All throughout the year, glass jars are in season.
Pickle jars, mustard jars, jam jars, peanut butter jars, Mason jars…
Tall ones, short ones, blue ones, clear ones. Glass jars can be found in all sizes and colors. They are omnipresent, in abundance and infinitely useful.
Glass jars can surely be recycled when you are through with their contents, but do they have an even higher purpose?
We believe so, and have 21 ways to prove it.
Creating a zero-waste home
In the spirit of living sustainably and creating as little waste as possible, chances are great that you are already limiting the amount of plastic in your home. That’s wonderful news – and a terrific place to start on your quest to embrace all the brilliant uses for glass jars!
The choice to adopt a zero-waste mindset, allows you to (re)think of materials in a new light.
And with a sustainable future in mind, the concept of zero-waste is about creating a circular economy that keeps good materials in motion – in essence, removing the idea of trash.
Glass is an exceptional material that can be reused for as long as it does not break, far better than plastic containers in any event!
Why glass is better than plastic
Glass is superior because it is:
- non-porous, meaning that it won’t transfer food smells
- keeps foods safe (without leaching any harmful material into them)
- reduces landfill waste
- saves money
- easy to clean
- plus, it looks better than plastic
Please remember, never use non-canning jars for canning purposes!
Canning jars are built to withstand both heat and pressure, other random jars can crack, even explode, when brought to high heat.
If you have vintage jars that are just too beautiful to throw away, use them as vases or decorative containers. Keep items in use that make you happy – recycle or re-gift the rest!
That being said, what do you do with all of those leftover jars that have no place to go?
21 Ways to Reuse Glass Jars
In our home, glass jars get reused on a frequent basis, since we do a lot of canning and preserving, to the tune of 150-250 jars a year.
Jam out, chutney in, some version of preserves gone on to another foodstuff, such as dried mushrooms.
We also use them for lunches on the go, as simple vases, or an impromptu drinking vessel for herbal teas. Anything goes.
Surely we can be more creative than that?!
Read on to discover more ideas on how to reuse your glass jars, to inspire you further.
Reusing glass jars for food
Glass is a natural, eco-friendly option for storing food, whether it be for wet or dry goods.
If edges become chipped or cracked on your glass jars, use your best judgement in repurposing them for storing food (not for canning!), you can always lend another lifetime to them around the home in a myriad of ways!
1. Fermented foods
A fermentation crock is always a useful object in the kitchen, particularly if you are fermenting veggies on a regular basis.
However, if you are simply looking to make an occasional jar of salsa, or a smaller batch of sauerkraut, any clean old jar will do. To keep the ferment happily under the water, just add a smaller glass cup as a weight on top (one that fits inside the jar opening).
Find the best ever salsa recipe here:
2. Sourdough starter
A traditional sourdough starter can be made in any ceramic bowl, though it can also be stored in a Mason jar with a loose-fitting lid.
Plus, it looks beautiful, slowly bubbling away on the countertop, freeing up all those extra bowls for mixing cakes and serving salads.
Learn how to make a sourdough starter from wild yeast here.
Instead of buying spice jars outright, why not find a jar (combined with food you love to eat) from the store. Slowly eat your way through jar after jar of it and collect them as you go.
You can also keep refilling your existing spice jars from the bulk section of the grocery store, or grab a new homestead skill and learn to make your own spices.
Here is a garlicky spice to start: How to Make Your Own Garlic Powder
4. Dried herbs
As we forage and dry our wild findings throughout spring, summer and fall, we know that storing them properly is essential.
They must remain dry throughout the winter months, to be of use in herbal teas when they are needed. One way to store them, is in breathable, natural fiber bags, the more elegant option however is glass jars with labels.
If you have open shelving, a full shelf of herbal home remedies is a wonder to behold – everyone can admire your homestead and foraging skills from afar. Especially when those jars harmonize among one another too.
5. Bulk goods
Pulses, honey, coconut flour, nuts; anything goes.
Naturally, you will have to be careful when the jars are full and heavy, but the thought and act of helping the environment is definitely worth the extra effort.
If you are lucky enough to have a store with refillable options near you, take advantage of it – and don’t forget to bring along your own jars for refilling!
6. Storing lard and tallow
Your grandparents may have had an enamel pot for bacon drippings and leftover grease, but if you are about to render your own lard or tallow, you may take pleasure to see what is inside.
Make sure the jars you use are of canning quality, because it is best to pour the hot fat into the jars. They will then seal on their own, leaving you with all the pork rinds you can eat right now.
Have you acquired this essential homestead skill? Learn how to render lard on the stove right now.
7. For leftovers
Extra jars are perfect for storing leftovers, especially when you are prone to meal planning, cooking up a storm and working ahead.
Ditch the toxic plastic containers and reuse the glass jars that you already have. The lids fit tighter than on plastic and are less susceptible to leaking, we even take lunch in glass jars for hiking trips.
8. Freezing soups and broths
Batch cooking often happens on a homestead, or where a backyard garden is flourishing. What to do with all that extra chicken broth or chili? Freeze it.
And make sure to reuse glass jars as a sustainable plastic-free alternative.
