The Joy of Jars

Last week, I talked a little about some of my sustainability and simplicity efforts, but my most consistent attempt to reduce my footprint has got to be my love of reusing glass jars. Sadly, my husband (who, admittedly, does most of the dishes) does not share my love of jars and has even insisted that I curate my collection a bit in recent years. But I love a good jar, and trying to be more sustainable and low-waste has certainly reignited my desire to keep every jar I come across.

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First of all, I try to find things in glass or metal packaging where possible because the bulk of a jar can be more easily recycled than plastic. I’ve been quietly switching things over to glass packaging where possible in most areas of my life. But the other reason I love buying things in glass is because I love to save jars. Recently, our store started carrying a new brand of French custard, which is delicious (and comes in chocolate, rice, and salted caramel!), but also comes in the most adorable tiny glass jars that are the perfect size for my own homemade pots de creme. Of course, my husband, who does most of our dishes, has a slightly less glowing view of my collection of jars and made me get rid of all but the number of jars that fits one batch of custard.

Jars are so useful, though. Lately, since I’ve been trying to shop in bulk more, I’ve found even more use for my collection of jars. I throw a couple into our reusable bag each week when do the shopping. It’s simple enough to take them to customer service to get a tare weight, and then I can get nuts or pasta or beans or rice or any number of things without any wasted packaging. Our store even has bulk honey, olive oil, and vinegars available, so I can get those (the olive oil goes into a bottle) without having bottles that will need to be thrown out. And since the honey is local, it’s the most sustainable way to sweeten. I’ve been using bulk hazelnuts, bulk salt, and bulk honey (and tap water) to make a milk substitute for my morning beverage lately, without any extra waste.

But jars are also not terribly bulky, especially when I save smaller jars, like the jar I got some beans in a few years back. It’s the perfect size to carry some home-blended tea to work, or pop into the shopping bag to get a treat from the bulk bins instead of a wrapped candy or trail mix. And I even recently used one of my tiny custard jars to bring some loose-leaf decaf Earl Grey to a brunch at a friend’s house because I know my mother prefers that and my friends didn’t have any decaf tea on hand.

The one tip for life with jars that I have is this: Know that standard mason jar lids are not stainless/rust-proof. This was never an issue for years (except for the one time I tried to store vinegar in a mason jar) because we hand-washed everything, but since moving to a house with a dishwasher, we’ve realized that the lids that came with our mason jars have started to rust. So the one new jar-related purchase we’ve made is to buy stainless steel mason jar lids. The fit is a little fiddly, and they’re not appropriate for canning, but it’s nice to not have two pieces of lid when I’m trying to pack up pumped milk or bring a jar of soup to work.

What about you? I’ve started up multiple conversations recently with friends and acquaintances who share my love of jars, so I’d love to hear about your favorite jars in the comments.

The Many Uses of Milk Bottles

 

This weekend I opened my play, and one of my lovely co-actors decided to surprise all of us with bouquets delivered in stealth to the dressing rooms. He’s in just one scene, while the rest of us are on stage most of the rest of the play, so he had plenty of time to leave presents. They were lovely and mysterious (for about a day, until someone spilled the beans), but I realized on the ride home that I didn’t have any vases! But I did have some milk bottles that I have yet to return.2015/01/img_0185.jpgI kind of love my little stash of milk bottles. They’re actually cream bottles. The brand of cream I like best for scones and such comes in glass bottles from a local dairy. And there’s a $2 deposit, but lately I’ve gotten lazy about returning them. But they come in so handy. As you can see, in addition to an impromptu vase, the bottles make wonderful storage for reusable straws.

When I first got my glass straws, I realized that I would have to clean them right away, and also that I would need to have some way to dry them standing up to avoid spots. I also wanted to keep them separate from the rest of the drying dishes so that they wouldn’t be overlooked and broken accidentally. The milk bottles proved to be the perfect solution. So far (knock wood) I haven’t broken any of my original straws, and I can keep them right there in the bottle with their little brush for easy drying and access.

Boyfriend even uses a milk bottle to store spare change. It’s probably about time for us to get coin rollers and turn it in at the bank, but it’s also a great way to make sure you always have quarters on hand for parking in meter-heavy areas.

I think that $2 for such a versatile little bottle is pretty nice! If I could come up with a way to cap them, they’d also make a lovely way to store drinks or homemade beauty products, or bath salts as a gift. And I love the vaguely rustic charm of having them out as a decoration. It’s easy and casual, but still not as casual as using a plastic bottle.