14 Inspired Ways to Reuse Mason Jars

by Megan McCoy Dellecese · 2 comments

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14 Inspired Ways to Reuse Mason JarsMason jars, also known as canning or Ball jars, are a hip trend for several reasons. They’re rustic yet chic. They come in a variety of sizes and styles. They’re super versatile. And, best of all, they’re made of glass (ie BPA-free) and recyclable, making them eco-friendly. You can go even greener by reusing any glass jar from products like tomato sauce or pickles by washing and scraping off the labels.

There are countless uses for jars, but here are just a few ideas to get you looking at this humble kitchen staple in a new light.

Canning

Home canning is the most obvious use for these popular jars, but also go hand-in-hand with a green, simplified lifestyle. Even the smallest of gardens can produce an excess of produce. By using some BPA-free lids and a little bit of research, you can safely “put up” this surplus for a later date. A pressure canner is a small investment that can really pay off!

Salad Dressing Container

You can use whatever your favorite dressing recipe might be or just throw in some oil, vinegar, a squirt of dijon mustard and seasoning, and you’ve got the perfectly shakeable container to douse your greens.

14 Inspired Ways to Reuse Mason Jars

Lunch Packing

If you’re trying to cut back on your use of plastic bags and containers, try checking out the various sizes of mason jars to fit your lunch packing needs. A larger size can contain a salad in a jar (with the dressing on the bottom – just shake before serving) or even leftover soup or casserole (just take off the metal lid before microwaving).

DIY Yogurt Cups

Pint jars are the perfect size to carry your own to-go yogurt. Control the ingredients further by tossing in some frozen organic berries in the bottom, some (optional) honey or maple syrup, and topping it with plain yogurt (either homemade or from a large, cheaper container of organic yogurt). The berries will thaw by your mid-morning snack or lunchtime. Make a kid-friendly version with smaller 4 oz. jars.

Dips

If you love to dip your veggies into hummus or dressings but can’t figure out a practical way to transport the dips to work, fear not. Small canning jars are perfectly sized and sealed to keep liquid in. You can also put the dip in the bottom of a pint jar and place the sliced vegetables vertically on top.

Hip Gifts

Consider packaging gifts using a mason jar and some twine or ribbon. Or, make the jar a part of the gift by layering ingredients for a soup recipe, homemade cocoa mix, and more. If you want to get really creative, mason jars pair beautifully with Edison light bulbs to create breathtaking lights! The sky really is the limit.

Baby Food

Again, the small mason jars can be handy for so many things! Cook and puree your baby’s fruit or veggies and portion into small sizes. Most can even be frozen, so this can easily be done in advance, defrosted in the fridge, and carried along to wherever baby is headed for the day.

On-the-Go Snacks

It can be so tempting to grab unhealthy snacks when you’re out and about but by tossing some raisins, granola, trail mix, or nuts into a small mason jar, you won’t be empty-handed.

Super Simple Bank

Jars are perfect for tossing those wayward coins. Feel free to label them so that you have a focus as to where those coins will end up, be it a vacation fund, shopping trip, or an emergency fund.

14 Inspired Ways to Reuse Mason Jars

Flower “Vase”

You may have seen this done at a wedding recently, but why not give it a go at your own house? The next time you’re searching for a vase for a handful of posies, give a large mason jar (or various sizes in a grouping for variety) a try. You may have a new favorite flower arrangement.

Coconut Oil Container

Whether you use coconut oil to condition your hair, to moisturize, or for its thousand other uses, it’s a bit of a pain in the neck to go back to the one container every time you need to use some (and pretty expensive to buy several containers for all over the house). Divvy it up among small jars and find how much easier it can be. This also makes it easier for mixing essential oils.

Decorating

Vases are just the beginning! Turn to a mason jar when you need a candleholder, or to fill with interesting fillers like acorns for autumn, festive ornaments for the holidays, pine cones and cinnamon sticks for winter, or eggs and twine in springtime.

