Readers Story ~ Reuse/Recycle by Sanna

I’m rather proud of my “new” recycled pantry organization – i.e. mason jars, and I thought, I might share this with you.

For the last year or so I worked at collecting jars with lids of the same size, in order to be able to stack them and to make canning easier. There are two very common lid sizes in German supermarket jars and I chose the wider one of the two (also to make refilling easier).

They sell pickles, canned veggies, canned meat, jam and so on in these jars over here, so there is a variety of sizes. My collection has small jars that hold about 200ml and big ones that hold 750ml.

Downloads14As you can see I use the smaller ones for canning and for baking ingredients (raisins, nuts, almonds, etc.), while the bigger ones hold grains or flours.

I like about them that they’re pretty much “one size fits all” which means, if I have an open package of nuts, I can fill the remainders in a tightly closing jar that holds off bugs and stacks nicely in my pantry with the other jars. When there are no nuts (or whatever) in the house though, the jar goes back to its colleagues and doesn’t call for being refilled immediately. Those sweets you see in the pictures are an example of that. I will probably not replace them once they’re used up. When it’s canning season over here I might very well fill all those little jars with jam that served well as containers for seasonal spices in the christmas season. I also used them for storing the over-abundance of self-made christmas cookies last year (for the few weeks until they were all eaten), as well as for transporting food to friends or picknicks. They also do well for storing leftovers (or single egg-whites) in the fridge, as shakers for sauces (anyone else shaking their salad dressing?) and for cooking experiments like making my own joghurt or whatever.

I also occassionally cook in them (the ones with the straight sides do great for pudding).

What I really love about them though is that they all are recycled, I didn’t buy them on purpose, I just used packages of the food I bought anyway. Also, most of those glasses are made of recycled glass. And just as naturally as they came for free, they can be recycled any time. And if I transport food in them to friend’s houses I don’t have to care about getting the containers back. I can give them away just as freely as I got them in the first place.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter something you keep for another’s benefit. This often happens with grown children. For example Dad has a bunch of useful tools that he no longer uses but his three sons often come over to borrow them ~ In this case divvy them up between the sons and let them borrow from one another. If they don’t want to do that then feel free to sell them or give them to someone who does want them. Once again your home isn’t a storage unit or a free hiring service.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow


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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.

Comments

  1. Thank you for taking the effort and making a little collage out of my photos.

    Just to clarify: I took the first photo just to show the stackability, while the others show the jars in their natural habitat. (My pantry isn’t that big after all).

  2. Sometimes I purchase jam in small glass containers and they have those plaid lids. I love them and reuse them for spices that I share with my kids. Spices purchased at Costco are in huge sizes so I can share and still have them stay fresh in the jars. I love how they stack in your cupboard. I don’t do any canning but do try to keep dried goods and sugars in airtight containers. These look like the perfect size but most of the things I purchase here in the states come in cans or plastic. I’ll have to look more carefully for glass jars.

    • Hi Maggie!

      I love that you buy in bulk and share! I love when one includes others in those “domestic” tasks like shopping. I think we tend muddle for ourselves too much and don’t think about that things might be easier and better if we would share a little more. You and your kids are doing great!

      I confess that when I’ve been in the US, I’ve been there only for a few weeks and haven’t really been into pantry storage solutions, so I don’t know about how many jars are sold there. Over here we have glass recycling for a very long time (I think, glass and paper were the first things to be recycled) and obviously it costs a lot less energy (and money! Which is probably as important) to use recycled glass instead of making new glass. Maybe that’s why they are so common here. Though other things do come in cans (e.g. canned tomatoes), I think in the supermarkets there’s a jars-cans ratio of 1:1. Plastic is mainly used for fresh (fridge) or frozen prroduce and sweets over here.
      But I encourage you to go through your supermarket wiith open eyes and be a little creative with the packagings you find there. Good luck!

  3. Ideealistin :

    Yes, I shake my salad dressing. In jars. Best way, really. Unmessy and already in a lidded container to store in the fridge that is (super important!) see through. I store my pantry items in glasses just like you sanna and can’t understand I once thought tupperware would Be better. It really isn’t. my inner perfectionist is Striving for, well, perfection though and thus I am aiming at having glasses that are the same (in differnt Sizes). But it may take As Long As it takes. I have to admit that some mild hoarding of glasses has taken place but I give myself until canning Season to See how much is too much. I have Not canned before and I would Love to try it.

    • Great, another dressing shaker! 😀

      Well as long as it’s just a mild hoarding, it’s okay, I dare say.
      Have fun with canning!
      I make jam for years and have taken up canning some other things as well recently, but not in huge amounts. I don’t have a garden after all, just a very cheap market that sells boxes of vegetables and fruit for about nothing (those are leftovers from producers or supermarkets that will be thrown away if they’re not sold there), so I will e.g. buy a box of plums, can one or two litres of it and eat the rest fresh or make a cake.

