I need buying advice…come help me!

by Kristen on September 21, 2011 · 122 comments

in Ask The Readers

Produce Bags

So, first I want to know about reusable produce bags. I made a quick trip to the grocery store after vacation, and after I looked at this picture of my food, I was disgusted by the number of produce bags I brought home.

I brought my own cloth shopping bags, of course, but it seems silly to do that and still use plastic produce bags.

I suppose I could save the plastic bags, but they’re not very sturdy, and so I’d really rather find a reusable alternative.

So, if you’ve found a sturdy, not-crazy-expensive reusable produce bag source, I’d dearly love to hear about it in the comments.

Or if you’ve thought of a way to make a really light bag yourself, I’m all ears.

Food Dehydrator

I’ve been wanting to get a dehydrator for a while now, so I bought one at Aldi when they had them in stock. I used it to make fruit leather and was very unhappy with how it worked (there was no fan, the heat seemed to be uneven so the fruit leather was mushy in one spot while getting too crispy in another, even though I rotated the trays, and it smelled bad when I turned it on.) I finally put my fruit leather into the oven so that it would dry properly.

So, I returned the dehydrator, got my money back, and I’m thinking about saving up for a better one.

I know a number of you use dehydrators, so could you tell me which one you have and whether or not you like it? Is it a lot simpler than using your oven to dry foods?

Thanks in advance, you guys! :)

_________________________________

Today’s 365 post: If you stink, you will be put outside.

Joshua’s 365 post: Guinea Pig Dinner And don’t miss the answer to his last mystery picture post.

Also, did you take a peek at the pictures from our camping trip?

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{ 122 comments… read them below or add one }

1 BPM September 21, 2011 at 7:08 am

Kristen, I found a package of different sized mesh bags that I use for produce at my local Target (in the section with kitchen gadgets). They were pretty inexpensive and work great!

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2 Ma September 21, 2011 at 7:12 am

I have a cheap little dehydrator without a fan, too. It’s not bad, but I have to keep an eye on things. I had some basil “burn” in there!

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3 KimN September 21, 2011 at 7:21 am

I bet those zippered mesh laundry bags would work and they aren’t too pricey. The key would be finding smaller sized ones and not the sweater size.

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4 Kristen September 21, 2011 at 7:23 am

Oh, that’s brilliant! They’re lightweight and durable….perfect.

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5 april in TX September 21, 2011 at 9:45 pm

I just don’t put mine in little bags…I grab them and put them straight in the cart

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6 Molly September 21, 2011 at 9:42 am

You mean you don’t buy apples in sweater-sized quantities? ;-)

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7 Elizabeth L. September 21, 2011 at 10:09 am

I have a few in a small size that were labeled “lingerie bags” (which is what I wash in them – I know I’m so clever). I’ve seen them at Target, WalMart, and Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I think they would make an excellent substitution for plastic produce bags. I think I’m going to have to try that!

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8 Ange September 21, 2011 at 2:14 pm

I was going to suggest these also. They have them at our Dollar Tree.

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9 Shoshana Kleiman September 21, 2011 at 7:27 am

I use the Excaliber dehydrator because I can get it for the European electricity. When I lived in the states I had an American Harvester that I loved. Now I’m completely sold on the Excaliber. I could only afford the 5 tray model, but would have bought a larger one if I could.

Good hunting.

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10 Megan September 21, 2011 at 7:29 am

Oooo. Glad you asked the question about the produce bags! I’ve always wondered that too, but was always worried about something being heavier because of the bag? Plus the ones you can buy designed for produce seem to be pretty pricey. The laundry mesh bag probably would work! Can’t wait to see more tips on this one.

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11 Stacy S September 21, 2011 at 7:35 am

You may want to try Etsy, that’s where I first bought mine, there’s lots of people making them in different styles. For you Kristen, I’m sure with some lightweight fabric and string, you could whip some up. I made some myself, copying the style and fabric from the ones I bought on Etsy. I’m in Canada, so telling you I bought some here won’t help…but my step-mom carefully cuts the tops off onion and other plastic mesh bags and reuses those!

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12 MBC September 21, 2011 at 7:46 am

I bought some small, lightweight, mesh bags (like the laundry ones) at the Dollar Store a few years back for my produce. I think they were actually in the auto section, because they were marketing them as car organizers. They came in packs of 4 for $1.00 and that’s the best price I’ve seen on them anywhere.

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13 Katy Wolk-Stanley September 21, 2011 at 11:52 pm

I bought those too. They’re bright green and sturdy as all get out. I wish I’d bought more at the time, and would stock up if I ever saw them again.

Katy

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14 Pictou September 21, 2011 at 7:58 am

I’ve seen produce bags but they seemed so expensive. I suggest you make a few bags yourself from tulle or netting with heavy string for draw strings. or reuse onion bags. There’s a tutorial on this site.

http://www.craftstylish.com/item/43902/how-to-sew-your-own-produce-bags

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15 Jennifer September 21, 2011 at 9:18 am

Thank you! I’m doing this.

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16 Jen September 21, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Thanls for the tutorial link. I’ve been wanting to do this, so I will put it on my project list for Oct.

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17 Kate September 21, 2011 at 8:05 am

Reuseit.com sells the ones we use.

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18 Nicole September 21, 2011 at 8:11 am

For about $2 I bought a package of 10 plastic mesh bags from Home Outfitters last year – still using them. Good for most stuff, but grapefruits require 2 bags (I buy 7 or 8 at a time).
Bought an assorted package of cotton mesh bags a couple years before. There are 2 tiny, 2 small, 2 medium, and 2 large. They cost about $15. The plastic mesh were a much better deal.

