There used to be a time when hearing “paper or plastic” was a normal part of our shopping experience. However, as society became aware of environmental issues, reusable bags became an important asset to help the environment. When you use reusable grocery bags, you are reducing litter, saving trees, and lowering our waste stream. On a practical level, a reusable bag is a stylish and cost-effective way to bring your groceries home without taking up space.
Before you decide which reusable grocery bag is for you, it’s vital that you consider important things like price, style, and material. Then there is probably one of the most important features of all—capacity. Without a decent-sized grocery bag, your shopping experience can be difficult. The bigger the capacity, the more you can carry, and that makes for an easier time when shopping. Our reviewer, Lizzy Briskin, assessed all the attributes of these grocery bags in her kitchen. Backed by our testing, the Picnic Time Topanga Insulated Cooler Tote Bag is the clear winner.
Interested in your next reusable grocery bag? Here's our list of the best ones.
Picnic Time Topanga Insulated Cooler Tote Bag
What We Love: Keeps food cold for hours, stylish, zippered side pocket
What We Don't Love: Doesn't fold down flat, not machine washable
Insulation meets style in this cute and highly functional grocery bag/cooler from Picnic Time. This zip-top bag has nylon over-the-shoulder handles and a spacious PVC-lined interior that keeps food cold for hours. During our tests, the full bag kept food cold for over five hours with an ice pack. It also has a large zippered side pocket to stash a phone, wallet, and keys. This came in handy when filled with groceries. Our tester loved how secure the handles felt and the comfort while holding.
The bag comes in various color options and two sizes; we tested the regular-sized tote, but the extra-large offers an additional 2 inches of length and 4 inches of height. The lighter color options may get dirty, especially if you’re bringing the bag to an actual picnic, but the bag can be hand washed. Because of the insulation, this bag does not fold as flat as more minimalist designs for storage. However, it has a very high-quality feel to it and can handle heavy loads with no problem.
Price at Time of Publish: $35
Dimensions (LxWxH): 20.5 x 8 x 13 inches | Capacity: 24 cans | Material: Polyester canvas
"Overall, this is a very high-quality insulated bag that travels well, holds enough groceries for small households, and keeps food cool." — Lizzy Briskin, product tester
TOPDesign Reusable Grocery Shopping Totes
What We Love: Large capacity, very affordable, machine washable
What We Don't Love: Not waterproof, no extra pockets
This two-pack of extra-large canvas totes is a very affordable option. You won’t find any bells and whistles here, but the bags get the job done. They can carry up to 40 pounds of groceries and have a spacious 22-liter capacity, which is ample room for most small households to shop for several days.
During testing, the handles were sturdy and plenty long enough to hang comfortably over your shoulder. It’s worth noting that the canvas material may get dirty, though the bags are machine washable (they should be hung to dry to prevent shrinking). Our tester didn't like the lack of any pockets though, so you'll need to hold your keys and wallet. For storage, the bags fold into neat parcels held closed with an included rubber strap.
Price at Time of Publish: $10
Dimensions (LxWxH): 14 x 7.5 x 14 inches | Capacity: 40 pounds | Material: Canvas
"This is a standard, no-frills grocery tote that's machine-washable, folds closed for easy storage, and holds a heavy load. If it doesn't last forever, at least it was a total bargain." — Briskin
Best Budget, Runner-Up
BeeGreen Nylon Reusable Shopping Bag
What We Love: Lightweight, machine washable, easy to carry and stash in your car
What We Don't Love: Flimsy, can leak
This set of six packable shopping bags is more than a great deal. Our tester found the bags are made of super lightweight nylon that won’t tear easily, but it might begin to rip with repeated heavy loads. The bags come in dozens of fun colors and patterns, from playful solids and classic stripes to adorable hedgehogs printed on a bright orange background.
Each bag has a built-in interior pocket that doubles as a carrying case, so your grocery bag folds into a compact 5.9-by-5.7-inch square, which makes them great for stashing in a purse or car. The handles are long enough to fit comfortably over your shoulder. In fact, these are the preferred grocery bag of Sonja and Alex Overhiser, creators of the sustainably-minded food blog A Couple Cooks. "We like large totes that are hand-held but have nice, wide handles that can go over your shoulder for a longer walk," Alex says.
Price at Time of Publish: $22
Dimensions: 19.5 x 13.5 inches | Capacity: 50 pounds | Material: Nylon
Baggu Standard Baggu Nylon Ripstop Tote
What We Love: Very durable, lots of design and color options, comes with carrying cases
What We Don't Love: Straps might be too short for some
Baggu's nylon grocery bags are made for neat storage. The pack of three comes in a drawstring pouch carrying case, and each bag has its own smaller carrying case that it folds into after use. There are dozens of color and pattern options to choose from, and the bags are surprisingly large, given how compact they become folded.
During testing, we found the material is thick and sturdy, if not a bit stiff when you first get them. The nylon won’t tear easily, but it’s also not leakproof, should anything spill inside or produce a lot of condensation. But don't worry if something does spill: Simply toss these in the laundry and line dry. Best of all, the handles are spacious and comfortable, resting easily on your shoulder. "I prefer using polyester and nylon bags because they are lightweight, strong, and easy to clean," Alex says. "The ones that fold into an attached pouch are the best!"