  4. Hi Sanna,
    Well done your pantry looks very functional indeed. One question though, I am not a canner (or glasser) of anything, I do remember years ago friends of ours used to do their own veggies and fruits in glass jars with lids. The set was referred to as ‘Vacola’ (I think that is the spelling). Anyway they used to prepare everything and then it was canned hot. Is that how it works for everyone that cans? I think it’s brilliant although it has never occurred to me to do it full scale but I love the concept.

    Enjoy your neat, functional and visually appealing pantry. 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Hi Dizzy, my Mum used to ‘preserve’ peaches and apricots in Vacola bottles. Every January in the heat we would pick the peaches in our small orchard and Mum would peel them and place them in the jars and I think sit them in the large boiler of water on the stove . They were filled with sugary syrup and the heat sealed the jars. They were stored in a cupboard and my Dad would have peaches and ice cream for desert every night! That was for the first twenty years, then she used to stew them and freeze them in one of our large chest freezers, again Dad had his stewed peaches and icecream for desert every night for the next ten years.
      Cheers

    • That’s about how it works! 🙂 If your food is rather dry, you might need to add a little water to the glass (i.e. if you can slices or chunks, fill it up with water until about an inch below the rim of the jar, if you can sauces or other more or less liquid things you just fill in the liquid of course.
      The time you have to cook the jars depends on what you can though (things with proteins take longest, beans or meat for example, I’d rather not recommend them to beginners, plain fruit and vegetables like tomatoes, bell peppers etc. don’t take that long – soft fruits about 20-30 minutes, harder vegetables about 50 minutes. The point is that the things have to thouroughly cook inside the jar so that a) germs are killed and b) there will be a vacuum and the lid closes tightly.
      The lid will close tightly when the jars cool off again (as air takes more room when hot than when cold, so the cooler air leaves a vacuum and the lid is sucked to the jar).
      That means that already cooked food that doesn’t include meat and maybe even includes preservant like sugar or salt or vinegar (e.g. jam or chutney) can be canned by just filling it really hot into clean jars and screwing the lid on, so the vacuum will emerge as well. Tomato sauce is rather safe for that method as well. I know some experts don’t recommend it, because it’s not “correctly” canned, but it worked at everyone’s family I know and jams last for years done that way.
      Cleanliness is top priority when canning (also, the fruit shouldn’t be already rotten), but actually it’s really easy.
      If you have jars like mine, you will also be able to see if there is still a vacuum in there, because the lid will not give in, if there is and it will bounce back if you press in the middle of it if there’s no vacuum inside. So you can check your jars before opening them.

  5. Your pantry looks fabulous and what a great way to recycle jars and organise at the same time. Well done Sanna.

  6. Hi Sanna! I loved your post today regarding jars. Like all people trying to declutter, I probably have too many, but I have a love affair of sorts with jars. You explained it nicely!

    I live in the USA and although I don’t have a garden, I do sometimes can fruits and vegetables that are given to me by others.
    (to answer Dizzy, only acidic fruits and veggies can be canned using the “hot jar or hot bath” methods. All others have to be pressure canned.) I have a lot of the vintage “blue jars” and also old clear jars that my Mom used in canning as I was growing up when we had huge gardens. (I’m 60 now) I’m quite sentimental about the old jars. I also have new ones that I have had to purchase as I canned my own items. I use the wide mouth “can or freeze jars” in 3 different sizes for my drinking glasses. These are larger at the top than the bottom and easy to wash by hand, or in the dishwasher. They are already in the cabinet if I need to use one for leftovers, freezing, storage, etc. I have purchased plastic lids that are made to fit so I do not have to use the metal 2 piece lids. I also utilize discarded mayonnaise lids (after I recycle the plastic jar) that also fit the regular size. I think it is a wonderful way to simplify, as this one item in the cabinet as drinking glasses can serve several purposes. I also confess that I have a difficult time discarding the types of jars you are using yourself, and keep some of those for reuse as well. My jars are in constant use.

    Thank you for this post. I think I will go store something else in a jar right now!!!

    Brenda

    • Hi Brenda!
      You really are a jar lover! Wow!

      Even my grannies use the same type of jars I’m using and never had any specially bought canning jars. I own two special glasses, I don’t know whether this type is known elsewhere in the world, it is rather normal in Germany though. Here is a link to a picture:
      http://www.cuisinarum.at/News/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/weck-glaeser-gruppe.jpg

      You remove the clamps after canning, so the glass lid is held in place only by the vacuum inside the jar. As soon as the vacuum vanishes (due to whatever reason: old rubber band, rim that wasn’t clean etc.), the glass lid is completely loose and doesn’t close at all anymore. That way you will see if the preservation does still work and the food is still fine. I use only those if I can anything I’m unsure about or difficult/dangerous like something that includes meat. (canned meat per se is not dangerous, but unlike vegetables or fruit it will not smell weird or look weird when it’s gone bad by some accident, so it’s difficult to tell, if you can’t tell from the lid of your jar. And meat poisoning is dangerous indeed) But it’s easier to freeze meat anyway, so why bother, if you have a freezer? Better to stick to canning the easier things.

      I think those would do really great as drinking glasses as well, as they don’t have these riffles at the rim for the screw-on-lid. Maybe I’ll simplify my drinking glassware some day as well… 😉
      I love the thought. It sounds so easy and simple from your comment.