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19 Lilia September 21, 2011 at 8:16 am

I generally don’t use produce bags. I don’t see the point to just bring the items home. I place them either directly in my reusable shopping bag or just put them in the cart. When it’s time to pay,the checker never bats and eye at my lose produce. I group them to make his/her life easier. I even do it at self check out. Then when it’s time to bag… I put the heartier stuff like potatoes, lemons, garlic, apples etc on the bottom and the more fragile stuff, kiwi’s, tomatoes, on the top. So far so good. I do have 1 mesh bag I got for free when I purchased some corn, but I hardly even bother with it.

I can’t wrap my head around paying for the proper bag… even the reusable shopping bags I’ve gotten mostly for free. Since you are a crafter, maybe you can crochet yourself a few netted bags or even sew up some gauzy fabric with a draw string closure.

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20 Ashley September 21, 2011 at 9:05 am

Second this. We never use produce bags unless we’re getting something small (like mushrooms) or bulk spinach. As long as you group the items for the cashier on the belt, it shouldn’t be a problem at all.

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21 Barb @ 1SentenceDiary September 21, 2011 at 9:24 am

I third this. I never use produce bags. We all wash the produce before we eat it anyway, right? So why do you need a bag at all? I just put it in the cart or in my cloth bag in the store, then group them together on the belt for the cashier. No need for a bag at all. I’ve been doing this for years without a problem.

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22 AManda Y. September 21, 2011 at 11:26 am

Was going to say the same thing, just pass on the bag. I’ve heard of bags for this (can’t think of any names), but the only time I use plastic bags for food is if I buy meat at the store–don’t prefer to have it chance leaking on any other foods or in my reusable bags that are not the nicest after they’ve been washed (so less washes if not using meat in them). Skips the produce plastic bags!

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23 Maggi September 21, 2011 at 2:12 pm

I’m with Lilia, don’t bother.

I just place the produce right in my reusable bags. I shop at a grocer that allows you to weigh and scan your items as you shop so this has never been an issue for me. Only delicate items go into a plastic bag, so it is a rare time when I have one or even two of these coming home with me.

Also…checkout scales are calibrated to tare the weight (however small) from the weight of your produce when it is weighed. If I brought a bag with me – which I am SURE will have more mass than the flimsy plastic ones provided, I would wind up paying MORE per pound for those items sold by weight. And that is NOT thrifty, even if it is better for the environment.

So, skip the bags altogether.

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24 WilliamB September 21, 2011 at 3:29 pm

I was thinking of the tare issue as well.

Often I don’t use a produce bag at all. When I do, I reuse. Dunno how many times – I just use one to hold the rest and ditch them when they get gunky or ripped. I also use the bags to cover rising bread.

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25 Jessica September 23, 2011 at 11:50 am

You write tare weights on bags so they can deduct it from the total :)

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26 Jinger September 21, 2011 at 6:03 pm

No produce bags for me either. I put all my produce in the child seat section of the cart and just offload it onto the conveyer belt at the checkout. I have them put all the produce in one of my reusable bags with bananas on top.

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27 Emily September 21, 2011 at 8:20 am

I make reusable produce bags and sell them on etsy. They’re pretty simple to make yourself. Here’s a self-promotion link to my produce bags

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28 Barb September 22, 2011 at 9:35 am

These are great! And look to be light as a feather so you don’t have to worry about the “tare issue”. Will be back to yor site, soon!

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29 Erin September 21, 2011 at 8:25 am

I found these: http://www.reuseit.com/store/flip-tumble-reusable-produce-bags-p-2120.html?ponoID=3bbus71njp6d9siubj5iat7pb1 and they work great! (In case the link doesn’t work they can be found on reuseit.com and they are called “Flip & Tumble Reusable Produce Bags, Set of 5″ and they cost $10.95. They were just what I was looking for. Mesh to allow the produce to breath, easily washable, pretty cheap, and only on rare occasions do I need more than 5 at a time. Good luck finding what works for you!

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30 zooey September 21, 2011 at 5:59 pm

I use these bags all the time and they are excellent.

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31 gretchen September 21, 2011 at 8:32 am

I have used an Excalibur dehydrator for about 10 years for fruit, veggies, and fruit leather. It works very well!

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32 Rachel September 21, 2011 at 8:38 am

I’ve seen a lot of tutorials online for turning old t-shirts into mesh produce bags. Not sure if they are lightweight enough, but you might want to google them….

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33 Rachel September 21, 2011 at 8:42 am

Ohh I considered the dehydrator at Aldi but didn’t get it. Sorry it was a dud. :(

I have a few produce bags made from old t-shirts. A friend made them for me, but you can buy similar ones on Etsy or make them yourself (clean old t-shirt and simple drawstring). I love using them at the farmer’s market or produce stand.

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34 Michelle September 21, 2011 at 8:42 am

As for produce bags, as mentioned above, I don’t use any. Just let your fruit and veggies be free until you check out and they put them in your cloth bag. Now onto food dehydrators…We have a Nesco American Harvest square dehyd. I love it! My husband makes tons of venison jerky and I have fruit leather sheets for fruit roll ups. The fan is above so if stuff drips it is not dripping on the motor, which is key. Ordered mine from amazon where it was a good price and got good reviews. I like the square shape for jerky and such, easier to fit it on there.

