The Amazingly Versatile Paper Bag

Paper bags are a significant staple in our society with endless uses around home and garden.

April celebrates Earth Day and at least this month some of us probably lean more towards paper when the grocery bagger asks “paper or plastic”, unless it’s a rainy day, of course.

Stop for a moment and imagine your world without paper bags – you probably can’t. While paper bags in various shapes and sizes have been around for centuries, they were not always available everywhere. In my youth, during WWII in Europe, what little paper there was, was not in the way of bags. Shoppers were expected to bring their own containers, but would get the occasional fish wrapped in paper and some groceries poured into improvised bags that were rolled and folded and took your close attention lest they’d unfold and spill their content.

But oh the wonderful luxury of present day paper bags. Not only do they come in many different sizes, they also come in different colors and shapes. The brown grocery paper bag being the most common is also the most versatile.

Here are but a few of the near endless things you can do with paper bags:
Recycle them by taking them back to the store and instead of getting a new one, reuse the one you took home last time. Use them as garbage/trash bags but be aware that they do not hold up if you have wet garbage.

Paper bags make great containers for just about anything as long as it isn’t wet. The word to keep in mind is “contain” as you can use them in organizing, keeping items separated, for storing. Messy rooms can be quickly sorted through by separating toys, clothes, shoes, garbage etc. into individual bags . Once done, each bag can be easily taken to their destinations throughout the home.

You can write on them, you can decorate them, you can even use them as clothes. Bags make identification easy as you can write name, content or what ever on them. Lunch bags going off to school or work, not only can have the name on it for easy identification , but can also include a few words of instructions, of encouragement or of love. You also might like to decorate such bags with stickers, sparkles or a million of other decorations. In an emergency or if a costume is needed, cut holes for head and arms and junior is covered. If you like to stay anonymous – cut holes for eyes and pull over your head. Or add more interest by drawing a nose, mouth, ears and hair on it.

Paper bags are parents’ and teachers’ best friends. The bags not only entertain and teach, during home and classroom projects, they are great for cleanup, too. Use paperbacks to cover floors and work areas during paint projects for quick clean-ups. Cut bags open, connect, wrap below table or counter edges and fasten with tape. When finished, just roll up and discard, leaving a clean table behind.

Make a pinata by putting 2 or 3 bags into each other, decorate with paper strips, add the goodies , tie with a rope and throw over a limb or beam and let the fun begin. Just make sure you do not use too many bags as they might be near impossible to “split” open to release the treats which might leave some very upset kids in its wake.

Paper bags find many uses in the kitchen. Use to cover work areas for quick cleanup. Use to coat meat or other foods by adding crumbs and spices in a bag. Shake and have evenly coated food ready for the oven. Use to ripen fruit by placing it in a paper bag, close and the “gases” in fresh fruit go to work and ripen it better than without the bag. Defrosting chicken or turkey in a paper bag allows the inside of the bird to keep up with the outside for a safer process. Paper bags make great blotters for greasy foods. Just put a paper bag on a plate and put fried chicken, fries etc. on it to soak up the grease. You can use several layers of paper bags to keep food cold or warm for a longer time.

Paper bags are not only used on the bottom of bird cages and litter boxes for the obvious reason but also in pet beds either whole or shredded to make softer beds..

There are just as many uses for paper bags in the garden as there are in the home. Use them to prevent weeds from sprouting by lining the ground before covering them with rocks, chips or other decorative covers. Remember, they are bio-degradable but also keep in mind that paper has poisonous ingredients, so don’t use too much in food growing areas. Use bags to collect seeds by covering seed heads with a paper sack. Hold in place with a clothespin. Keep birds and insects off ripening fruit by slipping a paper sack over bunches of grapes or other fruit. Close and hold in place with a clothespin. Use to dry herbs by placing fresh cut herbs such as peppermint, basil etc. in paper bags, tie to a clothesline or branch and let dry. The herbs dry nicer because the sun does not deteriorate them.

Paper bags are often used in childbirth to regulate mother’s breathing during labor and for centuries have been used to calm down over-excited people by having them breath into paper sacks.

People use paper bags in decorating for clean-up as well as the decoration itself. As wallpaper it gives rooms a very attractive, mellow tone. Furniture, picture frames etc. covered with ripped and clued wallpaper can be exquisite.

Paper bags are also used to “hide” their content. It can be to conceal such things as alcohol that might be illegal to openly consume. Plain brown bags are often used in taste tests when participants test a number of products. There even used to be a TV show that hid 3 people under paper bags to keep the identity of one of them hidden and for contestants to identify from given clues.

Of course, there is a whole lot more to paper bags then can be covered here but I can’t conclude this article without mentioning “brown-bagging”.

According to the dictionary “brown-bagging refers literally to the small brown paper bag used for carrying a lunch to school or work. It might mean “the bag itself” or “the process of carrying a lunch.”. If you do it, you are a brown bagger (even if you carry a lunchbox instead of the bag). Used as an adjective, it describes anything characteristic, including a brown-bag lunch or a brown-bag attitude toward work, saving money, and the like, and as a verb it means you do it. MK bag for sale

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