Using bags for life safely
Use separate bags for raw and ready-to-eat foods
- Before you go shopping, check if you’ll have enough bags for life to carry everything you intend to buy that will comfortably allow you to keep all of your raw foods in separate bags. Ideally, you should have enough bags to carry raw foods, ready-to-eat foods and non-food items such as washing powder separately.
- Keep enough bags for life for raw foods only and don’t use the same bags again for ready-to-eat foods or for carrying other household items.
Pick and choose
If you decide to purchase a ‘bag for life’, there is a variety on sale in supermarkets, made of different materials and in a range of styles and sizes. Generally, a standard plastic bag for life will cost 10p, whereas other styles will be a bit more expensive. Consider what would work best for you. For example, you may want to be able to machine wash your bag for life to ensure it remains hygienic, therefore the most suitable style would be a cotton-based one.
Label your bags
Some bags for life may come with a label in them allowing you to mark on it what you intend to use the bag for (for example, raw meat and fish products, ready-to-eat foods or non-food items such as washing powder). If it doesn’t have a label, you could either colour code the bags (including by theme if the bag has a particular design) or mark on the bags to help you keep raw items separate.
Use freezer bags in the summer
On warm days, consider using insulated ‘freezer’ bags as this will help you to keep perishable items at a cooler temperature for longer, especially when stored in the boot of your car during summer months. Perishable foods should not be kept at ambient temperatures any longer than is absolutely necessary.
Check your bags for leaks and spillages
Always check your bags for spillages (for example raw meat juices or soil) after every use. If there has been visible spillage, soiling or damage, plastic bags for life should ideally be used for another purpose (where no safety risk will occur) or replaced. Cotton/fabric bags for life can be put in the washing machine and cleaned. Even if there are no obvious spillages or staining after several uses, we would recommend that cotton/fabric bags for life be machine washed regularly if they have been used for carrying raw items.
Replace old plastic bags
Old or damaged standard 10p bags for life may be replaced free of charge at the supermarket it was purchased from. So your initial investment in some bags for life could be a significant saving in the long term. Please check with your retailer for their bags for life policy.
We're reminding people of our advice about packing food safely when shopping. This is because, from 5 October, a new law will require large shops in England to charge 5p for single-use plastic carrier bags. There is already a similar charge on single-use bags in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.