bring home the next batch.  Now this is saying that the store uses a decent quality of plastic bag.  That seems to be slipping lately, like so many other things, but as long as the quality is pretty good, they can be used a few times before discarding them.

Re-use and recycle

2. In the Car.  Keep some plastic bags in the car for road trips.  They can be stuffed in the glove compartment and won’t take much room, and then just dragged out when you need to put some car litter into them.  Negates the need for a car trash bin and can be discarded along the way neatly at any service station.

use plastic bags in the car for trash

3. As trash can liners.  I bought some material that matches the colors in my kitchen and sewed it into a long tube shape with elastic at both the top and the bottom.  I just stuff the plastic bags into the top of it and drag them out of the bottom when I am ready to use them as trash can liners.  I have not spent a cent on trash bin liners for decades.  Reusing the plastic grocery store bags has saved me countless hundreds of dollars over the years.  (Just be sure not to save the ones with any holes in them, or they will leak into your bin.)

4. For doggy poop.  Our German Shepherd makes for a messy back yard and picking up dog poop is not much fun.  My husband does this chore with two plastic grocery store bags. He has one for the “collection” and the other to reach down and pick up the poop…thereby keeping his hands clean. When done, he combines the two in one bag, ties it and disposes of it in the large trash bin.  (best done close to trash pick up time!)  You can also take a plastic bag with you on a walk with your dog in case he “does his duty” on the walk time.

use plastic grocery bags for doggie poop.

5. Donate them.  Local thrift stores and flea markets will be delighted to have your stash of plastic bags so that they do not have to buy them new.  Be sure to ask first to see if they will still want them.  (some may worry about bacteria, etc. and not want them.)

thrift store table

6. For Laundry.  When I am traveling, I use plastic grocery bags to store my clothes that are going to need laundering.  I just keep the dirty clothes in the plastic bags in the trunk of my care and it keeps them separate from the still to be worn clothes in my suitcase.

7. To Line Kitty Litter bins.  I hate cleaning a kitty litter box.  Just hate it.  Placing a plastic grocery bag over the bottom of the kitty litter bin makes it easy to dispose of the dirty litter and keeps the bin clean and more sanitary.

Kitty Litter bins

8. Use them as Packing material.  When you are traveling, plastic bags can be used to wrap up breakable souvenirs.  For moving, use them to wrap things that might break during the move, by wrapping small breakables in their own bags and wrapping the excess bag to keep the items from breaking.

9.  For soiled diapers.  Nothing is better for disposing of a soiled diaper on a day trip than a plastic bag. Keep them in your diaper bag.   Just dump the whole diaper in contents and all and dispose of in a trash bin.

Plastic grocery bags for dirty diapers

If you would like to introduce your child to the idea of recycling, this cute Lift the Flap book introduces the theme in a fun way.  It’s available on Amazon. (affiliate link)

don't Throw that away10. As jar sealers.  Nothing is worse than having the contents of a jar leak out in a suitcase.  Use pieces of plastic grocery bags inside the lid of the jar to form a double seal to keep them from leaking. They will close well and this trick works wonders!

11.  In the garden.  Stuff a couple of plastic grocery bags in your pocket when you are out gardening. As you are gardening put leaves, weeds and other garden debris in them and then dispose of on the compost heap (minus the plastic bag, of course.) 

Garden trash

12. With the vacuum cleaner.  With a dog in my house, my bag-less vacuum cleaner needs emptying a few times as I vacuum.  I use a plastic grocery bag as a container for the vacuum cleaner contents. 

13. As a shoe form.  Lightweight summer shoes not being worn in the winter time can be stuffed with plastic grocery bags in the toe are to keep their shape during the cold months.

14. At the beach.  Keep some plastic bags in your beach bag to store wet towels in after a fun day at the beach. It will keep your car seats dry and your beach bag won’t get all mildewy from the moisture in the wet beach towels.

15. For the plunger.  If you store your plunger in the bathroom closet, let it sit in a plastic bag. It will keep the floor under it cleaner and can be discarded when it gets too dirty in side and replaced with a new one.

Place your plunger in a plastic bag

16.  With the lawn mower.  Tie one or two to the lawn mower, so that you can pick up litter and refuse as you mow the lawn. (great for pine cones that you don’t want to run over!)

Lawn mowing

17. For simple car maintenance. Use them as hand protectors when you are doing things like checking the oil (can even wipe the dipstick off with them)

car engine

18. As a make shift ice chest.  When you do not have an ice cooler handy, just dump ice cubes into a doubled plastic grocery bag.  Doubling it will keep the water inside as the ice starts to melt and it can be easily poured out as well.