Afraid your jars will crack? Read more to find out what kind of jars are suitable for freezing, and heat to thaw the contents too:
How to Freeze Food in Glass Jars Without Plastic @ Smarticular
9. Salad dressing shaker
Forget the bowl and the whisk! Just add all the ingredients of your homemade vinaigrette to a jar and shake. It can’t get any easier than that.
That being said, nothing beats a Mason jar salad for lunch on the go.
10. Gift jar with cookie/cake mixes
When reusing glass jars, take the time to think about more than just yourself.
How can you use them as gifts for the ones you love, and create an item of value at the same time?
Cookie and cake mixes are two delicious ways to keep breathing life into those jars, try these recipes to find out for yourself, just how much fun giving can be:
Gluten-Free Cookies in a Jar (Paleo, Vegan) @ Detoxinista
Gift in a Jar: Fudgy Snack Cake @ MidwestLiving
Uses for glass jars around the home
The reuse of glass jars extends beyond the kitchen to include all living areas, plus the garage.
Test your DIY skills and see how many different spaces you can fit them into. Perhaps you can come up with a few creative ideas of your own!
11. Glass jar luminary
No matter what time of year, lighting up the night has become a passion of humankind. From candles to luminaries, for outdoors or in, brightening up the evening is as warming as it is beautiful.
There are oh, so many ways to create a glass jar luminary, we’ll let you search for yourself and browse through the hundreds and thousands of options till you find the right one that catches your eye.
Everyone loves the flickering flame of a beeswax candle to relax by at the end of a hard-working day. And while hand-dipped beeswax candles are easy to make, candles in glass jars are even easier.
Heat up the wax, add some essential oils and pour gently into a glass jar.
For more detailed instructions, learn how to make beeswax candles in jars here.
For anyone with a green thumb, terrariums are definitely something to experiment with.
And you can make them in any size or shape jar (even a fish bowl!), so if you have a jar that just doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest, start a little garden in it, put a smile on your face and just be happy!
14. DIY Cosmetics
In the spirit of living sustainably, sooner or later you will come to the conclusion that chemicals are out, and DIY cosmetics are for you.
With all natural ingredients and essential oils that you love, you can create anything you like – and that likes you back.
Reuse your old cosmetic containers by refilling them with something new, or dive even deeper and find 10 more ways to repurpose cosmetic containers that you’ve never even thought of.
15. Soap dispenser
Adding a pump to your old Mason jars takes a bit of work, though it is a clever way to upcycle.
Make your own by following the steps here:
Easy DIY Mason Jar Soap Pumps @ The Gracious Wife
16. Sewing kit + button holder
Tired of losing your marbles, or your buttons? Put them in a jar, add a lid and forget about it. At least you’ll know where to find them when you need to make repairs to your favorite clothing
That being said, go ahead and add some spools of thread, sewing needles and a small pair of scissors. You will be surprised how much goodness can fit into a glass jar.
17. First aid kit
In Girl Scouts I carried a first aid kit with me at all times in a reused, waterproof film container. It had a few band-aids, a needle for pulling out slivers, and some ointment for cleaning wounds.
Now, upsize that canister and store everything in a glass jar, making sure that you have everything you could possibly need for a minor injury. Be prepared for anything!
18. Storage for garden seeds
Not to confuse your popcorn for planting with popcorn for popping, be sure to store your garden seeds in a different cabinet than where your food resides.
Glass jars are wonderful for seeing what seeds are inside, plus, you can just pop a little paper label in with the seeds, so you know exactly what you have – and how much of it for the next planting season.
19. For plant cuttings
You know those small jars that look cute, but are too small for storing food, only it is so difficult to throw them away?
Put them to good use by taking plant cuttings of mint, Philodendron, Begonia, Christmas cactus and so on. It is fun, rewarding, and a beautiful way to fill your home with green plants.
Learn How to: Propagate Plants in Water @ Natural Living Ideas
20. Container for nuts and bolts
Dad did this, Grandpa too, and for good reasons. Jars just work great for storage.
Unlike with plastic, you can readily and clearly see what is inside. And when the lids are fixed to a horizontal surface, you can just screw the jars off, with the contents inside, and grab what you need – if only a screw or two.
21. Match holder
Want to start a fire in style? Just pull out your glass jar match holder at the next campfire and offer a light!
It is guaranteed to strike up a conversation about a zero-waste lifestyle.
Find out how to do it here:
DIY Mason Jar Match Holder @ 17 Apart
Decorating glass jars
If you would prefer to embellish your plain glass jars (rather than leave them “as is“), there are a few things you can do to make them your own.
For starters, give them a good wash by soaking them in hot soapy water to remove the label. Some labels wash off easily, others are a bit more stubborn.
The more resistant labels may take some scraping with the back of a knife, or with the aid of steel wool, to remove them.
You can then wrap them with twine or yarn for a rustic look.
Glass jars can be painted inside – or out! Just be mindful about what you put in them once they are painted, stay clear away from food storage.
Perhaps even more beautiful is when they are etched with your very own design!
Learn How to Etch Glass Bottles here.
You could also add stylish chalk labels to your Mason jars, so that you never confuse sugar for salt again!
I’ve been served a teaspoon of salt in my coffee before, to go alongside a nice slice of cake – don’t be that host!
Inspired to reuse all those unused glass jars yet?
Grab a reason to save the Earth, beautify your home and get creative at the same time – start reusing your glass jars, beginning today!