More and more grocery stores are offering a discount or financial incentive for shoppers who bring in their own bags. Reusable bags save stores money and are a more ecologically friendly alternative. Many stores now have affordable bags available near the cash registers, making it easy to accumulate a collection of practical and inexpensive shopping bags.

While the environmental benefits of reusable shopping bags is clear, you may be surprised to consider some of the other benefits. Large reusable shopping bags can be more comfortable to carry, making it easier to bring that load of groceries in the house. Square or rectangular bottomed shopping bags line up neatly in the trunk or cargo area of your vehicle, allowing you to make the most of the available space and avoid having your purchases spill.

Depending upon the store, discounts range from 3 cents per bag to as much as 10 cents per bag. While the cost difference on a small one bag purchase is minimal, if you routinely purchase 15 to 20 bags worth of groceries, the discount can be much more substantial. Even the minimal amount saved per bag adds up over time. Saving $2.00 a week with bag credits will add up to $104.00 per year (and as anyone shopping for a family knows, 20 bags a week would not be uncommon).

Many health food stores, locally owned groceries and some major discount chains offer bag credits. At CVS drugstores, every 4 purchases without a plastic bag results in a $1.00 store credit. Whole Foods stores offer between a 5 cent and 10 cent credit per bag. In November, Target stores around the country will begin offering a 5 cent discount for every reusable bag. Stores like Sam’s Wholesale Club and Costco have never offered bags, but are phasing out boxes in lieu of affordable large reusable shopping bags. Other stores, including IKEA, have taken another tactic. Disposable plastic bags come at a 5 cent charge, while a reusable bag is available for $.59.

Encourage your local stores to offer bag credit programs and consider spending your money at stores that do. Some retailers, including Wal-mart are behind on this smart trend. While Wal-mart does offer inexpensive reusable bags at the register, there is no incentive to skip the plastic.