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35 Tamika September 21, 2011 at 9:15 am

I would love to do that – but when I buy at least 3 different types of apples, and at least 5-7lb of each at a time I have no clue how I would keep those seperate from the 2-3lb of pears, and the 2-3lb of plums etc if I did not bag them. I reuse the baggies tho – the next time I shop, I use the same bag until its no longer useable. Its still plastic but not as many. I haven’t found an earth friendly one here that is affordable nor adds a large amt of weight to my produce on the scale.

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36 Jessica September 21, 2011 at 8:48 am

Kristen, if you look at the Zero Waste Home blog, she has a link to her amazon store where she got her reusable bags that have the tare on them so the cashier can deduct it from the cost of your produce.

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37 Pam September 21, 2011 at 8:52 am

Like the poster above I use the Flip and Tumble produce bags, but I bought mine from Amazon using Swagbucks. http://tinyurl.com/3vap6zu They sell 5 for $9.80 and they’re Prime eligible. I like them because the cashier can still see the sticker on the fruit/veg through the bags, but it’s a fine enough mesh that I can use them at the bulk bins for small stuff like nuts and dried fruit. They’re big enough for all but the biggest produce items (large bunches of kale stick out the top of the bag). Machine wash cold, line dry.

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38 Walnut September 21, 2011 at 10:54 am

Another Flip and Tumble user here. I bought them off Amazon about a year ago and love them to pieces.

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39 Cara September 21, 2011 at 8:54 am

First, I don’t put very much of my produce in to bags. They can lump two onions or five tomatoes together on the scale, and there is no need for them to have their own bag. I don’t put my lettuce in a bag either, and I don’t care that it gets the rest of my produce wet. For things that do need a bag (i.e. green beans, okra) try using a mesh laundry bag. They are pretty cheap and come in packages of varying sizes.

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40 Savina September 21, 2011 at 8:57 am

I have reusable produce bags from crate and barrel. They are durable, washable and lightweight. There are probably cheaper options. I think I got five or six bags for around $12. If I were craftier I would make them.

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41 Mim September 21, 2011 at 9:05 am

I use produce bags from http://www.3bbags.com/ I love them. They can hold a lot or a little, the checkers can see through them easily, and they are super light weight so they don’t add extra weight to my already pricey produce.

We have used a coupld of different dehydrators, you want one that has a fan that moves the air.

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42 EmilyG September 21, 2011 at 9:12 am

I just bought some reusable produce bags from http://www.essereusablebags.com. The six-pack was $12, which isn’t super cheap, but they came in a little carrying case with a clip on it and they are machine-washable.

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43 Yvonne Fawehinmi September 21, 2011 at 9:18 am

Well I though about your produce bag question and then I thought about those netted bags lemons and clementines come in. I thought I bet you can crochet some. So I did a search and look what I found. http://diyods.blogspot.com/2010/04/crocheted-produce-bag.html

I might actually make some of those.

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44 Elsa September 21, 2011 at 9:19 am

Someone might have suggested this already, but I would just re-use the produce bags I already have. If you have 10 from the store that you just brought home, put them in your reusable grocery bags and reuse them for veggies each time.

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45 Steady Plodder September 21, 2011 at 9:20 am

I usually don’t use produce bags. I just put everything in my cart and the the checker puts all the fruits/veggies together in one of my reusable shopping bags.

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46 Elsa September 21, 2011 at 9:21 am

And if I get a dehydrator, it will be an Excaliber. They are pricy, but I’m told they are worth it. Also, if you go to their website you can get them refurbished and save money.

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47 Stef September 21, 2011 at 9:25 am

For produce bags, sew drawstring bags (like you do for gifts) out of tulle. One yd of tulle is less than $1 and you can get a lot of bags out of one yard.

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48 Stacey D September 21, 2011 at 9:25 am

I’ve gotten a number of different reusable produce bags at reuseit.com. My favorite ones are made from recycled soda bottles. I find the ones made from a recycled PET plastic are much stronger and go through the washing machine the best. I ended up getting a bunch because I felt I wasn’t washing them out enough so I got two sets so I can cycle one in the wash while one set was in my shopping bags.

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49 Jennifer September 21, 2011 at 9:27 am

I have a package of 2 mesh reusable bags like these ones: http://www.amazon.com/Organic-Cotton-Reusable-Mesh-Produce/dp/B002TK00RW

I think I got them at Whole Foods several years ago for around $7-8 for 2. I thought it was highway robbery for 2 simple bags but at that time they were the only ones I saw anywhere. They are heavier than I’d like and I’d never use them for something lightweight (like ginger or a clove of garlic). They do have the tare weight printed on them on a tag but I can’t do that at self-checkout and I’d have to remember to tell a cashier (with 2 kids that’s not happening!). Mostly I just don’t use bags. If I’m buying fewer than 4-5 apples, I keep them lose. I buy tomatoes on the vine so they all stay together. I don’t care about bagging a head of lettuce or garlic or a few squash. I can’t stand those plastic bags. At least a plastic grocery bag is reusable, the produce bags aren’t good for anything. I plan on making some of those bags a previous poster linked too. Seems like a good/cheap solution.

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50 FishyGirl September 21, 2011 at 9:34 am

I don’t use produce bags at all most of the time – I just put my produce in the cart one at a time, put them up on the belt one at a time, and the checkers never seemed to mind having to corral them to ring them up and then bag them. I don’t do this if I’m buying 20 of something, but when I’m getting, say, four apples or five heads of garlic (we like garlic around here) it works just fine. Otherwise I have a mesh bag I use, but I have no idea where I got it. The laundry bag is a good idea, and it’s obviously washable. :-)

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51 sgs` September 21, 2011 at 9:35 am

http://jugalbandi.info/2011/09/do-it-yourself-food-dehydrator-jerky-maker/

thought this link would help, saw it another blog where they made their own dehydrator..do check it out.

