Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Easy T-Shirt Shopping Bags

In a world...

Where careful budgeting is key...

Where combining errands saves precious gas...

And where grocery stores give you a minuscule discount for bringing your own bags...

An exhausted mom embarks upon an epic task: visit 5 different grocery stores in one day (including a brand new Trader Joe's opening TODAY, because apparently she's a masochist), incorporating a complex buying plan involving manufacturer and store coupons, sales, and specials.

Her budget? Minimal. Her shopping bag arsenal? Zero. Her willpower? As bottomless as her enormous travel mug of coffee.

With only a stack of old, unworn T-shirts and a sewing machine as her companions, Beth learns a valuable lesson about perseverance, resourcefulness, and the American Way.

Click "Read More" to learn if she will achieve victory...or return home crushed by defeat.

So all drama aside, I actually had a lot of fun making these bags. I sat in front of the TV and watched last week's episode of Selfie (are you guys watching that? HILARIOUS.) and snipped and cut, only half-paying attention to what I was doing. That's the kind of project this is, and the kind of project I like: forgiving. :)

This is really a super easy way to make some really good quality shopping bags. Using old T-shirts has several benefits for this project:

  1. The shape is basically already there - the handles come from the shoulders, the bottom of the T-shirts gets stitched closed, and you can still display any neat logos or graphics on the shirts.
  2. They are really so super easy. Did I mention that they are Super. Easy??
  3. The knit material is incredibly stretchy and masterfully adaptable. One T-shirt can hold an incredible amount of stuff (see below). They are also WAY more comfortable to hold than plastic or paper grocery sacks, and can be cut with long enough handles to go over the shoulder.
  4. They are cute and unique and easy to wad up and toss into the trunk so they're always at the ready.
  5. They are very easy to wash.
  6. A good garage sale find or even a rummage through your closet or dresser drawers can produce dozens of perfectly useable T-shirts for extremely little or no money, making them effectively cheaper and more efficient than purchasing reusable bags at the store.

And let me tell you: they hold SO MUCH STUFF. I did a little trial grocery load from my pantry after making them to test their resilience.

This one (the smallest one!) is holding a large carton of oatmeal, a large can of coffee, and a jar of peanut butter:

This one is holding (very comfortably I might add!) a large box of crackers, two 1-lb bags of beans, and six cans of veggies, with room for more:

And this one is managing two bottles of juice and a huge box of cereal:

All fit comfortably over the shoulder and stretch brilliantly to fit the contents (pardon my bulky hoodie and exhausted face - it's been one of those mornings already!):

It's awesome because as the knit fabric on the handles stretches, it actually makes the handles stronger. Try it - grab the handles and stretch them out as hard as you can. They'll curl up along the edges and form a sort of T-shirt tube. Release, and they mostly retain their original shape.


Okay, now to the good stuff: how to make these awesome little projects!

It could not be easier. Here is a diagram:

See how easy?

Just turn the shirt inside out, cut away the sleeves (leaving large holes so you can throw the bags over your shoulder), then cut a deep u-shape from the top for the opening. Then sew TWO seams across the bottom for extra support, then turn the bag right side out again. 

Each one takes all of three minutes to do. 

And they are, in my opinion, superior even to the bags you can buy at the store, which are clunky and take up a lot of room, and sometimes get mysterious holes in them (or maybe that's just me and the particular species of elf that lives in my house). 

As for my shopping was a success! Thanks in no small part to my brand new shopping bags, I was able to acquire enough food to feed the small army that is my family for at least a few weeks. AND I was able to get them upstairs with minimal effort. I even got compliments from the cashiers and other customers!

Here was my load from round one (Trader Joe's, CVS, and Whole Foods):

In case you're curious, here are all of the groceries that fit into four of my t-shirt bags plus the free one I got at Trader Joe's:

Best part? I carried them all upstairs at once from the car. Being able to literally shoulder that weight is a tremendous help. 

Mission accomplished.

I'm gonna take a nap now. 


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