I love the heft and old-fashioned feel of a glass jar… it reminds me of olden-day larders stocked with food that’s been “put up” from the summer. I try to choose tomatoes, jams, peanut butter, spaghetti sauces, pickles, and other packaged food in glass jars whenever possible because I also love that glass is unreactive — meaning it won’t leach chemicals into your food — and that it’s almost universally recyclable.
But really, there’s no need to recycle those jars right away when there are so many ways you can reuse them before they hit your recycling bin. Clear glass has an elegant, clean and classic look, especially if you can find effective ways to remove the label, so there are nearly unlimited ways to fill ‘em and reuse ‘em. Here are just a few of my very favorite ways to repurpose glass:
- Make a jar salad: Among the hottest pins on Pinterest are salads that are layered in mason jars, with the dressing at the bottom. The idea is that you can transport the salads, packed in a lunch or for a picnic, and when you’re ready to eat, simply turn it upside down, give it a shake, and voila: A perfectly dressed salad that’s still crisp and unwilted.
- Create a casual flower vase: Few things are more charming than a fistful of just-picked wildflowers poked into a jar of water. They’re lovely on their own, but you can also dress up a vase by painting it, or wrapping the threaded mouth with wire so it can be hung on a wall.
- Use as a candle lantern: Get out the paints or tissue paper and decorate the exterior of a glass jar with paint, decoupage, glitter or other ornamentation. Put a tea light or votive inside and admire the beautiful glow! As with the vase, you can easily turn your new candleholder into a wall sconce or a hanging lantern simply by creating a wire hanger.
- Shake up a salad dressing: A lidded glass jar can perfectly emulsify a vinaigrette. Add the ingredients (the classic proportions are 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, with a teaspoon or two of mustard and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper), put on the lid, and shake vigorously. If you don’t use it right away, store it in the jar and give it another shake to emulsify again before serving. Simply Recipes has some yummy recipes to try out.
- Contain water for painting: My kids are always wanting to paint with little pots of acrylics, or the old-fashioned palettes of watercolor cakes. I never like to use my drinking glasses for them to swish around — who knows what sort of chemicals lurk in that paint? A supply of old glass jars is just the thing, and I can always recycle them (or repurpose them with another of the uses in this list) after we’re done.
- Caddy flatware or utensils: Collect a set of three Mason jars or other same-sized-and-shaped jars, and fit them into a tray or wooden crate. They make a perfect caddy for forks, spoons and knives to set out at a party or carry outside to the picnic table. A large jar can also be used to corral utensils or other kitchen tools like offset spatulas, measuring spoons and vegetable peelers.
- Drink from it: I buy Japanese seasoning sprinkles that come in the cutest little glass shakers. When they’re empty, I cut off the metal shaker lid, soak off the label, and they’re just the right size for juice glasses. I also use them in the bathrooms for a drinking glass and a toothbrush holder. Large Mason jars can also serve as nice, festive drinking glasses, and you can even find instructions on how to punch a hole in the lids to add a straw, for a travel cup.
- Reuse for canning pickles or jellies: If you make jams, pickles, tomato sauce or other jarred, preserved foods, you can reuse the glass jars again and again for canning in subsequent seasons. Just be sure to check the jars that they’re not chipped or cracked, and do need to buy new flat lids (you can use the screw-on band as long as it’s not rusted or warped). If you don’t can, but you’ve been given a jar of jam by a friend, return the jar after you finish your homemade goodie.
- Organize a medicine cabinet or desk: Small jars, like baby-food jars or pimento jars, are ideal to organize tiny items in the bathroom or home office. In the office, they’re just the right size for paper clips, thumbtacks and rubber bands, while a taller jar can be used to hold pens and pencils. In the medicine cabinet, use appropriate-sized jars for cotton balls, cotton swabs, barrettes and hair elastics, makeup brushes and toothbrushes.