Collecting

It seems that children (especially those who enjoy plenty of time outside) are always collecting a variety of random items that become cherished treasures, not to be tossed back outside. As long as none of these items are living, use a mason jar to store these treasures; even label the top with a marker for a keepsake: “Brady’s Hike, June 7, 2015.” Speaking of keepsakes, try this as an adult! Display jars from different trips, collecting mementos like ticket stubs, keys, sand, rocks, shells – whatever will remind you of how you spent a special time with loved ones.

14 Inspired Ways to Reuse Mason Jars

Drinking Cup

Serving drinks, whether at a party or just to yourself, in a mason jar doesn’t look like a shabby, cheap faux pas these days. Although, if you do mix up a “signature” cocktail (or mocktail), that won’t hurt to up the cool factor, either.

14 Inspired Ways to Reuse Mason Jars

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Home Canning: How to Preserve Your Own FoodGrowing up, I recall eating home canned foods — real food that my grandmother grew and that my mother helped harvest. Food that came from the ground I played in, the fields I ran in, and the land that I may have found a few unfortunate-for-them pets in.

When I became an adult, with my own children and my own garden, I decided that I wanted to learn to preserve my own foods as well. Some foods simply taste better canned and it requires a whole lot less energy than freezing, not to mention there is not risk of becoming freezer burnt.

While I don’t preserve as much as I once did, I do hope to again soon-ish… when our home renovations are over. When learning to can, the women in my family were a wealth of information. I hope that some of what I share here will be of help to you, too.

Types of Canning

Pressure Canning

This is the type of canning that often intimidates people. Pressure canning is easy (I promise) but it does take a bit of time. Pressure canning is great for a wide variety of foods.

Hot Water Bath Canning

This type of canning is typically used in canning jams and jellies. It’s very easy to do and a special canner is not required.

Please note that many older people (and those who learned from them) are accustomed to using a hot water bath tomatoes, but it is now known that pressure canning is ideal for tomatoes due to the lower acidity of many modern day tomatoes. If you want to water bath safely, you will need to raise the acidity by adding lemon juice or citric acid.

You can find more information about that at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

What You’ll Need

If you plan to pressure cook you will need a pressure canner. I use a Presto and my grandmother loves her Mirro.
If you plan to water bath process your canned goods, you will need a large stockpot with lid – you’ll need a pot at least 2.5-3 inches taller than the jars that you plan to use inside of it.

You’ll also need:

Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving— If you want to preserve it, the Ball Blue Book can tell you how. It looks a bit like a thick magazine and costs around $10-15. It is worth every penny. Please note that this book comes in several editions with various covers. It does not matter which copy you get. They all cover the same basic information that you need.

Jars — Jars come in a variety of styles from half pint to half gallon, wide mouth and regular.

Be sure to only use jars that are specifically meant for canning. If you plan to reuse jars, be sure to inspect them for cracks, nicks and scratches — these can be hazardous if used for canning.

Lids — You will need a new lid every time you prepare a jar. Canning lids cannot be used again to seal food but they are great for other things so I do recommend keeping some around when you are done (assuming they are in good condition).

Rims — You will also need a rim for every jar. Rims can be reused, provided they are free from grime and rust, and are not misshapen.

Jar Lifter — These will be used to lift jars into and from the hot water

Tongs and/or Magnetic Lid Lifter — These will be used to pull lids from their hot water bath

Bubble Popper/Measurer — This simple device is usually plastic – never metal – and can also be the end of a wooden spoon 😉 It helps measure headspace and remove air bubbles from your jar.

Funnel — A wide mouth jar funnel will help you get your food where you want it to go.

You can generally pick up most, or all, of these canning supplies in a kit for $10-25 depending on the brand and what is included in the kit.

Washing & Sterilizing

Before anything else is done, you will want to wash all of your components. I like to use the dishwasher for my jars and rings. Lids can be washed and placed in a small pot of simmering (not boiling) water.

Canner Preparation

Depending on the method you are using (pressure or bath) you will want to get water boiling in preparation. Use the fill line on your canner. If you are using a pot – fill it about half way.

If you are using a pressure canner you will also want to check that your seals look good and that you can see through the pressure release hole in the top of your lid. If you cannot see light through the pressure hole in your lid, you will need to clean it before proceeding.

