#TenYears of Reusable Produce Bags

About ten years ago, I sewed a bunch of really ugly produce bags:

Look at the upper right side: the photo comes with its own verdict…EEK!

I wrote a painfully long-winded post about these bags shortly after I started this blog, in which I explained that one day I didn’t see plastic produce bags, and the next day I did.

So: I searched my fabric box and chose the most lightweight material I could find—a length of hideous curtain lace that my mother-in-law had probably bought on clearance and kept for a dozen years, before de-stashing and re-homing with her too-kind-to-say-no daughter-in-law, who—probably five years later—did the merciful thing (because fabric wants to be useful) and whipped up some reusable produce bags.

My children—especially my daughter—were horrified.

Why—WHY?!—do you have to be so weird, and NO, I am NOT going to take one of these bags and put apples into it, thankyouverymuch, because we are in PUBLIC (!) and who knows WHO might see us here, and . . .

(Ah, such happy memories . . .)

Ten-ish years later—ten-ish years during which I wore my children down and they willingly participated in my madness and I saved approximately 2000 plastic produce bags and my daughter got her own set of reusable produce bags (non-hideous ones which I bought for her stocking two Christmases ago)—my daughter goes shopping in a new zero-waste bulk store in the city in which she lives, and she texts me this photo:


Oh my. I think I will. (And I think I have to email the woman behind allthingspreserved.ca, so I can learn the story behind her produce bags.)

This post is a positive offering for the Ten Year challenges that are swirling around on Facebook and Instagram. So many of the pictures are so disheartening, but there are also so many positive things happening, especially in the zero-waste movement.

Zero-waste stores seem to be popping up everywhere—we even now have a tiny store, in the very small and not especially forward-thinking city in which we’re currently planted, a place where I can get bulk dish soap, laundry detergent, shampoo, and toothpaste. And while I know (I know!) that 2000 plastic produce bags saved—or two shampoo bottles, or three dish soap containers—won’t save the world, I can’t help but see all these little things as gateways: little things that can lead to other little things that can lead to bigger things, that can lead us from simple addition all the way to multiplication. Ripples to waves, in other words.

In other ten-year news, it’s ten-ish years since my daughter pushed her pork chop away and declared herself a vegetarian.

My children—especially my daughter—were horrified. Her parents—especially her mother—were horrified.

Why—WHY?!—do you have to be so weird, and NO, I am NOT going to take one of these bags and put apples into it, thankyouverymuch, because we are in PUBLIC (!) and who knows WHO might see us here, and . . . Why—WHY?!—do you have to be so difficult, and NO, I am NOT going to be cooking separate meals for you, thankyouverymuch, because that is doubling my work in the kitchen, and . . .

Ten-ish years later—ten-ish years during which she stuck to her guns and her little brother joined her and I learned even more about cooking and I gave up processed food and we all fully joined her and Oh She Glows became my Bible and her father went down two pant sizes—Health Canada ignored industry pressure and released a new food guide, which recommends a mostly plant-based diet.

Just to be clear: There’s is no connection whatsoever between my daughter becoming vegetarian and Health Canada releasing its new food guide.

There’s only this: Ten years will pass no matter what. And when we come upon new ideas or are faced with new realities, we have two choices: We can flat-out refuse to go or be pulled along protestingly, or, we can open our hearts and minds to new ways of doing and seeing. And if we open our hearts and minds, we might just be very surprised—and grateful—to see where we end up ten years later.


17 thoughts on “#TenYears of Reusable Produce Bags

  1. I love all of this, but especially: Ten years will pass no matter what. (And if it doesn’t, well…)

    It delights me to no end that someone is now making precious produce bags so much like yours. Just wish you were going to get the profit from it. 🙂 I can’t quite go vegetarian (yet?), but I am eating a lot more plants. Small steps will get you there, especially if you take the long (ten year) view.


    1. You managed to get a comment posted!! (As per your difficulties last time…)

      I was delighted, too 🙂 . (Shocked, more like, and disbelieving of what my daughter was telling me, until she texted me the photo and I could see for myself!) I would be lying if I said I didn’t also experience a twinge of “well there’s a missed opportunity! Why didn’t I think about making more and trying to sell them?” (I suppose in theory I still could; I could approach the owners of the small shop where I’m now getting my shampoo etc refilled, and float the idea…)

      More plants is good!


    1. I’ve just had a look at your blog, and I think it’s quite possible that we’re twins, Caitlin! Love your produce bags story — I’ve also had cashiers give me the side eye. One was so concerned about the weight of my bag she tried to put the fruit into a plastic bag to weigh it. Sigh.


  2. Marian, What a fun discovery for your daughter and for her to share such findings with you! I love to hear of the personal growth of your family, however it grows. An excellent storytelling of a mother and daughter bonding moment from an unusual coinsidink!


  3. While I’m not a veggie, I did surprise myself when I wrote down our dinner meal board and noticed that 3 of the 5 meals were vegetarian (that wild rice soup that I linked a bit ago is STILL high on rotation).

