Reusable Sandwich Bags

I’ve been thinking a lot about trying to reduce my family’s use of single-serve plastic. I have 3 kids and that means we often turn to whatever’s easiest even it it’s not the best. So this will be in baby steps… I’ve started by getting silicon reusable straws that we use both at home and on the road. We all have metal water bottles. I’ve stopped using the produce bags at the grocery store. I carry reusable grocery bags and recycle whatever plastic bags I do get.

But with my kids carrying snacks to school (or just to the backyard when I force them to eat and they can’t manage to sit down), I’m grabbing plastic sandwich bags ALL THE TIME. Soooo making reusable bags has been on my list for a while.

I got excited thinking what novelty patterns to use to match my kids’ personalities and have them get involved. I’ve just been stuck on how to make the right kind of bags. Scouring forums and blogs, I found tutorials using PUL fabric or laminating cotton with fusible vinyl. But I don’t feel confident having any plastics not specifically considered food-safe as my liners.

The next common recommendation was to use cereal bags that come inside cereal boxes. Worth a try right?

My daughter specifically asked for BOTH dogs and space for her bag. And I had to deliver!

So I cut:

*An inner fabric rectangle 6.5″ x 17″

*2 pieces 6.5″ x 10″ and 6.5″ by 7.5″ which I sewed together. If you prefer a single continuous print, you can just cut a second 6.5″ x 17″ section. This will become the closure pieces.

*A cereal bag section 6.5″ x 17″.

I starched them well to avoid stretching or shifting.

Using 1/4″ seam, I sewed them right sides together with the plastic in the middle, leaving one end open for turning. Reaching in between the plastic and the INNER layer, turn it right side out. You should then have the plastic on top, the inner layer in the middle, and the closure layer on the bottom.

Reach in HERE to turn

You can clip the corners before turning, but it’s not necessary. Poke corners to smooth out. Tuck the last side down 1/4″-1/2″ and see closed, sewing close to the edge.

I didn’t get a shot of the next step, but I folded up the closure sections for placement and sewed in a strip of Velcro. I then sewed the flaps down and voila!

The back. How cute is this print!?

But here’s the thing… The cereal plastic is super stiff, crinkly and LOUD. I think it will hold up well, but don’t love hearing the bag every second I handle it.

So I decided to try a bread bag. It’s thinner, less noisy, but obviously not as durable to hold up long term. Plus I can get liner rectangles from 1 bag.

The other advantage for the bread bag was having writing on one side to ensure you knew which side was food safe. Just make sure to place with the writing side TOWARDS the inner layer in sewing so the food safe side is then up once turned.

Bread bag plastic, outer closure layer, inner layer
Fabric and bread sandwich getting prepped
Sewn layers ready for turning.

Turn by reaching in between the plastic and the closure layer leaving the plastic writing side together to the inner layer. I lightly iron at this point using a Teflon ironing sheet (you can use parchment paper instead) to protect the iron and the board. Never iron directly on the plastic!

Once turned, fold the unfinished end down 1/4″-1/2″ sew closed, keeping close to the edge. Fold up sides for Velcro placement. Unfold and sew in separate Velcro strips. Fold up and sew sides closed. I added a second line of stitching to the cereal version just to add stability. And here they are!

Just big enough to fit a sandwich, perfect for crackers or grapes, I guarantee these will get lots of use! I’ll report back in a few months on how they hold up.

Final tips…

Reduce your iron heat and make sure not to stay in one area too long. Never touch the iron directly to the plastic.

Use a Teflon pressing sheet. They’re amazing to protect your iron and even if you accidentally melt the plastic it’ll come off the sheet.

Even if you have enough space to get all clear plastic, keep a portion of the writing to make sure you keep the food contact side in the right place. Yes you’ll see some on the upper flap, but I think it adds character and will be a conversation starter to discuss your efforts to upcycle your single use plastics!

Use binding clips instead of pins. They won’t make unnecessary holes that damage the plastic.

They are NOT water-tight so don’t use them to store liquids.

I should have paid more attention to the directional print of the inner layer… With the closure flipping around, I should have put the inner layer upside down to it, but didn’t realize until after it was sewn.

What ways have you become less dependent on plastic? Any suggestions on sewing and quilting for sustainability?

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