Dear Umbra,

I live less than a half-mile from a supermarket, and prefer to do my errands by foot. Any thoughts on where I could buy a top-of-the-line utility cart? I’m willing to pay a premium for something lightweight, smooth-rolling, stable, foldable, and durable (or if not durable, then easy to recycle when it breaks!). Something stylish would be a bonus: it might just convince my neighbors to follow suit.

Alexandria, Va.

Dearest Liz,

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Generally I don’t like to shop for people, because it’s so easy to go wrong with brand or site favoritism, but this seems like a safe enough bet. It’s also a terribly worthwhile cause: extricating you and your neighbors from your cars is part of my master plan.

Don’t leave home without it.

In New York City, everyone seems to have little carts, because there is no other way, except delivery, to get a decent amount of groceries home. If we all pretended we lived in New York, the world would be a better place, car-wise. You’ll find the classic New York-style shopping cart to be a sturdy, practical friend.

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For alternatives, I found completely foldable, impressive, hand-truckish items at and the oddly named (but don’t be too alarmed) Massage Unit. For both of these, you would need to rig your own boxes — maybe a couple of milk crates, or something slicker.

Let me also give you a few practical ideas that don’t require extra rigging. My friends with toddlers use their strollers to hold groceries, and here is a stroller without the toddler part. (Of course, ditching the kids is good for plenty of other reasons too.) The Radio Flyer red wagon is a classic, as is the durable, Amish-built, wooden-slat wagon.

A ridiculous idea — yet amusing to consider — is to buy a motorized golf-bag cart, buy a vintage golf bag, and use that. Or check out Mother Earth News‘ instructions for adding bicycle wheels to a grocery cart; this tutorial dates from the 1980s, but it looks just as good today.

That’s a review of practical and kooky carts, but there is one more. I’ve decided that the best cart for you in terms of cool, unusual, and functional is a postal “caddy cart” or “satchel cart.” You might have them in Alexandria. They are little metal horses with blue saddlebags on them that mail carriers push about. The trouble is, I don’t know where you can buy one. Stay tuned. I’m sure a gruntled postal carrier will write in and let us know how to find this sure-to-be-hip shopping must-have.


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