Thursday, 5 March 2015

Shopping Bags - The Memories

The humble plastic shopping bag was invented by a Swede in the early 1960's, and by 1965 there was a world wide patent for it. As we became more environmentally aware, shoppers started to look for alternatives and the paper bag revolution started, in all it's corporate glory and for a while, consumers were given a choice 'plastic or paper'. Only our grandmothers thought to take a string bag or shopping trolly with them to the shops. Younger generations were happy to bring home their shopping in paper or plastic bags - both to be recycled in various ways.

In the early 1980's countries started to limit, and ultimately ban plastic bags, phasing them out of circulation as consumers environmental awareness increased.

The demise of plastic bags was the birth of a new industry - corporate shopping bags (see main photo). There's also a plethora of products made from recycled plastic bags. Our school in Japan has school branded bags made from recycled plastic bags. Sadly our last one broke from years of use so I can't share a picture with you. It had the school logo on the outside pocket, and each bag was unique. There's cottage industries making carpets and rugs from recycled bags, jewellry and more.

We have been trained to keep our shopping bags in the back of the car so that they are always available to us. The thought of leaving them at home and having to ask for a bag (and pay for it) is very annoying, and it's curious the stares you get from other shoppers.

Some cashiers assume if you've no bag with you, you'll be carrying your goods home with you, as they don't even offer you a bag.

An upmarket supermarket in Motomochi we used to frequent in Yokohama had a poster-board groaning with photos of their 'shopping bag' in various places around the world. It was such a fun idea.

How E-N-O-R-M-O-U-S if my Costco freezer bag!? Like everything in the land of Costco, right? My first trip to this incredible land of super-sized groceries and everything else you could ever need was in Atlanta, Georgia over 20 years ago when I accompanied a friend there.

But I didn't buy my Costco bag in the US, I bought it in Japan.

Within a few weeks of landing, the first place my school mentor/buddy took me was, Costco as it sold as many 'western' (aka American) foodstuffs as Japanese. Now, being Australian, I wasn't that fussed about American brands, but her offer was thoughtful and off we went.

When I walked into the aeroplane hanger size shop, and saw the trough-sized shopping trolleys I knew I'd be in trouble (and I don't like shopping). We needed a LOT of stuff as we'd sold all our electrical before leaving Ireland, and our container wasn't due to arrive for several weeks.

Rice Cooker. Never used one before. Was told I NEEDED one, so into the trolley it went, along with a toaster, kettle, iron, hair dryer, hand beater, blender, small food processor ...... and then we hit the food isles.

I also have two massive Costco grocery bags which aren't photographed as it was only a small shop. But trust me, they are very long and hold a LOT of stuff.

But back to the bags.

The dainty light blue Marks and Spencers freezer bag was purchased in the UK, on a day I didn't intend to go supermarket shopping but ended up there with MrsW and didn't have a freezer bag. I don't do my main shop at M&S, but they do a great range of ready-to-eat nosh and good meat pies.

The black Tesco cloth bag isn't long for this world. It's tatty and has a hole in the bottom. This was also purchased while living in the UK. It'll be sad to see it go but there's Tesco here in Ireland so it's quickly replaced.

Finally, my favourite shop of all while living in the UK, The Good Life in Kings Worthy. Overflowing with home made foodstuffs, and a small, posh deli. The organic fruit shop and fantastic butcher. Fresh flowers and baking stuff. The bag's pretty too.

This tiny weeny little roll bag was bought in Yokohama at one of the incredible department stores. It was very inexpensive. It's light and compact. If you follow the fold lines, it's really easy to fold back to it's original shape. It's in my bag every day and comes on holidays with us for 'just in case purchases'. Surprisingly it holds quite a bit.

From compact roll ....... 

To great carry bag. 

Because we didn't have a car for the first year or so in Japan, and shopping is done pretty much on a daily basis, I invested in a trolly on wheels from Howards Storage (in Sydney, one of my most favourite shops. When folded down, it looked like a funky laptop bag. Mine was a bright green, but I quite like the dotty one.

Who knew I'd be pulling a trolly while walking to/from the shops?

What about corporate shopping bags? There are some fabulous brands investing in shopping bags as it's a continuum of their brand. Think Harrods, Sax of 5th Avenue, Selfridges and others.

Just HAD to buy one when I was there!

What girl doesn't want one of these little blue bags?
I've been fortunate to have received a few.

As I unpacked the shopping yesterday, for the first time it dawned on me, my shopping bags are a reflection of where we've lived and the range of shops frequented. Sadly I have no Australian shopping bags - must rectify that next visit home. I need a Coles, David Jones or Woolies bags.

I love seeing photos of where friend shop - souq's in the Middle East, colourful street markets in South East Asia, malls in America, underground shopping centres in Canada and more.

Yet they all have a few things in common, and one is the thing we use to carry our goods home in.

Isn't it funny how a simple shopping bag can emit so many memories.

How fortunate are we to shop this way. There are millions of people the world over who would love to be in a position to fill such oversized bags with quality food.

Do you have a favourite shopping bag?
What memories does it bring back?


  1. Replies
    1. Hi, thanks for your comment. WOW, this blog was written so long ago. I'm super thrilled it's still being read. The plastic baskets with handles are great for small grocery shops inshore, but I don't use them for personal shopping, tho I do love a good shopping basket. Best wishes, ms-havachat