While some people might consider themselves a “cat” or “dog” person, I am quite literally a “jar-lady.” I love a scrappy rescue in need of some tough scrubs. Finding a new life for a glass jar is a simple, small ritual that contributes to a low impact lifestyle and makes me feel less self conscious about the number of pickles I eat. I want to take this post to help you feel better about an imperfect set of storage containers and encourage you to start your own collection of sustainable storage. I hope you’re as excited as I am to repurpose your glass jars!
I’m working towards a beautiful organic rainbow of pantry essentials. Would it make more sense to putting savings toward a Roth IRA? Maybe, but I’ve got jars people! Jars! Purchasing a brand new set of wide mouth jars to replace every other storage option you have in your home is unfortunately a bit of an investment so in the meantime, as you save up or take time to source new-to-you finds, it’s important to make the most of the containers you have on hand. You can still have a beautiful collection of eclectic containers, matched through thoughtful labels and neatly organized. It’s something that becomes truly your own.
Glass is definitely my preferred storage material for food (it doesn’t hold smell, is easy to clean, and doesn’t leech any chemicals) but there are still a few plastic containers that continue to make their way in and out of the fridge as I repurpose them. If your grocery shopping is limited, and you can only find Vitality Trail Mix! in a plastic container, keep that empty container in rotation for secret snacks or freezer items. I try to get as much use out of unavoidable plastics before I recycle them. Any clean container with a (reasonably) tight fitting lid can store your bounty of bulk items for the short-term. Long-term we keep an eye peeled for hot finds at the Goodwill.
How to Start Your Storage Collection
One day you and I both will have an awesome pantry filled with cool jars of all shapes and sizes because we dream big friend. We can slowly rotate out old tupperware together, used within an inch of its life and replace it with our hard won finds. Be patient in growing this storage collection and be proud of your commitment to a low impact lifestyle.Making the most of what you have first and investing in storage items with longevity will connect you to the life of your materials.
Getting started (listening to your inner jar obsession):
- Opt for glass containers over plastic when purchasing grocery items (if bulk is not an option) and hold onto those jars! My favorite are coconut oil jars – easy to clean, labeless lid, and no lingering smell.
- Thrift stores! Oh man thrift stores have the best jars that are often in great shape. Look for cracks or chips that might grow and check for mysterious food stains.
- Ask your friends, tell your neighbors, mention to your local restaurant hang that you’re taking unwanted jars. If your suggestions of repurposing fall flat there’s a good chance these folks will set jars aside for you instead.
- Yard or estate sales. These might not always be put out but chances are there’s a few floating around worth asking about.
- Remove labels properly for long-term use. My tried and true method involve soaking the jar / label in warm water for a night or two, rolling the label off, and using a compostable scrubber for any remaining pieces. A capful of white vinegar in the soaking bowl will help with tougher label jobs.
- Remove the smell from your lids! Unfortunately not everyone loves an aromatic pickle jar and washing / soaking don’t always seem to do the trick. The best approach to pulling that smell out in my experience is leaving your stank jar lids smell-side up outside in the sun for a day or two and following up with a scrubby wash.
- Sterilize your jars and lids in boiling water with a bit of vinegar if you’re getting them from anywhere questionable.
- Use beautiful labels that highlight the ingredients and create consistency between irregular containers.
- Showcase your finds! Get organized. Your jars will shine if you believe in them.
Unfortunately some plastics in your life are unavoidable. If you don’t have the income to invest, time to dedicate, or accessible resources to find sustainable storage options, you make do. But building a quality storage set over time will help you keep your food fresher longer and invest in sustainable materials. How else do you plan to store your homemade tahini? A low impact practice is well worth the time and effort.
Do you keep your pickle jars? If not can I have ‘em?
Let me know what containers you’re using! #closedloopcooking