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52 Carmen September 21, 2011 at 9:37 am

I’m another who generally doesn’t use any bags for produce, besides grapes. I do however have a small basket that is slightly smaller than the huge general bags I use for groceries, that is solely used for produce.

Depending on how much you buy of x items, you may ideally choose to use 1 or 2 on the odd supermarket trip, but I find most things don’t need one.

I have small drawstring fabric bags that would be ideal for produce, bought for $1 each at a Japanese store in San Francisco.

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53 Stephanie September 21, 2011 at 9:46 am

I don’t have an answer for the grocery bag question – but I do for the dehydrator! I bought the Cabella’s brand dehydrator at Cabellas and have been very happy with it. I like that the trays are very large (I usually don’t even use all the trays) and that there is a variable heat setting and a large fan. It is noisy, but not annoyingly so – and I have done leathers and multiple fruits and veggies successfully (I’ve even done them in the same batch and have been successful). You can usually pick these up for about $120 and they go on sale for about $100 several times a year. I have the 10 tray model – and it is square (no middle section to maneuver around) and it is more than enough for my needs.

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54 Sarah September 21, 2011 at 9:50 am

I purchased reusable produce bags from Crate and Barrel.

http://www.crateandbarrel.com/kitchen-and-food/food-containers-storage/set-of-5-produce-bags/s645454

LOVE them!!! I did however, quickly notice that my grocery store does not love them. The mesh is not big enough for them to see the stickers on the produce. I’ve found two solutions. I pull a sticker off and put it on the outside of the bag (each bag as a little tag that I have come to believe is just for this purpose) and I go through the self checkout. Problem solved!

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55 adventuresindinner September 21, 2011 at 9:51 am

Have you tried the produce section of the grocery? Ours is selling their own brand of reusable bags. I’ve also been happy with: http://www.saakori.com/Mesh-Produce-Bags.html

I’m dying to see all of people’s suggestions for dehydrators. Mine is about a million years old and on its very last legs.

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56 Karen September 21, 2011 at 9:54 am

I have a Nesco FD-80 square shaped dehydrator that I like a lot. It comes with 4 trays (plenty for me), but you can purchase extras. Everyone raves about Excalibur, but I can’t justify a $200+ purchase. My Nesco was only $60 on Amazon. I’ve owned it a few years and have gotten a lot of use out of it. Keep in mind a dehydrator is something a lot of people get interested in, then end up putting away in a closet because it’s a LOT of work to prep food to use it. That’s why I wouldn’t put a lot of money in it.

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57 rebecca September 21, 2011 at 10:01 am

Excalibur dehydrators are very over rated! I know a few people who have them, they upgraded because they used their older ones so much, and found that their basic models worked just as well. Nesco makes some very reasonably priced models that work great, are expandable if you buy extra trays, and many come with temp controls, and a shut off timer, which is a nice feature. They also have very solid ratings.

As for produce bags, I have a bunch of laundry delicates bags that the zipper broke on so I use those, I really don’t care about the extra weight, which is very minimal.

If you really want to get away from all the plastic, I would stop buying produce at ALDI, almost everything is prewrapped in excessive amts of plastic. They do it to make things faster at checkout, but I won’t buy bananas there, they really don’t need a bag at all. In fact, over the last year we have phased out of ALDI shopping, too much plastic, and I really don’t care for the quality of their food, very over processed and full of white sugar and white flour, neither of which we eat anymore.

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58 Jessi September 21, 2011 at 10:14 am

I have a round Nesco dehydrator and I like it. My favorite thing to use it for lately is drying tomatoes. They take up so much less space than canned or frozen tomatoes and they taste amazing. I love them chopped up and sprinkled on salads or homemade mac & cheese.

I received the dehydrator as a christmas gift, so I’m not sure how much it cost, but I think it was around $50. If my hubster was a hunter and we made tons of jerky, I would probably look into an upgrade, but for casual use with fruits, veggies and the occasional fruit leather, the Nesco does a great job.

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59 Keesha September 21, 2011 at 10:18 am

Our local Dollar Tree has mesh bags with a drawstring top in the laundry/cleaning aisle. They’re smallish and come 3 in a pack (I think–been a while since I bought any). They’ve worked well for us as produce bags.

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60 Tamela Camp September 21, 2011 at 10:31 am

I have an excalibur. It cost around $200, but has been very worth it. I haven’t had ANY problems with it. I have dried fruits, veggies, herbs, made fruit leathers and everything has come out completely right. Well worth saving up for.

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61 farhana September 21, 2011 at 10:32 am

I usually don’t use produce bags except from frquently sprinkled items like scallion, corriander leaf etc. I’m planning to start using the mesh bags from onions/oranges etc.

As for dehydrator, I have a Nesco that I got from Sears for around $13 on clearance, I think the regular price was around $70. I’m happy with it but don’t find a lot of use for it. It’s a lot of work to prep all the fruits/ veg. and the outcome is delicious but lasts for a very short time. After slicing 5 trays full of strawberries, I got only 2 cups of dried strawberry!!!

Feel free to borrow mine to see if it would work for you :).

