Positively jarring experiences

Once upon a time, I decided it’d be cool to learn how to make a gigantic flat of luscious tomatoey goodness last a long long time. I would purchase San Marzanos from my friends at Mariquita Farm and turn them into sauce that I would stow in the freezer for the winter months. Freezing was great, but longevity was limited.

I’d always wanted to try my hand at canning, but the risk of accidentally creating a lethal stockpile of botulism kept any attempts at bay. I wanted professional guidance and in 2009, I stumbled upon classes offered by a the folks of Happy Girl Kitchen Co., a local independent producer of yummy things in jars. (Trust me, try the okra sometime!)

I signed up without hesitation and took a class…

tomatoes!chopping tomatoes

tomatoes and basil ready for canningjars of tomatoes in the canning pots

I was inspired and excited with my new stash of know-how and got my partner and a couple of friends fired up. Next thing I know, we had an all day marathon canning 60 pounds of tomatoes. Oh, yes, we canned! The one thing I neglected to give much thought to was the fact that as we consumed our sauces, we’d soon have a small army of Ball jars awaiting their next deployment.

For close to 18 years, I have been storing rices, flours, beans, grains, salts and dried foods in a wide array of glass jars – repurposed pasta sauce and pickle jars, as well as co-op bought Ball, Quattro Stagioni, and wire bail varieties. With the new surplus on hand and no new dry goods to house, I took on a personal challenge of finding new ways to use them.

Slowly but surely, I began defying my own sense of “normal” by storing leftover  soups and salads (yes, even the leafy variety!) and pasta and sauce and you name it in the surplus Ball jars. What a delight to have the jars tidily lined up in the fridge and to be able to see what was in each of them! Gone was the need to guess what was in the translucent plastic containers. In fact, I now had an excuse to start putting plastic storage containers into quiet retirement. I test drove jars of coffee, flax seed, and Parmesan cheese in jars the freezer. Soups and sauces were next.

Me and my partner are hooked on the merits and joys of glass jars.


The uses and benefits of glass jars are numerous: they are easy, economical, reusable, and healthful.

  • A transition to glass is a huge step toward making a simple earth-friendly change in your life.
  • Glass containers get recycled* domestically – even locally! Glass collected by municipalities in the San Francisco Bay Area goes to the Strategic Materials facility in the East Bay, thereby keeping jobs and money in the local economy. Bottles do not have to hop onto cargo ships to sail to far and exotic locales which most of us will never visit.
  • Glass is non-toxic and will not leach hormone-disrupting chemicals into your food.
  • When it comes to canning jars that come in a wide array of sizes, lids are pretty much one size fits all. This saves you time spent playing the kitchen classic “match the lid to the container” game. Oh joy!

assorted Ball jarsaerial view of jars with lids

  • It is easy to replace a lid if one goes missing.
  • Food stays fresher longer when stored in glass.
  • Glass containers are more easily and thoroughly washed than their plastic counterparts.
  • Glass jars will not melt in the dishwasher.


jars and jars of foodstuffs
Front row (l. to r.): dried shiitake mushrooms, cooked noodles, chili oil (I brought this jar to one of my favorite restaurants that makes their own and asked for some to go; the waiter obliged!), polenta, dried beans. Back row (l. to r.): leftover risotto, quinoa, peanuts
  • Reuse a jar when you purchase bulk liquid and goopy foods such as peanut butter, syrup, olives, tahini, etc.
  • Store bulk dry goods such as beans, nuts, seeds (flax, sesame), sugar, loose tea, etc.
  • Pack a jar-friendly lunch and bring it to work or school. Finally, a leak-proof soup transporter!
  • Bring a jar for packing up possible leftovers when dining out. Small jars are just the right size for many kinds of food items. As a bonus, others may see your actions and be inspired!
  • Use a jar as a collection receptacle for small recyclable items like batteries, corks, and blue tubes (homeopathic remedy containers).
  • Glass provides is a neutral (odor-free) environment for storing tubes of homeopathic remedies.
  • Collect loose change in a jar, and when it’s full, bring it to the bank to be cashed in.
  • Safely store useful random items such as nails and screws. Safely store useless random items, too!
  • Fill the jar with favorites from your rock or shell collection, invert, and voila! a homemade paperweight.

when filled with rocks, a ball jar can be a beautiful paperweighthomeopathy "blue tubes" in a jar


What are you going to do with your jars?

*A fascinating aside I learned while researching local glass recycling: Glass Pyrex dishes CANNOT be recycled. This goes for windows, mirrors, and car windshields, too. These glasses are smelted several hundred degrees higher than bottle and jars. Therefore, they must be put in the trash.

9 thoughts on “Positively jarring experiences

  1. What a strong and convincing case for using glass jars. I knew that glass jars were cool and fun, but having it spelled out like this really brings it all home. I don’t see how anyone could go back to using plastic tupperware after reading this, at least for the vast majority of daily uses.

    1. Evelyn, I LOVE blue glass. These are beautiful. My favorite jars are some Atlas EZ Seal jars that I found at an estate sale over 25 years ago. They have a place of honor in the bathroom as receptacles for storing organic cotton pads and q-tips.

  2. Nice article, D – great idea, plan to use them more often now, hadn’t even thought of many of the uses you brought up!

    Gotta ask, though – have the waiters stopped looking at you funny when you whip out the glass doggie jar?

    1. Ali, I always get funny looks! Seriously, though, until bringing your own for leftovers becomes more of a norm like bringing your own to-go mug at a local coffee/tea establishment, strange looks will continue. I can take it. In fact, I rather enjoy being a little left of center.

  3. Great ideas! didn’t realize Pyrex wasn’t recyclable and I’ve been buying those to get away from plastics. Thanks for the inspiration…I’m going to share this on my facebook page. :)

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