Month Less Plastic: In Praise of Jars

Miss M the Rabbit and her hot chocolate jar

I love jars.

How much do I love jars?

A lot. Very much. Most ardently.

raspberry shrub in the making

Here’s what some of our jars were filled with over the last week:

In the fridge: Peanut butter, leftover brisket, hard-boiled eggs, homemade kimchi, raspberry and rhubarb shrub, raw milk, leftover rice, salad dressing, jam, homemade yogurt from a barter potluck, steamed turnip greens, 1/2 a cucumber, and almost everything else except for fresh greens (those are in cotton bags).

In the pantry: Spices, cocoa powder, chocolate chips, nuts, dried fruit, tea, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, cider vinegar, popcorn, honey, agave syrup, dried beans, homemade marshmallows, and more.

In the freezer: Frozen fresh berries, pesto, freezer jams, prepared pie fillings, cooked soups, tomato sauce, cooked beans, bananas getting ready to become raw vegan ice cream.

In the bathroom: Homemade zero waste toothpaste (actually a powder, but that doesn’t rhyme), bars of soap, bar of shampoo, cotton balls, and marbles (for bathtub play).

kimchi and brine fermenting in jars

Other uses:

We use jars for to-go coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and Italian sodas – We haven’t met a barista yet who isn’t happy to fill our jars instead of the standard coffee shop plastic-lined paper cup. And the screw-on lids are way more secure in the car than the hard plastic variety; no more traveling spills when we round corners or wrestle with potholes.

Jars are perfect for tadpole transport. We raised 8 for a while in an old fish tank; when they were ready to move to our friends’ larger pond, two jars got them there safely.

tadpole transport jars

According to Merriam-Webster, jars are typically glass or earthenware. While I’d love some earthenware jars, all of mine are glass: Mason jars from Freeycle, the Rotary Auction dumpster, thrift stores, garage sales, and the grocery store; re-used glass jars from marinara sauce, salsa, jam, grape leaves – Any glass jar that comes with a lid is put to use after use around here.

For a couple of years, I only dabbled in jars. I scorned anything with a narrow mouth and sent those out with my recycling.  I collected vintage Mason jars from garage sales and thrift stores because I love their shapes and colors, their markings and weight. I had a section of my food container cabinet for glass, but most of the cabinet was filled with square and round plastic containers in a variety of sizes, the clear ones with the blue lids (if you live in North America, I’m guessing you know just the ones).

Then came some studies about plastics leaching chemicals into food. I stopped storing wet foods in my plastic containers, saving them for dry goods. Then came that first day at the beach with our friends who wanted to share what they’d found, all the plastic trash they couldn’t believe. I started buying Mason jars by the case, using them for dry goods, frozen foods, leftovers in the fridge, to-go coffee and tea. I started saving any jar with a matching lid; no longer did they head straight into my recycling bin. I haul them with me to the grocery store and fill them with bulk goods, wet and dry, then they go straight into their home storage spots – The same jar can be packaging, storage container, even serving piece.

I love our jars. They’re easy to clean, either by hand or in the dishwasher. I can easily see what leftovers are lurking in our fridge, or how much cocoa powder I have left. They’re quite sturdy, they feel good, and I love the way they look. And except for the bisphenol A lining the lids, they’re plastic-free. When it comes to living with less plastic, jars are incredibly useful and versatile, they’re almost plastic-free, and they make me happy. I bet they’d make you happy, too.

jars from Azure Standard

4 comments on “Month Less Plastic: In Praise of Jars

  1. I loooooove Mason jars… especially the really, really big ones. I have started using my jar collection (had to restart after some were mistakenly taken to recycling 😦 ) for leftovers (the wide mouth funnel I have for jam making works really well for this). I also have coffee beans, quinoa (I never can spell that right), chocolate chips, dried beans, dried carrots, dried onions, dried soup starter, steel cut oatmeal and the dried fruits that I put in it, and sugar cubes (inherited those from a neighbor who was moving). They are slowly taking over the house. Another neighbor has them out, all over her kitchen, on specially designed shelving, and they’re beautiful. It’s almost a work of art. Rebecca, please share a link to your pie fillings!

    • I would LOVE open shelving for my jars! For my pie fillings, I toss fresh fruit with the sweetener, spices, and thickening agent per my recipe (any non-custard fruit pie recipe should work), then cram it all into a large, wide-mouth jar. When I want a pie during the winter, I just thaw the jar in the fridge then pour it into a crust and bake it. I haven’t done this yet with berries, but I’ve frozen slices of apples and peaches this way. The sugar helps protect the fruit in the freezer, especially when it’s packed in a jar instead of an air-free plastic bag, and I add a small piece of natural waxed paper on top to further protect against freezer burn. P.S. Your quinoa spelling is just right! AND I just saw some beautiful 1/2 gallon Mason jars on sale at Ace yesterday…I think I might see if there are any left. The big ones can be hard to find, and they’re so useful!

  2. […] Jars: Given my love for jars, it’s no surprise that my entire shopping and storage system is based on them. They’re […]

  3. […] Jars: Given my love for jars, it’s no surprise that my entire shopping and storage system is based on them. They’re […]

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