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62 Megyn @ Minimalist Mommi September 21, 2011 at 10:34 am

I have one of those old orange bags that I’ll use. Also, I’ll stick all produce into one produce bag, so the cashier just takes the items out & weighs them. I reuse produce bags ALL the time! They are great for leftover meals. I just stick the bag over the plate & place in fridge. Voila! It saves me from having to dirty another container or plate and saves from using cling wrap. Plus, they can be rinsed & reused. Good luck!

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63 Jessica September 21, 2011 at 10:41 am

I reuse the mesh bags that onions and lemons come in. I cut off the bulky label top and then weave a ribbon through the holes so it closes and everyone knows it’s mine.

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64 Sarah T September 21, 2011 at 10:42 am

Check out this site: http://www.reuseit.com/
They have lots of fun stuff. I’ve had my eye on the reusable snack/lunch pouches.

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65 namastemama September 21, 2011 at 1:52 pm

This was my suggestion. Formally reusablebags.com You don’t necessarily have to buy from there but it will give you TONS of ideas and sizes.

I have lunchskins , Lunch Bots and ‘fresh’ snack packs. This eliminates the needs for sandwich bags.
I never put the produce in bags unless I have a reused brown bag.
If you buy from bulk, i.e nuts, oatmeal, raisins etc. You will need bags to avoid plastic but this site offers a wealth of ideas. I then had a crafty friend make ours.

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66 Aubrey @ Small Packages September 21, 2011 at 10:44 am

I have some reusable mesh produce bag that I found on clearance at Target, but they are basically lingerie bags with a drawstring. So I agree with the comments above that if you find inexpensive lingerie bags, go to town with those!
By the way, I love my produce bags. Once I get home I group my produce by the meal they will be used in, that way I’m sure to use them all.

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67 Therese Z September 21, 2011 at 10:53 am

I reuse produce bags, just tuck them in my reusable grocery totes and draw one out at a time in a business-like manner and nobody seems to notice.

Or, I might put one thing in a produce bag in the store (loose mushrooms, for example), get everything else loose, and then after weighing, bag them all together in the one bag for the trip home so they don’t get everything else wet.

At home, I use all sorts of odds and ends to bag and store veggies.

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68 Jemma September 21, 2011 at 11:04 am

I use paper bags for produce shopping; fill ‘em with tomatoes/apples/whatever, and fold them into my cloth bags at home for the next grocery shopping trip!

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69 Erin aka Conscious Shopper September 21, 2011 at 11:08 am

I made produce bags out of an old sheer shower curtain. They’re lightweight and have a drawstring closure, and they’re pretty.

http://www.greenphonebooth.com/2009/07/its-in-bag.html

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70 Vanessa W. September 21, 2011 at 11:18 am

I have an Excalibur dehydrator and I absolutely love it! It has a fan and dries things evenly! I have the biggest one with the 9-tray but they sell a 4 and 5 tray models too. My fruit leathers are amazing! I also dry herbs and sliced fruits, etc. Here’s a link to a blog post I wrote once I got it and tried a few different things on it. Hope it helps! http://craftycocina.blogspot.com/2011/06/dehydrated-snacks.html

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71 Simply Mommy September 21, 2011 at 11:34 am

I admit I don’t use reusable grocery bags, I have them. But I use those plastic grocery bags for so many things I’d be lost without them. All my small trash cans (bathrooms and bedrooms) are lined with them, cleaning out the cat box and a list of other things. I’d just end up buying small trash bags if I didn’t use the grocery bags. Why buy what I get more or less for free? And produce bags are great for picking up dog poop, those with pets know how pricey them poop bags can be.

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72 Sara September 21, 2011 at 11:34 am

We use two different kinds of re-usable produce bags when we go shopping:
Green Bags – http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=green+bags&x=0&y=0 – these are plastic, green bags that claim to keep your produce fresher longer. We got them as a gift, so I don’t know what brand we have and I don’t use regular plastic to compare whether they do indeed keep the produce fresher longer. We don’t lose a lot of produce at our house though. We wash these out with soap and water between uses and dry them over empty wine bottles on the counter.
Mesh Bags – http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=mesh+produce+bags&x=0&y=0 – We use these too and they work really well. We just put them in the laundry when they need cleaning.
We also use both of the above listed bags when raiding the bulk foods section and then write the codes on a separate scrap paper (usually a receipt) so we can limit the amount of one-time-use bags and twist ties. :)

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73 Mary Jo September 21, 2011 at 11:36 am

You already own a fantastic dehydrator– and it will use no extra electricity: your car! Just park it in the sun: http://thetanglednest.com/2009/08/drying-food-in-car/

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74 KIm September 21, 2011 at 11:36 am

I use lingerie bags that I got at a real deal at our local hoisery store. I believe they were 2/$1. They are just the right size to wash about 3 bras in, have a drawstring top and work perfectly for fruits and veggies. I have a friend that used a white sheer curtain that she bought at Big Lots (a discount store popular here in the South) for about $3. She made up a bunch of them out of this fabric and I actuall like hers better than mine. She put drawstrings on them all. Another friend made some out of tulle. They didn’t hold up and tore very easily so she ended up buying crinolyn fabric which is basically very heavy duty tulle and made hers out of that. I have saved some bags that oranges and grapefruits came in thinking I would make a few out of that, but I haven’t made time to do that yet. The key is make sure that the fabric is see through so that the cashier can see the tags on the fruit without having to open up the bag and that they are heavy duty.
I had a dehydrator, but it took so long to dry fruit that I ended up going back to my oven. Hope this helps!

