Photo courtesy of Brooke Courtney Photography
My aunt lives in the tree-hugging, granola-eating, free-thinking town of Eugene, OR. She’s an excellent chef and recycler, sometimes simultaneously. She’s the reason why I’d rather make my own peanut butter than buy it at the grocery. And also why I try my hardest not to rely on the microwave, or why I’d rather eat tofu sometimes than beef.
Whenever I visit her family in Eugene, I come back inspired. While the peanut-butter-grinding and tofu-eating may peter out after a couple weeks, one thing has stuck and become a habit of mine – reusing jars and containers. So you can imagine my delight when we had dozens of mason jars leftover from our wedding. I sterilized them in hot water and repurposed them throughout the house.
**Ways to Use a Mason Jar**
Store bulk foods and leftovers. There’s just something wonderfully old-fashioned about a pantry full of different sized jars filled with nuts, flours, cereals, etc. I also like to store leftover soups in jam jars: the perfect serving size. Just don’t forget to label!
Store leftover bacon fat. Not the healthiest idea but if you’re already eating the bacon, you’re probably not a health freak anyway. Let the grease cool then pour it into a jar and store in the refrigerator. Use it in place of butter for eggs, cornbread, etc.
Store homemade nut butters. Roasted peanuts and a little bit of salt blended in the food processor for a couple minutes will yield delicious homemade peanut butter. I’ve also made almond butter the same way. Put a date on this as well and keep it in the refrigerator.
Drink out of them. Throw an Everything-But-a-Cup party and repurpose your jars as drinking vessels. Make sure you clean them well with hot water first.
Have a “backyard picnic” and serve all drinks in mismatched jars. This makes a really cute display. We used 12 oz. jars at our wedding for iced tea and lemonade.
Turn it into a candle. If you have Martha Stewart tendencies, jar candles are a fun project. You can buy everything you need at a craft store: candle wick, candle wax, and fragrance. Give them out as dorm-warming gifts.
Use it as a vase. Another trick I used at my wedding. Jars look great as vases for wildflowers and big, bushy arrangements like hydrangeas and ranunculus.
Save a little change. In my old apartment we had an apartment fund. We’d dump any extra change into a jar and use the money for party supplies and anything fun for the apartment.
Make a lamp. This is another DIY project that requires a little more time. Check out directions for making Moroccan lanterns out of glass jars on Design Sponge.
Use as a baking vessel. Shorter jars are perfect for baking pies and cakes. Prepare pie or cake as usual and bake in a hot water bath. The hot water bath is crucial otherwise the glass will crack. Check out these recipes and tips at Not Martha.
Make yogurt parfaits. The glass jars make the yogurt-fruit-granola-yogurt layers look classy. Make them the night before, store them in the refrigerator and take them with you to class the next morning. It’s the best fast food breakfast.
Pack your lunch in a jar. Crudités, chicken and tuna salad, soups, etc. will fit nicely in a glass jar. And it definitely creates less waste than using Ziploc bags.
Alexia Detweiler is a freelance food writer based in Lancaster, PA. She married her high school sweetheart in June 2011 and has been using him as a guinea pig for her cooking since.