I've decided to try to eliminate bringing home any more plastic shopping bags. Sure, they can be used as a trash bag or recycled, but they're not eco-friendly and don't biodegrade, so I've decided to avoid them whenever possible.
I've been using 6 sturdy canvas bags for grocery shopping. They work great but one drawback is that they're a bit bulky, even when folded. I sometimes forget to put the empty bags back in the car so I have them for the next trip, then arrive at the store only to think "oh, I left the canvas bags at home". I try to forgo a bag, but if I need one, I choose paper. At least it can be tossed in with the newspapers for recycling.
I ran across Baggu bags on the web and decided to get some. They're a little pricey ($38 for 6 bags + pouch), but you can choose fun colors, they're generously sized, easy to carry, and made of durable rip-stop nylon. The feature that attracted me is that they fold into a very small pouch you can keep in your purse or throw in the glove compartment. Today I tossed one in my purse and one in the glove compartment before we headed out to do our weekend running around. Lunch, hardware store (purchased lumber....no bags needed), but then we ended up at the grocery store. Voila! I had my Baggu in my purse. We filled our hand-held shopping basket, plus a 6-pack of beer. The Baggu held almost everything, and we hand-carried the beer and big bag of chips. Had it not been for the dim-witted clerk who snuck my tomatoes into a plastic bag without my catching it, we would have made it home from the store bag free!
I still need to find a good alternative for those thin plastic bags in the produce department. I've combined different items that don't need to be weighed in one bag and the checkers are ok with that, but the baggers seem a bit perplexed on what to do with produce that isn't "contained" in a plastic bag.