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75 Krystal September 21, 2011 at 11:43 am

We use the excalibur dehydrator and we use it for fruit leathers, drying fruit, making beef jerky and making yogurt. We tried one of the round tray ones that we got for free from a relative but it just did not work well.

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76 Leslie September 21, 2011 at 11:46 am

I have never heard of reusable produce bags.Since these bags are free,saving money is no problem here. We burn our garbage. So as for what to do with the garbage,that is easy.

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77 Jess September 21, 2011 at 9:20 pm

I hate to sound preachy, but I don’t know a better way than to say burning plastic creates the worst greenhouse gases of all that trap more of the problem “stuff” in the atmosphere. We burn paper we can’t recycle but not plastic because of this. Please reconsider burning plastic. We take our nonrecyclable stuff,which is small to a friends once a month for their garbage pickup (its not much so I know this isn’t a solution for everyone).

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78 namastemama September 22, 2011 at 11:30 am

Someone else mentioned that these bags are free. They are not. The cost to the store is passed to you in higher grocery prices. Check out the Aldi website. This is why stores can give a bag discount if you bring your own.

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79 Karen September 21, 2011 at 11:50 am

I use Tidy Totes. They were originally sold as car cleaning products geared towards women. They are green mesh bags with a draw string. I bought them in a 4-pack at the dollar store. Amazon has the same pack for $2.40. http://www.amazon.com/Tidy-Totes/dp/B001QSX69C/ref=sr_1_2?s=automotive&ie=UTF8&qid=1316620017&sr=1-2

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80 Cathy W September 21, 2011 at 11:56 am

I bought my mom reusable produce bags and The Container Store. Here they are online
http://www.containerstore.com/shop?productId=10028360&N=&Ntt=grocery+bags

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81 Battra92 September 21, 2011 at 11:57 am

According to Alton Brown (the patron saint of cooking gadgets) one should avoid a dehydrator entirely as as best they are a cheap heater attached to a cheap box and cook your food as much as they dehydrate which gives a completely different flavor and texture that what you are looking for.

They are pretty easy and cheap to DIY:
http://www.dehydratorbook.com/homemade-dehydrator.html

I like Alton Brown’s method. :D
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5912487412723519389

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82 Melissa September 21, 2011 at 12:00 pm

I really like the eco bags. They are a bit more pricy but they have a variety of styles and use earth friendly materials. http://www.ecobags.com/

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83 amanda September 21, 2011 at 12:01 pm

i bought these re-useable produce bags from amazon and like them: http://www.amazon.com/flip-tumble-5-Pack-Reusable-Produce/dp/B002UXQ7QQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1316620705&sr=8-1. The only issue is that you can’t store produce in them in the fridge (so i usually re-use some plastic ones from before i bought the cloth ones).

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84 Charyl September 21, 2011 at 12:18 pm

I use mesh lingerie bags I found at Dollar Tree- 3/$1. They work great and I always get asked where I got them when I am at the Farmers Market. Just throw them in the wash after use.

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85 Dogs or Dollars September 21, 2011 at 12:23 pm

This is one of those situations where having pets comes in handy. I save the produce bags for my scooping duties, so a certain number of them are acceptable. However, Ive often thought I should be using the cornstarch biodegradable for that, which is what we use for our regular garbage.
Generally, Im of the don’t bag it camp for the vast majority of stuff. I only bag things that are wet (lettuce and spinach usually) or if we are buying a lot of something (apples). This keeps the plastic bag population to a minimum.
Interested to read all the food dehydrator comments. Other than fruit leather, what all do you dehydrate?

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86 amy September 21, 2011 at 12:25 pm

i never really understood the necessity of produce bags to begin with – i always just put my produce in the cart, on the checkout counter, and into my reusable tote, no separate bagging needed on my produce.
however, there are a lot of options; i prefer made-in-the-usa option:
http://www.etsy.com/shop/amkdesigns

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87 Sheri Carter September 21, 2011 at 12:31 pm

http://www.reuseit.com/store/flip-tumble-reusable-produce-bags-p-2120.html

These are what I’m asking for for Christmas! I forgot what blog that I heard about them from but the review from the blogger was great.

I have had an American Harvester (snackmaster) dehydrator from before kids. My oldest is almost 15 and it’s still ticking. I have to admit we keep it in the cabinet and then bring it out again for a few months then forget about it again and it cycles for us. But after all these years it’s been used heavily and still ticking. It came with a tray for fruit snacks and I found that is not enough with three kids. One feature I like about this one is that you can do every thing from herbs at 95 degrees to meats at 145 degrees. I just googled and I’m amazed that they are still made! Updated but still manufactured!

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88 Jen September 21, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Thanks for all the links to patterns and products. I do re-use my plastic produce bags a few times and when they start to fall apart, I use them to wrap meat for the freezer when splitting up larger packages. But I would like some mesh bags as well.
I do love not having all those plastic grocery bags floating around my pantry!

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89 Alexandra September 21, 2011 at 12:59 pm

here is an easy tutorial for DIY produce bags: http://www.craftstylish.com/item/43902/how-to-sew-your-own-produce-bags – if you find a coupon for craft store, fabric should only cost pennies

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90 RaisingZ September 21, 2011 at 1:03 pm

I saved up for the middle size Excalibur (5 shelves). I LOVE it!!! It is big and bulky and there was no place to store it upstairs so I have to leave it in its original box in the basement. That is my only complaint :)

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91 Shannon September 21, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Produce bags: We just don’t use ‘em. Sure it’s more convenient to keep your tomatoes and oranges corralled in a smaller bag, but you can make do just as well without. When we shop, we put them in the grocery bag, and then when we get to the cash, pile ‘em on the scale, then back in the bag.