19. As stuffing for crafts.  Fiberfill and plastic beans can get expensive. Plastic grocery store bags can be used as stuffing for many craft projects, such as stuffed animals.  Even home made pillows can be stuffed with them.

45 Creative uses for plastic shoppping bags

20. As paint guards. Open the bags up with scissors and use them under furniture when you are painting as a splatter guard for the paint.

21. As plaster casts. When you have a broken leg or arm, wrap the plastic bags around the cast to protect it when you are taking a shower.

22. For clothes pins.  If you have an outside clothes line, tie plastic grocery bags to the clothes line to hold clothes pins as you pin the clothing to the lines.

use plastic grocery bags for clothes pins

23. For yard sales.  Save them for the time that you will have a yard or garage sale as ways for people to take home their purchases.

Yard sale

24. As Party toys.  Fill the bags 2/3 full with water and use as water balloons.  Be responsible and don’t drop these on animals of people!

25. As plant protectors. When the forecast calls for a light frost, use plastic grocery bags around plants in small planters to protect them overnight from the frost.

26. To protect counters and fridge shelves.  When defrosting meat place, the package into a plastic grocery bag to keep your counter or fridge shelf clean from the messy juice that defrosted meats make.

27. As wiper protectors.  If your car is kept outside, place plastic bags around the wiper blades to protect them from the snow and ice buildup.

wiper blades

28. As a non stick surface.  When rolling dough, use a plastic grocery bag on the counter top as a non stick surface.  Just discard it when the dough has been rolled out.  Much less messy than on the cutting board or counter top.

29. To coat meat.  Place flour and spices in a plastic grocery bag and add chicken, beef or other meats to it.  Hold the top and shake well and the meat will be well coated.  So much cheaper than using zip lock bags.

30. For bread crumbs and crackers.  Place biscuits, stale bread or graham crackers in plastic grocery bags and tie the top with a twist tie.  Use a rolling pin to crush into crumbs.

Fan Tested tips for Using plastic bags.

**I asked the fans of the Gardening Cook on Facebook if they had some other uses for plastic grocery store bags.  These are some of the things they came up with for answers.

31. Foot protection.  Freada G Smith says “My mom put them on her feet inside her snow boots or as she call them her rubber boots. To keep them dry.”‘

32. Head protection.  Sharon Cure says “Put it on my head for a rain hat when i forget my umbrella…

33. As Floor protectors. Beth Jenks says “I make my son put them on when he walks in the door over his muddy work shoes .

34. For Hanging baskets.  Kay Burton Bicknell has a great suggestion – ” I have used them to line my hanging baskets in the garden…

line hanging baskets with plastic bags

35. For Garden Harvests.  Jane Windham says “I keep a supply on hand to use when sharing fresh veggies from the garden!

fresh vegetables from the garden

36. For Mailing packing.  Kim Smith suggests “Save a bunch (inside one of the bags) to use as packing material when mailing something. Useful, cushiony, and someone can use them on the other end too!”

37. Christmas Ornament protectionMary Ann has two great suggestions – ” I use them along with flyers to wrap up my Christmas ornaments when I pack them away in blue bins.. I also use when I need a weed barrier in my small gardens.”

use plastic grocery bags to wrap christmas ornaments

38. Mousetrap help.  Donna Rae Spencer Guidry has a super tip.  She says “ok – put your hand inside the bag, like a glove – grab the mousetrap with the attached victim , use your other hand to pull your hand, trap and bag inside out, manipulate without touching trap or victim to loosen said victim and remove the trap, all without actually touching IT. tie the bag shut and toss in garbage. I’ve been known to throw it all away if it is unwilling to be separated!”

Mouse in a mousetrap

39. Car protection for potted plants.  Connie Mixon Prichard uses hers “in the car, at the nursery, when buying potted plants so they don’t get the car dirty or wet.

40. As lunch bags.  Heather Benton has a simple one. She “packs my husband’s lunch in one every day.” This would save a ton of money on paper lunch bags.

41. For Braided Rugs.  Stephanie Hawn has a tip for those who love to craft. She says that you can ” cut them in strips and make braided rag rugs.”

42. For the craft room.  Lynda Rowan is also a crafter. She “ uses them in her craft room for various odds n ends hung by sewing table.”

43. For stored appliances.  Deborah Rhine Frankenhauser uses hers to “ cover appliances for storage with them.”

44. For Kitchen prep.  Donna Rae Spencer Guidry uses hers when she is prepping food. She “keeps one in the sink when cleaning and prepping vegetables, then takes the scraps out to her chickens.”

45. For drafty windows.  Robin Shane uses her plastic bags for “Insulating around window air conditioners or drafty windows.”