Price at Time of Publish: $36
Dimensions: 15.5 x 15.5 inches | Capacity: 50 pounds | Material: Nylon
"This is a great set of bags to keep you covered for most grocery runs. It's not insulated, but the bags are very large and sturdy. Plus, they come in many fun colors and patterns." — Briskin
Hydro Flask 20L Insulated Tote
What We Love: Watertight zippers, keeps food cold for at least four hours, very durable
What We Don't Love: Handles aren't the most comfortable
If you’re looking for a grocery bag that doubles as a cooler, this durable and well-insulated tote from Hydro Flask is your best bet. It has strong nylon handles that support a full load of chilled food and insulation that keeps things cold for over four hours. In our tests, food stayed chilled with an ice pack for up to six hours in the car on a warm day.
The bag has a soft plastic-coated fabric exterior that’s comfortable to carry and easy to keep clean, so you can tote this bag to your summertime beach clambake, park picnic, or farmers market run. Condensation and any potential spills will also be contained by the watertight zippers, and a zippered exterior pocket is a handy spot to store your keys and phone. The handles are long enough to sling over your shoulder or carry in your hand, though our tester felt they're not the most comfortable (and can get a bit pinchy) if you’re carrying an especially heavy load.
Price at Time of Publish: $65
Dimensions (LxWxH): 17 x 7.3 x 14 inches | Capacity: 35 liters | Material: Coated fabric
Related: The Best Coolers
CleverMade Collapsible Cooler Bag
What We Love: Very large, structured interior, versatile, tight seal keeps interior cold
What We Don't Love: Hard to carry around
This structured insulated bag is great for picnics, outdoor parties, or a trip to the store. The bag's collapsible interior plastic frame helps it stand up, so the bag can stay open on its own and won't fall over in your trunk.
The zippered top provides a tight seal to lock in cold air and moisture, though this basket is not as well-insulated as the Hydro Flask tote we tested. It does have a waterproof interior lining that’s easy to wipe clean between uses, but water will eventually leak out of the bottom of the cooler over time. For that reason, this basket is better used to transport groceries than to store cans on ice during a day at the beach. It has a spacious interior capacity and can hold up to 50 soda cans, or up to 55 pounds. You can purchase an over-the-shoulder carrying strap separately, but as-is, the bag is designed to be carried in your hand with a comfortable padded handle cover.
Price at Time of Publish: $45
Dimensions (LxWxH): 18.25 x 12.25 x 11.5 inches | Capacity: 50 cans | Material: Polyester
Related: The Best Ice Packs for Coolers
Being large enough to carry a few days of groceries, well-insulated, and very stylish are all reasons why the Picnic Time Topanga Insulated Cooler Tote Bag is our top pick as a reusable grocery bag. If you need a set of foldable bags, the Baggu Standard Baggu Nylon Ripstop Totes are stylish and durable, though they aren't insulated.
What Are the Other Options?
Now Designs Burlap Market Tote: This was originally included in the roundup as a great option for a jute grocery bag. It does have a lot of potential when it comes to capacity, in addition to useful shoulder straps and a stylish design. But the material is scratchy, easy to stain, and a lack of internal support makes this very floppy. Plus the handles are uncomfortable and a bit too long. If you're looking for a reusable grocery bag that will last through many grocery runs, you'll be better off with one of our other recommendations.
How We Tested
Our tester reviewed our previous roundup and added a few of her own picks, after closely looking at consumer reviews and available manufacturer information. We then purchased these products for Lizzy so she could put them to the test in her home kitchen. First, she assessed the design and portability of each one. Then, she used them all to go grocery shopping, paying close attention to the capacity and how long they kept foods cold.
After testing, Lizzy submitted feedback about what she liked and didn’t like about each product and rated each one on the following features: Design, Capacity, Durability, and Overall Value. Learn more about how we test products.
What to Look for in a Reusable Grocery Bag
How much you can hold can make all the difference for your comfort. Think about what feels comfortable to carry around with you inside and outside of the store—a larger size grocery bag isn’t inherently the best choice. When you’re looking into the capacity of a grocery bag, you should think about your usual shopping routine and get a reusable grocery bag accordingly.
The material for a reusable grocery bag isn’t just for show, it’s also made with your produce in mind. Some grocery bags are insulated to keep your food fresh over a long time, some are waterproof to guarantee dry produce, and there are even some bags created with canvas materials for simple portability. Whatever you choose, the material of your grocery bag matters because each has its pros and cons, including flexibility and longevity, which are signs of a well-made grocery bag.
Are reusable grocery bags washable?
Yes, they are! But how you wash your grocery bags depends solely on the material. Nylon and canvas shopping bags, for example, can go in the washing machine as long as they are not lined with a fabric that can't be washed. If you happen to come across insulated plastic or aluminum fabric, spot cleaning is the best option.
What is the best material for a reusable grocery bag?
The best material is the one you feel the most comfortable using. Nylon is likely a material you’ll come across constantly when shopping for a grocery bag. It is also the most versatile because it can be washed, it’s foldable, and can hold a lot of groceries. Canvas is also a really amazing material because of its durability, but it is not waterproof.
How do you store reusable grocery bags?
If your reusable grocery bag is foldable, then placing it in the pouch it came with works just fine. If your reusable grocery bag isn’t foldable, then it is fine to stash it out of sight inside a closet or any space until further use.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
As a research professional and amateur baker, Robin Mosley understands the importance of choosing the right kitchen appliances. She is always researching and testing the latest kitchen appliances, utensils, and products.
This article was tested and updated by Lizzy Briskin, a chef, food writer, and recipe developer who lives in the Northeast and wants to keep her ice cream frozen on the trip home.
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