Make sure you wach your bags frequently, though. Whenever I do a load of laundry, I’ll toss a couple of them in, as well.

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92 Michelle September 21, 2011 at 1:19 pm

Kristen,
I emailed back, but wanted to post here as well. These EASY KNIT PRODUCE BAGS repurposed from old T-SHIRTS! http://deliacreates.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2011-05-13T12%3A47%3A00-06%3A00&max-results=7 Enjoy!~ Michelle

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93 Brenda September 21, 2011 at 1:24 pm

I found a package of 4 green mesh bags at Dollartree! For a dollar no less!

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94 Caitlin September 21, 2011 at 1:51 pm

I also bought a cheap-o dehydrator a few years back, to see if I would use it before I took the plunge and got a more expensive model. I now have the Nesco FD-80 Square-Shaped Dehydrator & I love it. It comes with 4 trays (and we bought 2 more trays after about 6 months) and it really does a nice job. We have made jerky, dried a bunch of different fruits, herbs etc. I really recommend it, and I love that it is square, it makes it easier to store.

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95 Esther September 21, 2011 at 1:53 pm

I enthusiastically recommend the Excalibur food dehydrator, whichever model you want to spring for. Super-high quality, easy to clean, come with settings for the temperature for specific type of food you’re drying. I love mine! http://www.excaliburdehydrator.com/

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96 Wendy Green September 21, 2011 at 2:14 pm

I bought an American Harvester dehydrator years ago and love it. Easy to use, consistent drying, and a great price.

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97 Erin September 21, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Most of my produce bags are actually lingerie bags with zippers. You can get them for $1 (or maybe less) at the Dollar Tree. I did, begrudgingly, spend $6 for a pack of 3 or 4 once because I forgot my bags and they are honestly getting a little run down. Just an idea, produce bags make good trashcan liners for small bathroom trashcans. I also recycle them at the grocery store.

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98 Jillian September 21, 2011 at 2:39 pm

I use Debbie Meyer Green Bags to purchase my produce and to store it in the refrigerator when I get home. The bags can be closed with rubber bands at home and I have kept fresh strawberries good for 2 1/2 weeks in one! They are thin plastic “green” colored bags (hardly weigh anything) and they trap the “gasses” from the ripening produce and make it last longer. Give them a try!

http://www.amazon.com/Debbie-Meyer-20317-Green-Bags/dp/B0011TMP3Y

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99 Emma September 21, 2011 at 2:42 pm

In Canada the PC GREEN line of products makes multi-use produce shopping bags that I use. The one downside is that they are a little bit smaller than the single-use plastic bags at the supermarket, but otherwise they are great. You just wash them (machine-washable) and re-use. They are also made from 66% post-consumer recycled plastic.

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100 WilliamB September 21, 2011 at 3:37 pm

I have a cheapo-style dehyrator that sounds like the one you bought: simple heating element and trays; no fan. It works great for me. It does dry unevenly, lower dries first and the middle of the tray dries first. So I put the thicker pieces (apparently I can’t cut evenly) on the lower tray, or put the thicker end toward the middle. After about 12 hrs (the next morning, or late the same day) I check now it’s doing and adjust. Usually this involves switching trays around and flipping pieces – I don’t find this burdensome. I’d much rather use my cheapo dehydrator than my oven.

Sorry it didn’t work out for you. FYI, if your family likes jerkey, it’s much, much cheaper to make your own. The markup on store-bought jerkey is appalling, especially given the poor quality of meat they tend to use.

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101 Debbie September 21, 2011 at 3:39 pm

I use mesh bags that I bought at the Dollar Store. They have draw strings at the top and I don’t know of a reason why you couldn’t sew lots of them.

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102 JoAnn September 21, 2011 at 4:04 pm

We have used a dehydrator by American Harvest for several years now – and absolutely love it! It is perfect for drying fruits and veggies, and for making jerkey. I would definitely suggest that you consider an American Harvest brand dehydrator.

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103 Cindy September 21, 2011 at 4:46 pm

I stick to plastic bags for produce and groceries. We have the listeria outbreak in our state and they are telling people to be sure and wash their reusable shopping bags. I would rather use disposable than have something contaminated from produce or meat.

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104 Hazel September 21, 2011 at 4:57 pm

I love my Excalibur dehydrator, but they’re not big over here and I’ve never seen or used any other type (mine is unusual enough to be a talking point…)

For produce, a few oranges or something I don’t bother bagging, but how are you suppose to keep track of 2 pounds of tomatoes on the conveyor belt?! I hate supermarkets enough as it is, without making life more difficult for myself.

I found some ex-display gauzy tulle type fabric on sale and sewed several drawstring bags with thin ribbon ties, based around the size of the plastic produce bags. I like the fact I can tailor them to the size I want- big ones for carrots or whatever. I did try weighing them, but my balance scales don’t have small enough increments- I don’t think I’m paying more for my vegetables!

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105 Janet September 21, 2011 at 4:58 pm

We solved the plastic veggie bag problem using my kids out-grown t-shirts. We made our own by:
1) Sewing the t-shirt shut at the bottom hem.
2) Cutting off the sleeves and cutting a bigger neck hole.
3) That’s it. Take it to the store.

It’s so simple, my 10-year-old made them for her 4-H demonstration. They are light, sturdy, washable, cheap (and cute!).