The list is growing, thanks to some neat tips from readers of the blog!  Here are a few more:

46. For Car Mirrors. Blog reader Dena Porter suggested this neat tip.  She says “I slip a plastic bag over the outside mirrors of my car in snowy or icy weather, or when I know it’s going to rain and freeze. Tie the bag shut. When I’m ready to drive, I take them off and my mirrors are clean. I keep several in the car for this purpose.”  Thanks for sharing this great tip Dena!

47. For Book Covers.  Blog reader Jan suggested this tip. She makes book covers with them this way:
Layer the bags between two sheets of waxed paper and rub a warm iron over the stack.  The plastic bags will shrink and fuse together forming a tough, flexible sheet of plastic that you can us, or whatever your imagination can think of.  Do a Google search and you’ll find a lot of ideas.

48. To make outdoor Mats.  Jan also suggested cutting the bags into strips and crocheting them into outdoor mats (could also do a braided mat.) She says they are lightweight and roll up into small sizes. 

That’s it folks.  My list of 48 uses for plastic grocery store bags.  I’m sure you will have some ideas that I have not mentioned in my list.  Please leave your comments below.  And remember, when the checkout operator says “plastic or paper”, you will be able to say plastic without worrying quite so much about the environment, knowing you will be reusing or recycling them.

The images used in this post are public domain photos from Pixabay and MorgueFile.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission from the sale, but the price is the same for you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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  31 comments for “48 Uses for Plastic Grocery Bags

  1. Dena Porter
    02/09/2015 at 10:19 pm

    I slip a plastic bag over the outside mirrors of my car in snowy or icy weather, or when I know it’s going to rain and freeze. Tie the bag shut. When I’m ready to drive, I take them off and my mirrors are clean. I keep several in the car for this purpose.

    • admin
      02/09/2015 at 10:34 pm

      What a fabulous idea Dena. I will add your tip to my article with a note that you suggested it. Thanks for sharing! Carol

  2. S. Martin
    02/09/2015 at 10:49 pm

    Our community composts so anything that is organic (dog poop, garden wastes, etc..) needs to be in compostable bags. And more and more stores are now charging for the plastic ones in an attempt to reduce their use in the landfills. So any grocery bags that end up in our house goes back in the grocery bags bin for recycling. Never in the garbage.

    • admin
      02/10/2015 at 11:58 am

      So far here in Raleigh, I have not seen them charging for plastic, but many stores give a 10c discount per bag if I use my own eco friendly bags to bag the groceries. CArol

    • Janice
      02/11/2015 at 3:36 am

      I too save them and return them to the store’s recycle bin. I keep them all in a Glad kitchen trash bag until full and then I return the big bag full of grocery bags. Never ever send them to the landfill.

  3. Chantillie Snyder
    02/10/2015 at 12:44 am

    I keep some plastic shopping bags in my car for when I check the mail. I put the “junk” mail in and toss in the trash when entering the house so that my car stays clean. I also do this when the children eat from a drive-thru in the back of the car. Just keep some in the back of the seat or under the seat for many uses. They can also be used in case of an emergency while children may end up with an upset stomach…if you know what I mean.

  4. Angie Evans
    02/10/2015 at 6:33 am

    You can donate them to your local food bank.

    • admin
      02/10/2015 at 11:57 am

      That is a good tip too Angie. Carol

  5. Rhonda
    02/10/2015 at 11:53 am

    I don’t put my flour /corn meal in canisters -so I put the bags of flour/cornmeal in a plastic bag so the excess that always seems to fall out of the bag is caught in the plastic bag and not leaving a trail all over the kitchen counter.

    • admin
      02/10/2015 at 11:56 am

      Great idea Rhonda! Carol

  6. Eileen
    02/26/2015 at 3:46 pm

    I use them to cover fans and other small appliances after they have been cleaned or will sit over a season to keep dust off them. I also tie them together like pieces of rope and use them to tie garden poles together to make a bean teepee; to tie up a rug that I roll up and store; to tie plants to wire fence; to tie a wire basket to a support; to tie up a broken branch so it can heal back together. Tied to a pole or some such by the handles and left to flap in the breeze also makes a nice “scarecrow” for the garden. I leave the back porch screen door propped partially open so the cats can come and go, and tie it so a breeze doesn’t blow the door back and forth and bend the hinges – or bonk a cat. I cut a hole in the middle of the bottom of the bag and put the bag over a hanger to keep dust off clothes not often used and the handles make nice places to hang another hanger while I arrange something on the second one.

    • admin
      02/26/2015 at 10:17 pm

      Hi Eileen. So many creative ideas! Thanks for sharing them all with us. Carol

  7. Terri
    03/05/2015 at 5:18 pm

    I use them to line my paint roller pan, then just remove & dispose. Saves on clean up, water & time.

