Three tips to help you always remember your reusable bags

You arrive at the self-checkout, groceries spilling from your cart. You scan your first item – dang! You forgot your reusable bags. Again.

Despite our best intentions, this is a familiar scenario. Fortunately, research in behaviour change and habit formation can help you to remember your reusable bags, every time.

1.   Use a prompt.

Often our reusable bags are out of sight or hard-to-reach, which creates an unintentional barrier. Adding simple physical or digital prompts can be enough to aid your memory.

  • Hang them over the handle of your garage or front door if you normally drive to the grocery store. If you cycle, hang them on your handlebars or install a hook where you store your bike. After you unpack your groceries, just be sure to hang your bags back.
  • Write ‘BAGS’ in bold on your paper or electronic shopping list, or keep your shopping list where your bags are so you’ll be forced to remember them both.
  • Create a recurring calendar notification on your phone on the day you normally go shopping. 

2.   Form effective habits.

Pairing a desired habit with an existing habit – like doing squats after brushing your teeth – can greatly increase your chance of forming a new habit. 

According to Atomic Habits author James Clear, making a clear commitment to yourself is an effective tool:


Think of how to fill out the formula to make sense with your routine. Here are some examples:

  • “I will put my produce bags in my backpack at 8am when I leave for school.”
  • “I will hang my bags on the fridge door handle when I make lunch for the next day at 9pm in the kitchen.”
  • “I will place my grocery list next to my bags when I finish my meal planning Sunday evening in the mudroom.”

3.   Bring backups.

Habits are tough to change, so give yourself a backup plan by strategically placing extra bags in convenient places for when you forget. Foldable, reusable bags are small enough to have in your purse everywhere you go; keep extras handy in the rear of your vehicle; stash a few at your office.

Mostly importantly, forgive yourself if you forget your bags. Instead, reward yourself when you remember them, and the satisfaction will help your habits change for good.