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106 Kate September 21, 2011 at 5:54 pm

I love my nesco dehydrator. It’s from lee valley. It has nice herb drying and fruit leather trays as well. Not uber expensive, and has adjustable thermostat and fantastic fan. Drys almost evenly.

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107 CB September 21, 2011 at 6:49 pm

I have a Nesco brand dehydraor purchased from Costco and I’m very hppy with the quality. I mostly use it to make beef jerky and it completes the task in about 12 hours with no problems with consistency or anything like that. It’s got a great fan on it (the fan, heating, and all the electric parts are in the “lid” piece making it easier for cleanup) and can be set at a variety of temperatures for different types of foods.

That reminds me that I should really make another batch of beef jerky…

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108 CB September 21, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Produce bags – I just don’t use any. Is that crazy? I put apples/squash/peaches/whatever and stuff loose in my basket and then loose again in my bags. The only thing I put in a plastic produce bag is something really unrully like lettuce, but let’s be honest, I never buy lettuce.

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109 Tasmanian Minimalist September 21, 2011 at 7:44 pm

I totally recommend a food dehydrator. But in my experience you do seem to get what you pay for. Not that I am advocating spending a gazillion dollars. Ours is a Fowlers Vacola 4000 and it has never let us down yet. Good luck and happy drying x

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110 Natalie September 21, 2011 at 8:57 pm

I’ve gone with the loose produce before, but I don’t like the idea of putting them in the cart and then on the belt where they can collect more germs, at least with the produce that I eat with the skin on.

I use the plastic produce bags, and then I store them in the drawer with my cutting boards. Whenever I grab my cutting board for making dinner or anything, I grab one of the produce bags and I use it to collect all the disposable items from my cutting – seeds, cores, skins, fats, whatever needs to go in the trash. Then when I’m done cutting I just fold up the corners and throw it all in the trash.

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111 Rebecca Haughn September 21, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Personally I am glad for the Excalibur dehydrator that I bought. It is refurbished and has a timer, 9 trays too. Will rise bread and make yogurt too. A nice machine to use for several things. I bought it straight from the site and they were very helpful and if ever you have a problem they will be glad to help you. Herbs dry beautifully and fruit too with the different settings. For bags, I would sew my own and if at Aldis, they have boxes that will eventually make it to my compost pile. The vege bags that supposedly make things last longer, I have some but have not used yet, I dry and cook alot so things don’t go to waste much, not at all if you count feeding the pets and compost pile. Anyway, good luck you seem to have plenty of suggestions.

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112 Jillian September 21, 2011 at 9:43 pm

I know it’s been mentioned but if you have a Dollar Tree nearby – check them out. I was just there last week buying their mesh bags – was able to get a 3 pack and a 2 pack for a dollar. (You’ll be proud that I am coming out of my lurking to comment!).

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113 Monique DiCarlo September 21, 2011 at 9:47 pm

At the farmers market I just dump everything in my basket without plastic bags (very Dutch market shopping way), but I guess they would not like that at the grocery store! LOL

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114 Ellen September 21, 2011 at 11:57 pm

I can’t remember which blog I spotted this on, but the woman made her own bags from a sheer curtain she picked up at a thrift store. She sewed it into little drawstring bags – I guess they’re pretty lightweight. And that would be a frugal way. I’ve wanted to find inexpensive (or make inexpensive) bags too.

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115 Frugal Down Under September 22, 2011 at 12:50 am

I reuse the net bags madarines ect come in.You can thread a ribbon to close it up. They are hardy, very light weight, are free, you don’t have to make or buy anything else.

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116 Kara September 22, 2011 at 2:00 pm

For the dehydrator, I recently bought a Nesco/American Harvest and have successfully dried herbs and peppers in it. If you can get to Two Rivers, WI Metalware (makers of Nesco and American Harvest) are having a factory sale soon.

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117 Nan September 22, 2011 at 7:00 pm

I bought a large sheer curtain from Goodwill for about $1 then simply cut it into rectangles and stitched up some bags. I ran a ribbon through the top to create a drawstring, but most of the time I just twist them closed. I am planning on stitching a small tag onto the top listing the tare weight. It’s on the “to do” list.

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118 Janknitz September 22, 2011 at 9:08 pm

I don’t use many produce bags as I just keep things “loose” UNLESS the produce is wet and/or still has bits of field dirt (i.e. radishes, leafy greens). I just don’t want the wet, drippy stuff dripping on the rest of my groceries, my clothes, the car, etc. Our local grocery store has sprinklers that spray the fresh produce regularly, so a lot of stuff is wet.

I’d love to have “green” reusable bags, but that wouldn’t solve the wet drippy problem. I guess I will have to commit to reusing the few bags I do use.

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119 Jenny September 23, 2011 at 9:55 am

I got my reusable produce bags from 3BBags.com

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120 FrancesVettergreenVisualArtist September 25, 2011 at 12:52 am

I have a round American Harvester with about 12 trays (I bought extra, I think it came with 4) plus liners, some mesh for little things and some flat for leathers. It has worked well for me for at least 15 years, and yes, it is way better than the oven. Or the car. Or drying outdoors in the sun. I load it heavily and stack all 12 trays on it, most stuff still dries overnight. Variable heat and a fan are key.

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121 Beka October 17, 2011 at 9:42 pm

I picked up a set of these at Target on a whim. They have been the BEST produce bags! Light weight and you can see through the bags.

http://www.target.com/p/veggie-bags/-/A-13509054

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