Give New Life To Empty Glass Jars

by Frugal Babe on January 16, 2012

Several years ago, I got rid of nearly all of my plastic food storage containers.  I have several pyrex dishes with lids and lidded casserole dishes that I use to store large quantities of leftovers.  But most of the time, I use empty glass jars. 

My freezer is full of repurposed glass jars holding things like flax seeds, chia seeds, and hemp protein.  I order stuff like that online in bulk and it comes in big plastic bags that can be a bit unwieldy.  So when it arrives, I dump the bags into several jars and stash them in the freezer.  Much easier to dump chia seeds out of a one-quart jar than a five pound bag. 

My fridge is also full of glass jars.  I buy nuts and seeds from the bulk section of our grocery store, and store them in the fridge in glass jars.  When I make salad dressings and smoothies and soups, they get stored in glass jars (if they make it as far as the leftover stage!).

I use empty glass jars to store stuff in my pantry too. 

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Remove the labels, wash out the jars, and glue on new labels.  Easy and free and much better for keeping track of everything than it would be if I kept them in the bulk bags from the store. 

Jars are also a great way to shake up protein supplements or any other powdered drinks.  I mix things like powdered greens, probiotics, spirulina, protein, etc. with water every day.  I use my blender for smoothies, but when the ingredients are powdered, shaking everything together in a jar is a quick and easy solution.  Much faster and more effective than stirring them in a glass with a fork (always ends up chunky.  Spirulina chunks?  Yuck.) and less expensive than one of those purpose-made “shaker jars” that some of the protein powder companies sell.

Another way I love to use empty glass jars is for giving edible gifts.  I enjoy cooking and baking, and food is always a welcome gift.  I don’t ever want to give people food in containers that they feel they need to return.  And I don’t like the idea of buying disposable food storage containers just for the purpose of giving food to someone – seems like a waste of money and resources.  So instead, I save the nicest of my empty glass jars for this purpose.  Large, wide mouth jars make great containers for soup.  Smaller jars – especially if they have interesting shapes – look great filled with bite size cookies (or dough balls!) or spiced nuts.  Fill jars with layered ingredients for “soup in a jar” or “cookies in a jar”.  Use your imagination!  spruce them up with some pretty fabric glued to the lid.  Tie a ribbon around the top with the recipe attached.

One caveat.  Please don’t use this as an excuse to have 100 empty jars cluttering up your shelves!  I have a lot of jars in use in my pantry, freezer and fridge.  But that means I don’t really need any more.  I save the nicest ones these days to use for food gifts, but I make liberal use of the recycling bin for most jars we get these days.  Save the jars you can use right now or in the immediate future.  Recycle the rest.  And enjoy your recycled, frugal, plastic-free food storage!

I know you guys have plenty of other ideas for repurposing glass jars around the house.  Please share!

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Wendy January 16, 2012 at 11:45 am

Any tips for removing the labels (and glue) from jars easily? I would rather not use Goo Gone, but haven’t found anything else that works. I’ve tried baking soda, vinegar, oil, and dish soap. I don’t run them through the dishwasher until the glue is removed because that can damage the dishwasher. What do you use to remove the labels and glue?

Frugal Babe January 16, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Have you tried rubbing alcohol?  It depends on the kind of glue the manufacturer uses.  Sometimes I’ve had jars where the labels were so hard to remove that I just gave up and recycled them.  I don’t want to use goo gone either.  Sometimes soaking a jar in a pot of water for a few hours does the trick, and the label and adhesive come right off, either with a rag or with a bit of scraping.  When they don’t, I often find that rubbing alcohol works.  

Madeleine @NZ Ecochick January 16, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Fantastic post. I love glass jars and use them for pretty much everything. I also save the nicest ones for gifts and the use in the home. You’re right though you can get overwhelmed and save too many (my husband would say I’m already at that stage!). 
Re the goo problem use peanut butter check out my post on getting rid of goo: http://www.nzecochick.com/2011/11/easily-remove-sticky-label-goo.html
Works a treat every time. 

Jenny January 16, 2012 at 3:49 pm

I have an old baby food jar (the small sized one) and lid that I keep in my utensil drawer.  I use it for shaking up water with cornstarch or flour for thickening sauces or making quick gravies.