Food Preparation & Packing

Depending on the food to be canned, you will need to prep it. Chop, blanch, etc. and then fill your jars. Some items will need boiling water added. I find having a hot kettle ready to be very helpful. Be sure to check your Ball Blue Book for directions on the food you plan to preserve.

Fill your jars, leaving head space at the top of the ar (this will be in the directions for the food you are canning). Next you will removed any air bubbles from the jar by poking around with your bubble popper/measurer – anything non metallic will work. Use a damp, clean, non-linting cloth to wipe the rim and threads of the jar clean and place a clean lid on the jar and secure with a metal ring finger tight – do not over tighten.

Place the jars into your prepared hot water and process as directed in your Ball Blue Book. For a pressure canner, you will use a weight. Processing time begins when the canner is at the proper pressure (your weight will begin to rock vigorously).

Cooling & Storing

Once your jars have finished processing you will want to remove the pot or canner from the heat. Allow your canner to cool, and the weight to fully stop rocking and releasing pressure, before removing the lid. For a pressure canner, you will be able to test by gently touching the weight. It will let you know if there is still pressure inside! Never attempt to remove the lid before the pressure has been fully released.

Once you can open your canner, use your jar lifter to remove the jars from the hot water and place them on a towel on the counter. Your lids should be sealed and in a “down” position at the center of the lid. If they are not, don’t worry. You may hear them “POP” closed over the next hour or two as they cool. If any jars do not seal, you may reprocess with the next batch, or refrigerate and enjoy.

Give your sealed jars a wipe down and, once they are cool they are ready for the pantry!

Most guidelines say that food is good for approximately one year after canning. Most grandmothers will tell you that they are just fine for much, much longer — provided that the jar is still properly sealed. But you didn’t hear that from me!

Home Canning: How to Preserve Your Own Food

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Money-Saving Products That Pay for Themselves { Over & Over Again! } Going green does not have to be pricey. In fact, it should help you save money overall. Here are a few items to help you get started with a healthier home and more wiggle room in your monthly budget.

LED Light Bulbs

The average house has 45 light sockets, ranging from fixtures to lamps. Replacing just 4 standard bulbs with LEDs could save you over $100 per year. While these are a bit of an investment up front, they do pay off big and most come with warranties to ensure that you will get the most life out of them. As a bonus, they don’t contain some of the toxins found in their curly counterparts. Additionally, you can even buy affordable kits to convert recessed lighting for around $10-15 per light (which is a great long-term savings considering the price of those bulbs!) If you’re doing new construction (like we are, currently), you can find flush mount options that can be installed into a small junction box.

Programmable Thermostat

Want more bang, go for a wifi model that you can control from your smartphone. While it may seem like it’s just extra fun, the app capabilities make it easy to adjust the temperature of your home if you forgot to change it before leaving, have to stay out longer than expected, or perhaps are returning home sooner and want to be sure that the house is at a comfortable temperature when you do.

According to Energy.gov, you can lower your heating bill substantially by setting your thermostat to 68°F during wakeful hours, and setting it back a few degrees while you’re asleep – or while you’re away at work. In the summer months, you can follow similar rules by setting the A/C to 78°F during the hours that you are home, and higher when you are away for any measurable time. You prefer different setting, but even a degree can make a noticeable difference in your bill.

Low Flow Shower Head

Reducing water flow is a great way to save water and save money. A quality low-flow shower head can help reduce water usage by as much as 40%. Look to quality brands with good reviews to find a model that will give you the low-flow you want without sacrificing water pressure!

Glass Food Storage

Not only are plastic baggies costly, but they are also incredibly wasteful and can leech toxins into the foods they hold. Investing in inexpensive glass storage (like Pyrex or Anchor) can save you a bundle in the long term — for your budget and your health. An assortment of containers from tiny to huge will cover all of your bases and you’ll wonder why you didn’t do this sooner!

Cloth Napkins, Rags, & “Un”Paper Towels

Paper towels are so freaking expensive, and why? They don’t even work all that well. They generally provide little to no ‘nap’ and without some generous hand cupping they tend to just push debris around. A stack of cheap washcloths from a big box store can run you about $5 and last for years – as a bonus – the cheaper, the better! Cheap washcloths that become pilly make for a better surface area for cleaning, so go cheap and score big for this tip.

