How to Make Reusable Produce Bags in 15 Minutes

Reusable produce bags in 15 minutes (even if you’re a beginning sewer)!

Simple muslin produce bags with apples on peach background.

With so many of us being at home right now, I wanted to share a simple 10-15 minute project that you can make with items you already have in your home. And bonus – it’s a useful project that will replace some of those plastics that typically get used at the grocery store.

On the eco-friendly project front, I’ve been doing what I can this last year to swap out old habits for new eco replacements – like switching to unpaper towels, swapping out our single use plastic bags for cute reusable silicone versions, I’ve even said goodbye to our dish sponges in favor of DIY sisal scrubbers.

None of this happened overnight though. It took some time. And while it’s been a slow process, it’s also been a rewarding one. Which is one of the reasons I wanted to share this reusable produce bag idea today. It’s a really great gateway to making those small, more eco-friendly changes in your home (or in this case, at the store).

AND it’s also a great beginner sewing project, if you’re new to the sewing game. These bags do not need to look perfect. They’re totally utilitarian. So grab you sewing machine and a couple of supplies and click through to get started.

Should you DIY or buy reusable produce bags?

I’ve seen reusable produce bags before and I’m sure you have too. They come in a variety of fabrics, sizes, and prices. I’ve found a few sets around $10-$15. But I did the math, and even if you had to buy all of the supplies, making your own would come out to under $2 a piece – which saves you a few dollars.

I actually already had the muslin AND the paracord leftover from previous projects, which means for me this project was completely free. But here are a couple of other ways to save money (and reduce waste) on this project..

  • There are plenty of other options for the drawstring. I just like paracord because it’s thick and durable. So, if you go with a different kind of drawstring (maybe you already have some leftover jute from your DIY scrubber?), that’s can be a cost savings and a nice way to keep using up supplies you already have.
  • Have lightweight scrap fabric already that isn’t muslin? You can most likely use that too with no problem. Just make sure the fabric hasn’t been treated with anything and maybe wash and dry the fabric first too.

My thoughts? Go for the DIY! For me, these are the best reusable produce bags because they’re lightweight, fold up small when not is use, and are super easy and affordable to make. Here’s what you’d need to make reusable produce bags in 15 minutes…

Materials for reusable produce bags: scissors, cord, muslin

Materials to Make DIY Produce Bags (makes 4 bags)

  • 1 yard of muslin fabric*
  • natural color thread
  • 8-10ft of paracord or something similar
  • sewing machine
  • safety pin
  • iron

* 1 yard of 36″ width muslin makes 4 bags. If you need more, be sure to get more yardage of muslin and paracord.

Can you use fabric that isn’t muslin to make these veggie bags?

Yes! You can use pretty much any scrap fabric you already have that you would feel comfortable having fruit and veggies touching. You could even up-cycle old tee shirts or clothing items you’ve been meaning to donate. Just make sure to wash and dry your fabric before starting on the steps.

I like muslin because it’s super light (and cheap too), but any cotton fabric would be fine if you’re using scrap fabric. And if you don’t have cotton fabric, that’s okay. Just use what you have, as long as you feel comfortable throwing produce in it.

Don’t have a yard of fabric you can use? That’s okay too. You can get away with a lot less fabric than that, you just won’t be able to make as many bags OR you’ll need to cut the size down to something smaller.

Basically, you can tweak this tutorial to any size and shape that suits your needs…or the fabric you already have on hand.

Cutting muslin into pieces for produce bags.

Instructions on How to Make Produce Bags

Step 1: Begin by washing, drying, and ironing your fabric.

Fold the fabric in half widthwise twice. Then, cut along the second fold. You should have 2 pieces of folded muslin.

Fold them both so that the selvage pieces are all touching. Cut along that fold. Repeat with the other folded piece. You should have 4 pieces of folded muslin.

Sewing sides for reusable produce bags.

Step 2: Sew a line along each long side leaving the top open.

Ironing folds down for muslin reusable produce bags.

Ironing folds for produce bags tutorial

Step 3: Take your sewn pieces to the ironing board and press your seams open. Then, fold the opening about 1.5″ and press with the iron.

Sewing muslin produce bags for fruit and veggies at the grocery store.

Crafting a button hole for produce bags.

Step 4: Flip your bag outside in and flip up the top fold. Sew a button hole* just below the pressed fold and cut a hole for your paracord drawstring.

* If you’re new to sewing or simply don’t feel like doing a button hole, you can also just cut a slit in the fabric, and hand sew around the edges to keep it from fraying. Another option would be a grommet big enough for 2 strands of paracord to get through. Whatever is easiest for you – just throwing more ideas out there.

Sewing top edges of produce bag DIY.

Step 5: Flip the bag inside out again and sew the top hem closed.

Add a safety pin to the end of paracord to create a drawstring for reusable produce bags

Thread safety pin through button hole of produce bag.

Step 6: Attach a safety pin the the end of your paracord and insert it into the button hole. Push it through all the way around the top of your bag until it reaches the other side.

Pull the paracord through the button hole. Making sure the top of the bag is flat and not tightened by the paracord, measure 8″ of paracord and cut both strands.

