Grocery Shopping with a Laundry Bag

It took a few weeks of living in the city for me to realize that I could bike to the supermarket. Access to public transportation has proven to be one of the greatest perks of city life. It is so nice being able to walk to the library or meet friends in the city without worrying about finding a parking space. I love public transportation!

However, the biggest drawback to where I currently live is that the nearest supermarkets are 1–3 miles away.

After walking and carrying groceries by hand, walking with a rolling duffle bag, taking the bus/metro, carpooling, weighing the pro/cons of home delivery programs… I realized that biking would be the best method to get groceries. It is definitely not the easiest method, but…

Maybe I like the challenge?

Maybe I like the independence of not having to rely on an external schedule?

Maybe I have a little too much time on my hands?

I think all of the above is somewhat true.

Through trial and error, I found that the best way to transport groceries while biking is by using a large laundry bag backpack. The laundry bag easily fits an entire bedding set (linens, comforter, blanket, two pillows, etc). Now I use it to safeguard the transportation of my groceries!

This past trip to the store, I was able to carefully stack the following in my laundry bag:

  • 0.5 lbs of bananas
  • 1 cylindrical box of oatmeal
  • 1 head of romaine lettuce
  • 1 bottle of sauce
  • 1 tub of yogurt
  • 1 roll of cookie dough
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 2 half gallon cartons of milk
  • 2 boxes of pasta
  • 3 bags of frozen vegetables
  • 3 lbs of sweet potatoes
  • 12 oz of protein powder

Sometimes it feels weird to roll up to the store with my oversized, saggy, bright blue laundry bag.

When I am fiddling with my bike lock in front of the supermarket, I always fight the voices in my head telling me that it is strange to bike to the grocery store with a laundry bag.

99% of the people around you walk or drive drive. Normal people walk or drive.

Once my bike is securely locked up, I immediately relax, walk into the store, and begin checking off items on my shopping list. For those 30 minutes or so, I take my time and zig-zag through the aisles in bliss. In many ways, shopping for food is my form of “retail therapy” — it is fun, relaxing, and enjoyable.

After I check out, I find a spot where I can carefully package everything into my oversized bag so that the eggs don’t get crushed by the sweet potatoes. Once complete, I begin biking the1–3 miles back home.

Remember to breathe. But also… pedal faster. This laundry bag is really heavy!

Before I know it, I’m home, satisfied, accomplished, and hungry.

Even though I don’t see a lot of people biking to the store, the entire process works really well for me.

It has pushed me outside of my relative comfort zone and gotten me to try something different. During the colder winter months and the most recent “bomb cyclone” storm, it has also forced me to be deliberate about dressing in many layers:

  • Long-sleeve
  • Down vest
  • Down jacket
  • Fleece jacket
  • Winderbreaker
  • Two pairs of pants
  • Wool socks
  • Hat
  • Neckwarmer/facemask
  • Gloves
  • Sunglasses/goggles

Sometimes it can feel like a hassle to plan my food shopping around the weather. But thanks to the great power of layers, usually by the time I complete the 1.5–3 mile one way trip to the store (depending on which location I choose), I’ve unzipped most of my jackets, taken my neck warmer off, and sometimes will ride the last few tenths of a mile with no mittens in single digit Fahrenheit degree weather.

“The cold never bothered me anyway” — “Let it Go,” Frozen

I’m not sure if I will bike 4–6 mile roundtrip for groceries for the rest of my life.

For now, I really like the manual aspect of it all: Dress in layers. Bike to the store. Choose what you want to consume. Hoist everything onto your back back. Ride back home.

Compared to driving or walking, it’s different. It’s heavy. It’s deliberate.

I have to prioritize what I really need versus what I crave because I am limited by what I can physically carry on my back. It makes me think about all of the excess packaging that companies use to grab our attention.

Sometimes when I’m strolling through the grocery store aisles, I wonder how other people arrived to to the store. Did they walk, drive, bike, or take public transportation? What about the people who don’t have access to quality grocery stores? What about the people who are unable to bike and carry a heavy laundry bag full of groceries on their back?

Biking to get food reminds me that there are always more than one way of reaching a destination or accomplishing a goal. I hope to continue to apply this mindset to other aspects of my life and think about how I can creatively tweak personal habits for the better.

How do you access your food?

Do you enjoy grocery shopping??

Originally published at on January 15, 2018.