  7. Sanna – this is a very clever system, not all pantry items need to be permanently stocked and has allowed you flexibility. And I love the cute gingham lids.

    • I love them, too. Sadly not all food comes with them ;-), but I think I’m at a good number of jars now so in the future I can just keep the cute lids for replacement while I recycle the glass jars.

      I like the flexibility most. We are only two here and many of our pantry items fluctuate. I don’t usually stock things like nuts for example, I buy them when I bake or cook something that needs nuts and then there’s leftovers in the package which we eat in the next weeks. I disliked both the random plastic and paperbags (all very little because only leftovers in them and all in a jumble) and containers that sat there empty.

  8. Hi Sanna! Great story! And it gave some good ideas on how to use the empty glass jars I have at home or that come eventually. 😉

  9. I love this post! Thanks Sanna. A few months ago I did something similar with our pantry – I had a good number of empty coffee jars (from before I discovered that I could buy coffee refill pouches) and asked around at work for spares from other people, so we have all our seeds and nuts in matching glass jars now. They don’t stack but they do look very nice in the pantry, and it didn’t cost anything.

    • I love that you did that as well!
      I think I remember reading about your coffee jars back then. They sell only instant coffee in jars over here and we use the “ordinary” coffee, so we never had any coffee jars – but, as you see, pickles and jam jars work just as fine. 😉
      Best to use the things that find their way into the house anyway and not to have to go out and buy something specifically for that reason.

  10. Sanna, you have done a great job with your pantry. Good for you. Since we eat very little in the way of processed foods and buy in bulk, as we buy for the month, we use lots of storage containers. We use these containers for all sorts of foods too. I have a goal to move everything to glass containers as we can find ones large enough for the bulk goods. Right now most of ours are in recycled plastic because that was what was available when we first started this type of buying. We have them the size to take 5 pounds of grains, flours, etc. Then we have some that will hold a large amount of things like oats, rice, nuts, etc.

    • It seems buying bulk is not that common over here. The only things I really buy in bulk are fruit and vegetables as I mentioned to Ideealistin above.
      Most grains and flours are sold in 1kg packages over here, some even only 500g. Nuts packages are usually even smaller.
      Glass jars/bottles the size you need are quite heavy. Maybe you’re better of with some light metal or plastic after all. Or you just fill your one pack of flour into several jars. So you have 5 little jars full of flour that each hold a pound. (In the above picture you might see that I did this with an extraordinarily big package of “Paniermehl” as well, it fills two jars)

  11. Natalie (@NatalieInCA) :

    I love your pantry!
    I love jars. I have been re-using glass jars for a few years now. I use them for everything! Canning, storing dry goods, spices, food leftovers in the fridge, and freezer (careful, some don’t handle the cold too well), salad dressing, and also beauty and hygiene product to store home made deodorant, toothpaste, lip balm – for these I have reused a set of miniature jam jars.
    I love that they go in the dishwasher. The only problem I have is that the lids deteriorate after a while. I have been looking for buying quality lids that would fit, with no success. The jars with glass lids are definitely more sustainable but also very rare (foie gras anyone?) unless you buy them empty.

    • Natalie, you can buy attractive, white plastic lids to fit both regular and wide mouth jars at a WalMart type store, or hardware stores such as Ace. The ones I have are made by Ball and are inexpensive. I’m not normally crazy about plastic, but they are very good if you are storing something acidic as they don’t rust. However, they are not as airtight as a two piece metal lid. I use both on a regular basis and have had my plastic lids for years. I do wash them by hand, thinking they might warp in the dishwasher.

      Anyone freezing in glass should make sure any content is at least a half inch below the “shoulder” of the jar, because if it expands into the curve, it will break the glass. I always save any straight sided jars to reuse for freezing. As far as I knw, the largest size of canning jar for freezing is the pint and a half (which is the size I use for my largest, ice filled, drinking glasses).

      Sounds like we share a love of jars!

      Brenda

      • Our lids over here are one piece metal lids (with a rubber-something lining in the inside), and you can buy replacement lids. Obviously there are two different kinds of lids (the rubber lining makes the difference), depending on whether you can oily and protein-rich things (meat, pesto, etc.) or watery-sugary things (jam etc.), the second one is cheaper and the “ordinary” one, it never harmed the other lids when I made jam in them, but maybe it makes a difference the other way round. I only realized this a short time ago, I never minded it before, but maybe if you use the lids that came with oily ingredients for refilling a similar kind of ingredients, it might help. Though I don’t know really, it’s just a thought.
        I also find that drying them right after washing them is good for them as well. They don’t like being left for drip-drying.
        Also, you can just keep lids of jars you buy as replacement, when you don’t need more jars anyway, which is what I do. (or maybe ask friends for collecting lids for you, if they don’t reuse their jars)

        Great to see so many other jar-lovers here! 😀

  12. We are big lovers of reusing glass and plastic containers from products we used. For example, I just filled our 10kg of rice into half a dozen of them.

    Thanks for your thoughts. It is always inspirational to see how people put these ideas into practice.