We use Ziploc bags all the time. They are accessible, you don’t have to worry about doing dishes, and they keep whatever they are storing fresh.
But every time we ran out and needed to buy more at Costco, I would get this nagging feeling that we are wasting money depending so much on Ziploc bags.
I figured I needed to spend a good amount of time looking into different options. It was an excellent way to research different products and write a post about it.
Keep in mind that every Amazon link on this page is an affiliate link. I usually don’t go this crazy with affiliate links, but I figured why not in this case. 🙂
Main Purpose of Ziploc Bags
One word sums up the primary use for Ziploc bags: leftovers. However, here is a complete list of all the ways we use Ziploc bags:
- Freezing Meat
- Packed lunches (especially for our kids)
- Taking snacks on the road
- Long-term storage of dry goods: coffee, brown sugar, etc.
- Freezing other foods like chicken stock
- Storing cheeses, some fruits, etc. in the refrigerator.
It’s so easy to grab a Ziploc bag from the drawer. When you are done with the bag, you throw it away. No dishes to clean, and nothing much to think about.
We are at the spot in trying to squeeze as much out of our grocery budget every month. Every time I get to the end of a Ziploc box, I get this nagging feeling this is an unneeded expense we could easily do without.
Long-Term Cost of Ziploc Bags
For quart and gallon-sized Ziploc bags, we like to use the “freezer” variety, since they are more durable and might be used in the freezer. Below are current prices for Ziploc bags at Amazon.
Every time you use and throw away a Ziploc bag, you are throwing out money. In other words, the convenience of Ziploc bags comes with a cost.
We are trying to cut our grocery budget to save as much money as possible. We are willing to sacrifice the convenience of using Ziploc bags to reduce our expenses. In addition to saving money, eliminating Ziploc bags from our routine is better for the environment.
Based on my rough analysis of our usage, this is how much it costs us to use Ziploc bags per month if we were to purchase them from Amazon:
- Gallon Size Ziplocs (15): $2.85
- Quart Size Ziplocs (20): $2.60
- Sandwich/Snack Ziplocs (40): $4.00
- Total Per Month: $9.45
Let’s round up to $10/mo. Since we buy them at Costco, the prices are about 58% lower for these Ziploc bags (compared to Amazon), which is a massive amount of savings. Let’s say when shopping at Costco, on average this costs about $6/mo for Ziploc bags. An expense of $6/month doesn’t seem like a lot of money.
The issue is that since we buy in bulk, and don’t need to buy these every month, we usually can go 3-5 months before having to buy more. But when we do need to buy them, it costs around $50 out of that month’s budget to re-stock our supply. This amount is not easily absorbed in our monthly budget when it does come up.
Replacing Ziploc bags requires an initial investment that is going to take 1-2 years before it starts saving money. So finding products that should last at least 5-years is essential. If we can learn not to use Ziploc bags, this will also free up some storage space in our kitchen drawers.
What about cleaning and re-using Ziploc Bags
Some people religiously clean the freezer Ziploc bags. Hand washing these bags would be an option, and there are ways to do it effectively.
But honestly, hand washing Ziploc bags seems like a pain. And when one fails, you might not find out until it is too late and have a massive mess on your hands.
I’m canceling out this option as it is not something I want to deal with. But you might disagree. 🙂
Alternatives to Ziploc Bags
Given the utility of Ziploc bags, it is going to be hard to find a replacement that will work best for all scenarios. Below I go through some different options. In all cases, I’m looking for highly reviewed products that will last and can store a variety of foods. I also prefer items that are easier to clean, and where I won’t look in the corners one day to find mold (which can be a problem with silicon bags).
Dry Food Containers
For dry foods that need storage, there are a ton of options that will work.
This set of Airtight Food Storage Containers get great reviews. You get 14 containers, and people seem to love them. They are a little pricey at $80 with Amazon Prime, which comes to almost $6 per container. But these should cover storing all dried goods. And according to the reviews, they seem very durable.
We aren’t using Ziploc bags to store pet food, but this product caught my eye in keeping their food fresh for longer.
Cold + Hot Food Containers
There a myriad options for food containers in this category. Depending on whether you want glass, plastic or steel, you have plenty of options.
For a solid plastic container, the Snapware Total Solution set looks good ($20).
For the ultimate food container, these stainless steel food containers look amazing. Not only will they hold liquid, but you can use them in the freezer and re-heat foods directly on the stove. So in a way, these could not only replace food containers, but they can also replace some pots. At over $20 per container, they are the most expensive option.
Just envision this flow: you heat some chili on the stove. You eat dinner, and then throw the lid on and save as leftovers in the refrigerator. The next day, you throw that same container on the stove and re-heat as leftovers. You save time in not having to clean two separate pots for multiple meals. The biggest downside is these containers are not cheap, and you can’t use them in the microwave (unless you want fireworks), but they look very durable.
An alternative steel container that is much cheaper is these Bruntmor stainless steel containers ($14), which come with three food containers for that price. I like the silicone lids for these, but I’m not sure if they would work as pots on the stove. These containers are nestable.
Reusable bags is where things get interesting. There are re-usable plastic bags out there that can replace all Ziploc bags.
The rezip ($20) bags get good reviews. But some people had issues with them not sealing after a few weeks, which defeats the purpose. And I’m concerned about how easy they are to clean.
Looking at different options, and the benefits and cons of each, I think I like the Yummi Pouch the most. I found two sizes: Sandwich Bags ($15) and Snack Bags ($13). You can throw these in the washer and air dry, which seems to reduce the risk of stuff getting stuck in the corners. These will work great for anything that isn’t super wet, and our girls can use them with their lunches.
I think if you can store wet food in other containers (like mentioned above), the Yummi Pouch looks like a fantastic option.
Since we use Ziplocs often for cheese storage, these reusable bags look like they might work well.
When storing things in the freezer, the more air you can extract from your container, the better. We recently got a vacuum sealer that we plan on using for this purpose. It does go against avoiding using plastic bags as storage containers, but given how little we would use these bags, I’m not too concerned.
We’ll also use the vacuum sealer in storing smoked cheeses in the refrigerator. It takes 3-6 months before these cheeses get to a spot where they are incredible, and doing this will keep them fresher over time.
What are we going to use?
After considering all the options, this is our current plan:
- Get three sets of these glass containers ($60).
- Get two sets of these smaller glass containers ($35), which are similar to the above.
- Load up on Yummi Pouches: 2-sets of their sandwich bags and 2-sets of their snack bags ($56 total).
- Purchase 2-sets of these cheese bags ($7)
- Total: $158
Assuming this stuff lasts at least 1.5 years, it should be a good investment.
Will the above products allow us to 100% eliminate Ziploc bags? I’m not sure, but I’m willing to get creating in avoiding this expense. Even if it ultimately only saves us $6/month. 🙂
Are there any products that you use that replace Ziploc bags? Do any of these products look useful?
Chris Roane is a financial blogger who loves to be transparent about money-related issues. He’s paid off massive amounts of credit card debt and is the blog author of Money Stir. His main focus on Money Stir is talking about how money relates to our relationships, personal development, and how to plan for the future we want. He’s been quoted on Market Watch, The Ladders, and other publications.