Buy and use reusable grocery bags. As we like to say here at the headquarters of the Westbrook Diarist, it's a win-win-win decision (how original, eh?): The bags are good for the environment, because you're wasting fewer plastic (or paper) bags; the grocery stores save money because they don't have to buy as many bags; and you get a heavy-duty, durable bag that makes carrying the groceries easier.
Both Hannaford and Shaw's sell cloth reusable grocery bags. Hannaford sells their cloth bags for $1.50 apiece, but they pay you $.05 for each bag you use. And Shaw's sells them for $1.99 or 10 for $10.00. Shaw's prices may only to apply to holders of their company cards, so don't quote me on that price. Shaw's, according to one of their cashiers, does not reimburse their shoppers for using their cloth bags.
I can't personally vouch for the Shaw's bags, but my wife and I love our Hannaford cloth bags. They are large, durable, and easy to carry. In fact, we often (pleasantly) surprise our baggers when we tell them they can load our bags to the brim, without worrying about the bag's weight. And believe me, those instructions have more to do with the bag's strength than it does my, ahem, muscle mass.
- John C.L. Morgan
P.S. Hannaford, you can send that payment we talked about to P.O. Box 207, Westbrook, Maine. It was nice doing business with you. And remember: I deal only in cash. Less of a paper trail that way.