Sense January 16, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Neat post, great way to store everything! I have never put a glass jar in the freezer–scared it would break due to the temp, I guess. I’ll have to try it! 

Also, where do you get all your glass jars from? I only get glass jars when I buy pasta sauce from the grocery store; everything else I eat comes in plastic or nonreusable containers. :/

Frugal Babe January 16, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Great tip!  I think I was saving a few too many glass jars in the past.  My husband pointed out that the over-the-door shelves in our pantry were completely full… of empty jars!  So I recycled most of them and life is much better :)

Frugal Babe January 16, 2012 at 5:04 pm

I try to buy stuff in plastic as little as possible.  The glass jars in the picture above are from sunflower seed butter (amazing stuff, if you haven’t had it), almond butter, kombucha, and a teriyaki-style sauce.  I love the jars from South River Miso, and I’m also a fan of Veganaise jars.  If you don’t get enough from your own food, you could try asking friends and family members to save some for you – I’m sure they’d be happy to help!

Glass jars work just fine in the freezer.  I’ve been using them for ages and have never had any break.  For dry goods (like chia seeds or hemp seeds) there’s no problem.  With liquids, I’m a lot more cautious.  Last fall, I roasted and froze a ton of tomatoes.  I didn’t want to freeze them in plastic bags, so I used glass jars.  I was nervous at first that they might break, but I froze about 30 jars of tomatoes and none of them broke.  Since they had some liquid in the jars when I packed them, I left about an inch at the top to give them room to expand as they froze.  It worked great.  Give it a try!

Jackie @ Crest Cottage January 16, 2012 at 6:45 pm

I love to store in my jars!  I have only frozen in pint jars so far.  Do you ever have trouble with quart size jars breaking?

Frugal Babe January 16, 2012 at 7:11 pm

I’ve never had a glass jar break in the freezer.  I use all different sizes – just depends on what I’m freezing.  I tend to prefer wide-mouth style jars for freezing stuff, since it makes it easier to get the contents out before they’re fully thawed.

Frugal Babe January 16, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Great idea!  I use a small jam jar like that too.  Definitely better than trying to stir the cornstarch in and squash out all the lumps with a fork!

Kathy January 17, 2012 at 8:16 am

Just out of curiosity, do you make money from this blog?

Frugal Babe January 17, 2012 at 9:11 am

I do make a little bit Kathy, but compared with the amount of time I put into the blog, it’s definitely a labor of love rather than a money-maker :)  I addressed that issue in more detail in this post: http://frugalbabe.com/2011/11/02/how-to-start-blogging/

Kaytee January 17, 2012 at 10:02 am

My problem is that I am always running out of jars!

Radiomomrhetoric January 17, 2012 at 11:21 am

I love using jars…I have also used nail polish remover to remove some glue.  I don’t like doing that, but if I love the jar, I will.  :)
My fav’s as of late are the Kombucha bottles…so cute!

Frugal Gal January 18, 2012 at 4:42 am

With all of the news about how bad plastic is for you, I’ve also tried to get rid of the plastic.  I found baby food jars are perfect for packing condiments in lunches.  They are inexpensive and wash well.  Thanks for all of your tips!

Camanoah January 21, 2012 at 2:17 pm

You might want to check out the Kickstarter project that are new pourable lids for mason jars.  See reCAP mason jar caps on Kickstarter, coming out soon.  They look really versatile.

Adrian January 23, 2012 at 9:46 am

To remove the labels use the hair dryer. I use goo gone to remove any left over residue.

Jayne Simmons January 25, 2012 at 10:56 pm

You can buy these little plastic (metal coloured) scrubbers at the dollar store. They look kind of like metal, but they have to be plastic, because they don’t rust at all. I’ve had mine for almost 2 years.  Soak the bottles in hot water and castile soap, and then scrub off the labels with the scrubber.

geneva couponer March 7, 2012 at 11:36 am

A little bit of butter on a label then scrub with a scrubbie gets labels and the adhesive off for me, a trick from dear FIL.
Rather than using labels on jars I write on them with a colored marker which again, comes off with a scrubbie.

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