    And we don’t have specifically zero waste stores, we do have a local co-op that sells soaps and detergents and other bits in bulk.

    Lastly, I’ve already told you how much I appreciate your stance on produce bags. My apples and limes and green peppers go rolling on the belt because I won’t use plastic (per your example) but I’m too cheap to buy and too lazy to make produce bags. It’s fine for now – it doesn’t do any harm.


    1. I think it’s awesome that 3 out of 5 meals on your meal plan were vegetarian! (It’s just now hit me that V is now about the age my daughter was when she turned vegetarian…this is only pertinent because IF (IF!!!) V ever took a similar stance, you’d be SO much more ahead of the game than I was 🙂 ).

      Sometimes I walk over to a smaller grocery store in our neighbourhood, and I don’t always think to bring my produce bags, in which case I do the same as you—I just put the fruits/veggies directly onto the conveyer. (And then say, No bag!!! as there’s one cashier in particular who always wants to bag my stuff.) But for my regular grocery runs, I think the cashiers would have a fit if I put 21 apples (my usual “weekly” purchase) onto the belt sans bag!!


      1. Considering you are now vegetarian, I think you did really well. When I was V’s (and your daughter’s age) I boycotted McDonalds due to styrofoam and my stepdad proceeded to ONLY stop at McDonalds on vacation/roadtrip. I hope I would be more respectful. We all like meat, but after doing some reading when my children were little, I started sourcing meat from local farmers with ethical/sustainable practices. Meat like that is expensive (as meat should be) so having vegetarian options to round it out is always a good idea.

        And 21 APPLES?!?!? I can see why the produce bags are necessary!! (And if you did decide to make some to sell, I would be in line to purchase them)


      2. It makes me so sad that your stepdad did that to you, Kate 😦 .
        I overheard a conversation this weekend about the planet healthy diet. Apparently, this is a *mostly* plant-based diet, but it allows for some animal protein as well. (I think they recommend one serving of red meat per week, two servings of fish and two of chicken, with the rest of the protein to come from plants such as legumes.) When we were still transitioning to fully plant-based, we, too, ate only local/ethical/sustainable, and yes, it definitely was more expensive. Sadly, I think the numbers actually show grassfed/”sustainable” beef uses more water, emits more methane, and is more carbon-intensive, due to the longer length of time the animals take to grow to the proper size before slaughter 😦 . As a friend recently said: “everything is so complicated”…

        On the apples: three people X one apple a day X seven days = 21 apples 🙂 .
        (If you ever *do* need bags, they are SO easy and quick to make!!)


  4. Marion, I too am going mind boggling trying I compute 21 apple in one week! How many people are you feeding? Are you baking apples pies or apple pastries every week? Are they all the same type of apple? Are you obsessive compulsive apple eating (trying to be humorous with that thought flying by my ADD mind storm)? Do you host a apple dunking game Friday’s? Apple caramel parties weekly? Friend me!!
    I hope you know that I’m trying to make you laugh. But truly, 21 apples a week? Was that a typo?
    Your blog friend, TD


    1. This made me laugh, TD 🙂 . I’m WAY too lazy to make pies or pastries except for on special occasions, so the answer is just that we are rather obsessive about our apple eating around here 😉 . My husband, 13-year-old son and I all eat an apple every day, so a week’s worth is 21! Pears too, haha!


  5. Kate and Marion, I admit that I am an anti-styrofoam freak! I take my Pyrex glassware to dine out as I know the single portions are more than one human “should” eat. The first time a server sees me pulling out my glasses to-go-ware, I usually hear a wonderful glee of “That is so smart!” Doing what I’m able a tiny bit at a time, I say. And they giggle.
    This week I asked for my dine in lunch ice tea in a to go cup. What the server brought it to me, he nicely said and here’s a straw! And I said, “No, no, save the turtles!” And he knew exactly what I meant. Then I looked at the cup and no – styrofoam!! 😳 We try so hard… and there is very little I’m out control. But we must try!


    1. I think it’s awesome that you take pyrex glassware when you dine out!! Oh, I *so* get that sinking feeling when you’re trying so hard to be aware and to do your best and STILL things slip under your radar. But it’s just as you say — we just have to keep trying. No one is perfect, after all, and we’re fighting against decades and decades of completely entrenched convenience 😦 .


  6. I’m laughing so hard with you! But now I know. “One apple a day keeps the doctor away.”Is that from Dr. Suess or my mom?
    And a pear too, apparently.
    My mom had my step-dad on a banana a day. She never ate bananas. Then one day in his 70’s he said to her, “That is the last banana that I’m eating!” And he meant it. He is now 91 years old, but no bananas.


    1. I’m now racking my brain, because I have read ALL the Dr. Seuss…but no, I don’t think he ever said that, so it must be your mom 😉 . I’m not a fan of bananas, so I can sympathize with your step-dad!


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