Vinegar

Okay, so maybe this item isn’t like the others, but a single bottle of “natural” cleaner can cost as much as $5 — buy a gallon of vinegar and you can whip up cleaning supplies for months! If you’re not use to cleaning with vinegar the fragrance can be a bit overwhelming at first. Adding some citrus essential oil can help (pine and cinnamon are nice as well). Soon after cleaning the smell will disappear and you’ll be left with clean surfaces — not residues. Vinegar is also great to use as fabric softener, the rinse aid in dishwashers, drain cleaner, and more.

Reusable Hygiene Products

There are expensive organic and natural hygiene products aplenty, but you don’t have to choose the most spendy products on the market to have quality products that are safe. There are so many options but a few that come to my mind are using refillable products (like hand soaps, laundry detergent, dish soap, etc.) and reusable menstrual products (like menstrual cups and cloth pads). These options can help you live with less toxins and save a whole lot of money.

Money-Saving Products That Pay for Themselves { Over & Over Again! }

Photography by Keyte Terry

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Spring is here-ish and I am excited to get back on the composting bandwagon. Ever since we moved it’s been a struggle with so much going on (have you seen our home renovation in progress?). To help get me back into the swing of things I’m sharing the basics along with some tips to get started.

Why Bother Composting?

Composting is a wonderfully simple way to reduce household waste while adding valuable nutrients to your lawn, gardens, or even potted plants. Compost can come from a variety of sources and is often a mixture of organic materials from your lawn, garden, and your kitchen.

Best of all, it’s basically free. Sure you can splurge for a nice commercially available composter, but that’s not a requirement. Some people (with space to spare) choose to simply use a pile, and that works too.

Prep Work

First you’ll need to decide what method will work best for you. If you have the space for a pile, get to piling! However, if you’re like most of us you don’t have the space or desire for an open compost pile. You’ll need to purchase a composter.

Composters come in a few forms but most take up approximately 2-2.5 square feet. We had two Soilsaver bins at our last home and recently purchased one for our new home. They have a small footprint, are easy to put together, and sturdy. One compost bin is more than our family of 5 can fill in a year (and that includes adding a good bit of yard waste).

If Space is an Issue

Or if you simply want faster results, consider investing in an indoor composter. In general, composting appliances heat food scraps, mixes, and oxygenates them to help break down food quickly before odors have a chance to develop. Depending on the model, you can expect up to 1.5 gallons or ready-to-use compost every two weeks.

A less expensive indoor option is worm composting. It requires less time than outdoor bins, but there are a few extra rules as to what can be composted. You can learn more about his option from this great article on vermicomposting.

Getting Started

Thankfully, composting is pretty straightforward but these tips should cover the basics. Use your discretion and do as much, or as little, as you are comfortable with.

Have a Handy Quick-Reference List

This printable list is a great guide for what to put in your composter and what to avoid when you are just starting.

Avoid Meat & Dairy

It’s often a good idea to avoid meats and limit dairy, as they develop a strong odor and can attract pests. If you happen to have an electric indoor composter you can be much more flexible (see above).

Add Yard Waste

Adding yard waste is a great way to add both green and brown (dry) items to your compost. Be sure to keep your compost’s purpose in mind. If you plan to use your compost in a garden you’ll want to shy away from adding weeds – especially those that may have gone to seed.

Turn Your Compost

If you are using a traditional composter you will want to “turn” your compost from time to time. This can be optional, but your compost will decompose much faster. During warm months, we like to turn our compost about once a month with a shovel or pitch fork. Turning can also be accomplished by purchasing a ‘rotating composter’ or ‘compost tumbler’. Keep in mind that compost weight can add up, making such devices harder to turn.

Keep Your Bin Close, But Not Too Close

We like to keep our bin about 20-30 feet from our back door. It’s close enough to be convenient, but not so close that we have to worry about lingering odors or kids going out of sight for too long (this is a great chore for kids!). This is, of course, personal preference but something to consider.

Composting can make a big impact on the amount of waste that leaves your home. In addition to feeling better about reducing your carbon footprint, you can use the compost to grow healthier gardens, flowers, and lawns.

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