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48 Uses for Plastic Grocery Bags – Creative Ways to Recycle Shopping Bags

Don’t throw those shopping bags out. There are dozens of uses for plastic grocery bags!

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.

Stack of colorful plastic bags with words 45 Creative uses for plastic bags.

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. 

Uses for plastic grocery bags

The bags you bring home from your shopping trip are not just for groceries. There are dozens of ways to recycle shopping bags. Check them out!

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 consignment 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

10. 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.


More uses for plastic grocery bags

We aren’t done yet. Get a cup of coffee and check out these creative ways to recycle shopping 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 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 says “Put it on my head for a rain hat when i forget my umbrella…

33. As floor protectors

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

34. For hanging baskets

Kay 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 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 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 protection

Mary 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 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 of this can be done 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 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 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 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 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 uses hers to “cover appliances for storage with them.”

44. For kitchen prep

Donna 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 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  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. 

Can you think of other ideas for using plastic grocery bags?

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.

Pin these uses for plastic grocery bags for later

Would you like a reminder of these ways to recycle shopping bags? Just pin this image to one of your household boards on Pinterest so that you can easily find it later.

Collagte with household activities and words 45 Creative uses for plastic shopping bags

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Kelly Koslowski Cunningham

Sunday 23rd of January 2022

Great pins Amazing effects and quality of work finding these items


Sunday 19th of December 2021

Forgive me for being blunt, but...using plastic bags that have been handled by cashiers (who also handle very dirty money, among other dirty things in a store) to use in any way for food prep or storage is a terribly bad idea. Canned and packaged foods in stores sit on shelves that can be dirty, dusty, or germy without being seen. Those germs transfer to the insides of those bags, and then, to your unprotected foods that you are food-prepping in. Very risky for getting infections or tainting your food. Please do not do this. Also, using plastic bags to protect plants from frost/freezing is a terrible idea, even if it sounds like a good one. Plastic allows the plants to freeze, and can actually freeze onto the plants.

Evelyn L Daniel

Saturday 20th of February 2021

I use as a shower cap when coloring my hair ...just tie the handles into a bow on my forehead to get the fit right


Wednesday 20th of January 2021

While this article is several years old, many of the suggestions are still valid. And a new point..... using single use bags during this time of covid19, can reduce the spread of the virus. Even Govenor-who-would-be-king Cuomo was forced to suspend his plastic bag ban because of public safety.


Thursday 7th of January 2021

GREAT ideas here. And I just wanted to add a word of caution. After some time, the plastic gets dry and crumbly. Take it from me.....if you put a bunch of Christmas ornaments a bag, tie it up and store might want to give the ornaments a new bag or two (every season) and then you won't take the bag off the shelf, have the bag dissolve in your hands and learn rather quickly that Christmas ornaments don't bounce on wood floors.

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