Fifteen Uses for Glass Jars

Fifteen Uses For Glass Jars

Some people collect plastic containers. I collect empty jars. Much to my husband’s amusement irritation, I have an entire cabinet in our kitchen filled with jars of different sizes. Why put them in the recycling bin when they’re sure to be useful?

When I’m planning to save a jar, I always remove the label. Most of the time a soak in hot water will do it; for stubborn glue, dribble on a little olive oil or vegetable oil and use a scrubby sponge.  After I sterilize the jars and lids in the dishwasher, here are a few ways I reuse them:

1. Make salad dressing.

Put the ingredients in a jar, screw on the lid tightly, and shake until your arms ache to emulsify the dressing. I always have a jar of mustard-and-garlic-laced French vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

2. Make pickles.

The easiest path to pickles is to reuse pickle juice by adding new vegetables (or even hard-boiled eggs if you like pickled eggs). Top the jar up with vinegar and water until the liquid reaches the top of the jar. Cure your new pickles in the refrigerator – the longer you leave them in the brine, the more pickle-like they’ll get.

3. Mix drinks.

An empty jar with a tight-fitting lid makes an excellent cocktail shaker. I’ve made many a margarita in an old jam jar.

4. Serve iced beverages.

I drink my morning iced coffee out of an old mason jar (I hear the Pioneer Woman does the same). I love the retro look, and the lid is convenient if I need to take my java to go.

5. Pack lunch.

Empty jars work perfectly in lunch boxes. Use tall, thin jars for liquids (juice, smoothies, cold soup) and short, squat jars for anything that needs a utensil (pasta salad, stew, leftovers).

6. Store utensils.

Is there anything more charming on a kitchen counter than an old jar with a bouquet of wooden spoons sticking out of the top?

7. Make butter.

Put room-temperature cream in a jar, tighten the lid, and shake until the curds separate from the whey and butter is born. Your arms will hurt, but fresh butter tastes really, really good.

8. Make refrigerator jam.

Even those of us who are too lazy for real canning can make homemade jam. Simmer ripe fruit with sugar and a few strips of lemon peel until it’s sticky and delicious. Pour it into a clean jar, put on the lid, and stick it in the refrigerator. If the jar was clean and the jam was hot, it will keep at least a month. You do have to keep the jam refrigerated if you’re not going to sterilize it in a hot-water bath.

9. Make pudding.

Mix up a simple cornstarch pudding (chocolate, vanilla, butterscotch, lemon, whatever) and pour it into small, clean jars to set. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

10. Bake a cake.

Yes, you can bake cakes, cobblers and lots of other delicious desserts right in a jar. For ideas, see the excellent blog Food in Jars.

Empty jars make perfect storage containers for rice, barley, wheat berries, quinoa and any other grains. The lids keep critters out and they look great lined up on pantry shelves. Use masking tape and a permanent marker to label your goodies.

12. Store leftovers.

Why buy plastic containers? Empty jars hold refrigerator leftovers just as well, you can actually see what’s inside, and they’re free.

13. Pack doggy bags (er, jars).

When friends come over for dinner I always offer them some of the leftovers. Everyone’s happy to take home a jar for the next day’s lunch.

14. Feed your neighbors.

When I make a big pot of soup or stew, I fill a few jars and take them across the street to our friends M & K, whose house includes two working parents, three hungry kids, and constant visitors. As a reward, M brings us soft seeded breakfast rolls every time she bakes. We’ve gone from neighbors to friends over the years and this ritual helped get us there.

15. Stay organized.

I have one jar for pencils and permanent markers (everything gets labeled before it goes into the refrigerator, freezer or pantry) and another for kitchen twine (the ball of twine stays in the jar, the end sticks over the side for easy pulling).

How do you use empty jars in your kitchen? Tell us in the comments below.

About the Author

Erika Kerekes is a food entrepreneur who blogs about food, family, friends, and dealing with diabetes at In Erika’s Kitchen.  Her Not Ketchup Paleo line of gourmet condiments are available at and on Amazon. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

A photo of Andrew Wilder leaning into the frame and smiling, hovering over mixing bowls in the kitchen.

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Hi! My name is Andrew Wilder, and I think healthy eating doesn’t have to suck. With just three simple eating rules, we'll kickstart your journey into the delicious and vibrant world of unprocessed food.

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June 18, 2019 8:54 pm

This is for the not so clumsy. Cotton pads, q-tips,floss picks and memory boards in separate jars for these items to stay dry. I keep them on counter in bathroom near sink. Thank you.

March 19, 2019 8:31 am

Freeze portion sized jars of soup!

January 22, 2019 6:00 am

I fill the jars with water and drop spider plants leaves or other cuttings in them.

This brings some green life into the house and the water reflects the pretty colors.

Vivian Miller
December 8, 2018 6:36 pm

I’m so happy I ran across this article. I am a jar saver and my daughters always tell me to get rid of them. I often make soup and since I live alone there’s always some left so put it in a jar. I make trawberry jam in the summer which I share with them and I put it in jars. A jar doesn’t take up much space in the refrigerator and you can see what’s in it. When I make gravy, I shake the liquid and flour in a jar’ no lumps.

November 27, 2018 1:05 am

Glass containers can also be utilised for storing freeze-dried items, storing powders and non-aqueous preparations.

October 10, 2018 4:17 am

I use baby food jars for storing small screws and nails in the garage. I use taller spice jars for the larger nails and screws. I attach the lids to the underside of a shelf with 2 screws to be able to screw the jars onto those lids so they are organized and not cluttering up counter space. I also use pasta sauce jars for storing dried herbs, flowers, and clays that I use in soap making. All plastic is gone from our home, so also use jars for leftovers in the fridge.

October 9, 2018 7:12 am

I’m now feeling very resourceful that I have all those empty jars under my sink. I bring jars to my salads class so that people can make their own signature salad dressing. I’ve discovered that jars are the perfect way to carry something liquid to a potluck because they don’t spill. I’m thrilled to learn new ways to use my jars. Thank you for all these fabulous ideas. It’s inspired me to think of more ways to reuse those jars.

Mandy cat
July 5, 2016 1:04 am

When my father was in the hospital and my stepmother was dragging home every night bone tired, I made up several days worth of “Mason Jar Salads” and left them in their refrigerator. There are lots of Mason jar salad recipes online. Try them; you will be surprised at how long they stay fresh and crisp. The secret is the order in which you stack the ingredients. Get that right and they taste as though they were just made when you mix them up.

August 17, 2014 1:21 am

I cleaned out a couple spaghetti jars and am using them to organize craft supplies. Specifically, organize my buttons. I have a ton and wanted to separate them out by colors. They are so pretty!

October 27, 2013 3:44 pm

I put spices in small recycled Jars, i use them for dog treats in the car (no stealing when i am out of the car) I try to use them for any use that will eliminate using something plastic 🙂