    • admin
      03/05/2015 at 5:34 pm

      Hi Terri. What a great tip! Thanks for sharing it! Carol

  8. Robin
    03/07/2015 at 7:43 pm

    There are some great ideas here! While we don’t get many plastic bags home (b/c I shop at aldi for most of our groceries, and bring re-usables) I do get a couple most weeks. Usually, I have a bag (with a hole torn in it) in the broom closet to collect other torn bags. When it’s full, I take it to a local store with recycle bins for said bags. The good ones I use the paper-football fold technique to save them. You can store a TON of them in a little recycled container this way! (Like the 32oz yogurt containers 🙂 Under the sink for lining all household trash cans. In the car for trash on road trips, or whatever else may come up. (and garage sales, if we host one, and donating extras that build up to garage sales…ideas you already shared)

    Another idea for you…They’re also good for protecting tie-dye projects…Finished item goes in bag, twist, invert bag (inside out) and tie handles…it’s almost like having it double bagged. and the bag is still rinse-and-reusable.

    • admin
      03/07/2015 at 8:53 pm

      Hi Robin. What a lot of great ideas. I especially love the idea of filling yogurt containers with them in the car. Great idea! Carol

  9. Jan
    05/13/2015 at 10:48 pm

    Another crafty idea is to make book covers with them.
    Layer bag/s between two sheets of waxed paper and rub a warm iron over the stack. The plastic bag/s will shrink and fuse together forming a tough, flexible sheet of plastic that you can use as book covers, or whatever your imagination can think of. Do a Google search and you’ll find a lot of ideas.

    I’ve also used plastic bread bags cut into strips to crotchet an outdoor mat for camping. It’s lightweight and rolls up to a small size. And it doesn’t matter if it’s stolen as it’s cheap to replace. Surprisingly, it doesn’t get slippery when wet, making it quite safe to walk on, whatever the weather, though if it’s windy I secure it to the ground with a couple of extra tent pegs. (I used bread bags as they don’t break down like a lot of grocery bags do these days.)

    • admin
      05/14/2015 at 11:03 am

      HI Jan. Thanks for the tips. I have added them to the article with a shout out to your name. Carol

  10. Kay
    09/14/2015 at 5:55 pm

    I keep a pile of them in our Tahoe, for when we take the dogs for a walk. It seems there is trash scattered everywhere anymore. I use the bags to pick up as much as I can during our outings.
    Sometimes I fill up a few of them

    • admin
      09/14/2015 at 9:30 pm

      That is a great idea Kay. Carol

  11. 05/09/2019 at 11:49 pm

    yeah the carol yeah the carol

  12. Helen
    05/31/2019 at 8:58 am

    I use the plastic grocery bags to put the scooped clumpable kitty litter in, tie it up then put in the garbage can.

  13. vanessa
    07/14/2019 at 3:19 pm

    plastic grocery bags keeps your fruits,tomatoes,lettuce,celery fresh for 3 to 4 weeks just leave in the containers, are the thin plastic you tear off the spool at the grocery store wrap it up in 1 plastic grocery bag put in refrigerater bins it will stay fresh for weeks also if your eggs are freezing in refrigerater and you dont want to turn temperture down just leave eggs in carton put in 2 plastic grocery bags tie bag eggs will not freeze and stay fresh for over a month .

  14. Shari
    07/31/2019 at 12:13 pm

    Connecticut is in the process of eliminating plastic bags. I use mine for stuffing into winter boots (with an old dryer sheet) for storage. I also store velvet slippers in a plastic bag to keep out dust all summer.

    I use a plastic bag for pounding meat/chicken on top of a cutting board. Also saves on clean up.

    • Carol
      07/31/2019 at 12:30 pm

      Good ideas for uses Shari.Thanks for sharing them.

  15. Cathy
    01/19/2020 at 5:23 pm

    I roll my paint brush in one between painting sessions until the project is done and use one to cover the roller tray, folding it up over the roller tightly between painting sessions.

    I also carry the dogs food in them when talking them on trips.

    When I clean the refrigerator of old food, I dump it all in the smaller grocery bag so I can tied it up and seal off some of the odor until disposing of the larger bag or I place it in a bag that’s already been taken out to the bin. Same for meat packaging and scraps from food prep.

    • Carol Speake
      01/20/2020 at 11:36 am

      All great suggestions Cathy.

  16. Lynda Carr
    06/08/2020 at 3:12 pm

    I crochet them together to make mats for the homeless, keeps moisture barrier between them and the ground.

  17. jason
    08/31/2020 at 7:50 pm

    i love these ideas

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