Knot edges of cording drawstring to complete reusable produce bags.

Step 7: Knot the ends to ensure they don’t unravel. To secure even more, if desired, you can use a lighter to melt the plastic to prevent unraveling (but please be careful!).

Pull your cord tight and tie to secure your produce. You can put virtually anything in these reusable produce bags just like you’d use a plastic produce bag. Don’t forget to put them in your grocery bags to use at the store!

What else can you make with muslin?

Muslin is an extremely versatile fabric that comes in many widths and many weights. If you adjust the dimensions of your bags a bit, there’s a lot of other items that can be made using this tutorial. Like…

  1. Sandwich Bags – Make a little bag a few inches taller and an inch wider than your bread slices to get the perfect little bag for a sandwich. After lunch time, toss it in the wash and use it again and again.
  2. Bulk Bags – If you shop in bulk, you can use these muslin bags for bulk rice, pasta, nuts, dried fruit, and candy. Just snap a picture of the sku number for your cashier to type in when they weigh it.
  3. Snack Bags – A smaller muslin bag can be used for snacks on the go. Toss some popcorn or pretzels in there when you don’t have a silicone baggie clean or on the ready. These would be great on the go, especially since they can be folded up pretty small to fit in your purse.

Making and using your own reusable veggie bags is a great place to start on those small changes you may be making this year towards reducing your use of plastics and synthetic materials. I’d love to hear if you make these and let me know what you think.

Green drawstring tied in a bow for cotton muslin reusable produce bags project

 

Fruit and veggies spilling out of cotton produce bag.

Reusable produce bag with fruit and veggies spilling out of it.

Simple drawstring produce bags made of cotton muslin

Simple reusable produce bag with fruit and veggies.

Folded up reusable produce bags ready to be used

DIY Reusable Product Bags for Veggies and Fruit at the Grocery Store

For even a small family of 3, I bring home a decent amount of produce. Apples, oranges, potatoes, etc. Many of those come in bulk plastic bags, but your can bring your own reusable produce bags like these to easily skip the plastic. Every little bit helps, right? Plus, you get to pick out all your produce so there's no chance of a bad piece of fruit being in the mix.

Ingredients

  • 1 yard of muslin fabric
  • natural color thread
  • 8-10 ft of paracord
  • sewing machine
  • safety pin
  • iron

Instructions

Step 1: Begin by washing, drying, and ironing your fabric. Fold the muslin in half widthwise twice. Then, cut along the second fold. You should have 2 pieces of folded muslin.

  • Fold them both so that the selvage pieces are all touching. Cut along that fold. Repeat with the other folded piece. You should have 4 pieces of folded muslin.

Step 2: Sew a line along each long side leaving the top open. Take your sewn pieces to the ironing board and press your seams open. Then, fold the opening about 1.5" and press with the iron.

    Step 3: Flip your bag outside in and flip up the top fold. Sew a button hole* just below the pressed fold and cut a hole for your paracord drawstring. Flip the bag inside out again and sew the top hem closed.

    • * You can also just cut a slit in the fabric, but there is a chance it could fray. Another option would be a grommet big enough for 2 strands of paracord to get through. Whatever is easiest for you!

    Step 4: Attach a safety pin the the end of your paracord and insert it into the button hole. Push it through all the way around the top of your bag until it reaches the other side.

    • Pull the paracord through the button hole. Making sure the top of the bag is flat and not tightened by the paracord, measure 8" of paracord and cut both strands. Knot the ends to ensure they don't unravel. To secure even more, use a lighter to melt the plastic to prevent unraveling (but please be careful!).

    Step 5: Pull your cord tight and tie to secure your produce. You can put virtually anything in these reusable produce bags just like you'd use a plastic produce bag. Don't forget to put them in your grocery bags to use at the store!

      Tried this recipe?Mention @paperandstitch or tag #paperandstitch!

      Looking for more eco friendly projects like this one? Check out my tutorial for making your own reusable t-shirt bags for groceries and more.

      P.S. Want to try this simple project and/or join the small changes challenge? Head over to this post on small changes and use the hashtag #smallchangesinstead on Instagram to join in.

      3 comments | Click here to reply

      I am LOVING this! Thank you so much for sharing this! I am going to make some for myself and for my mother. I always try to use reusable shopping bags, but never thought about produce bags being reusable.
      A few months ago a cashier at a local store made a comment to me about the fact that I was using reusable shopping bags, yet using plastic bags for my produce. At the time I felt taken aback… I was embarrassed and thought the way she said it was a tad bit rude. But in retrospect, she was right. Just thought she could’ve said it in a nicer way to me at the time to make it less embarrassing.
      Any-how… THANK YOU! These are AWESOME!

      Gina

      So happy to hear that you found this tutorial helpful Gina. Every little bit helps, but I hate that someone embarrassed you for using plastic, especially when you were doing your best with the reusable shopping bags already. 🙁 Anyway, so glad you like these. Happy Tuesday!
      -Brittni

      Brittni

      Significant piece of work, Thank You!!

      Nippon
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