15 Creative Ways to Use Mason Jars
Photo courtesy of iStock
I get a charge out of upcycling, repurposing or otherwise finding a use for things that most folks send to a landfill. From old socks to appliance cords to twist ties, I can find a use for it. Even food scraps go into a soup or casserole, are fed to the animals or are added to the compost bin. At our place, very little is left for the trash heap.
I’ve extended my repurposing efforts to my collection of Mason jars, which are handy to have around, even if you don’t can food in them. Here are 15 ways to use these versatile containers — or any other jars you save.
1. Create a Novelty Candy Dispenser
Stop by your local farm store and pick up a chicken feeder that uses a Mason jar screwed to the top. Fill the jar with M&Ms, jelly beans, peanuts or other small treats. Screw on the feeder top to create an old-fashioned candy dispenser.
2. Make Meals in Jars
When I can my produce, I also can a supply of mixed vegetables. When I want a quick meal, I simply pull out a jar of chicken broth with meat and a jar of mixed vegetables so I can mix them together to make soup. Meals in jars beat the local drive-thru any day.
3. Store Water
If you regularly can your garden produce for the winter, don’t store empty jars after you eat the food. Fill them with water. When the power goes out, you’ll be prepared with bottled drinking water that costs you nothing. If you want to take your bottled water a step further, you can now buy silicone or stainless steel drinking lids that fit into the ring of a Mason jar (search ecojarz.com for an example). Or, make your own by punching a hole in the metal lid and inserting a straw. You can even make or buy a crocheted or quilted sleeve to slide over your jar to prevent breakage and to absorb condensation (search etsy.com for examples).
4. Grow Sprouts
Start a new family project by teaching the kids to grow sprouts. Sprouts are excellent for adding some green food into your winter diet or extra crunch to a summertime sandwich. No need to buy a fancy sprout grower. Just use a special sprouting lid on top of a Mason jar. This lid is a plastic ring with a screen in place of the usual metal cap. Purchase them at your local health food store or online retailers.
5. Take a Salad for Lunch
Do you struggle with fresh ideas for the lunch box carriers in your home? A salad layered in a jar will keep fresh for three to five days in the refrigerator. Using a wide-mouth jar, put the dressing in the bottom, heavy veggies next, then greens on top. Cap and store. This makes a nice addition to a dinner party meal, as well.
6. Create a Sprinkle Jar
Did you know Parmesan cheese lids fit on regular-mouthed Mason jars? What do you want to sprinkle? Sugar or cinnamon? How about homemade body powder? Or even fertilizer in the garden? The possibilities are endless.
7. Store Stuff
Rather than spend money on little baskets and bins at the dollar store, use Mason jars. Place different sizes of Mason jars on bathroom shelves for storing cotton balls, swabs or floss picks. Tie decorative ribbons around the rims or label them with permanent markers.
8. Store Buttons
If you have lots of buttons mixed together in your sewing room, use small Mason jars for sorting them by color. Then, when you’re looking for just the right color, you don’t have to go through a mixed-up mess to find what you want. If you want to add a country touch to your décor, fill a few Ball jars (available at amazon.com) with an assortment of buttons and tie a plaid ribbon around the neck to make a nice set of bookends for a bookshelf.
9. Burn a Candle
Fill the bottom of a wide-mouthed Mason jar with sand. Insert a pillar candle. Make several and line your sidewalk or patio to light up those outdoor spaces for an evening party.
10. Wrap a Gift
For the person who has everything, creatively wrap a gift card by filling a half-pint jar with the person’s favorite candy (such as M&Ms or jelly beans) and slide the card down the middle. Tie a ribbon around the lid and you have two gifts in one. Just make sure the gift receiver knows there is something hiding in the candy.
11. Display Flowers
A Mason or Ball jar makes a stunning vase for wildflowers picked in the spring. Or insert a bunch of greenery with berries for the holiday season. Tie a ribbon or raffia around the neck for added flair.
12. Create a Sewing Kit
Place a ball of poly-fill on the flat part of the lid of a wide-mouthed Mason jar, then cover it with fabric. Glue the fabric to the underside of the lid to make a pincushion. Inside the jar, place a small pair of scissors, spools of thread, a tape measure and other notions for a complete mini-sewing kit.
13. Dispense String
Drill a hole in the center of the Mason jar lid. Place a ball of string inside the jar. Thread the string through the hole in the lid before screwing it on. You can decorate the jar with permanent markers or paint, or by tying a ribbon around it.
14. Keep Creatures
My boys have used Mason jars in more ways than I care to admit. The most frequent reason they “borrow” a jar is to house bugs. A ventilated jar of fireflies by the bed creates fond childhood memories. We’ve even kept praying mantis ootheca (the name for its egg sack) in jars and waited for hundreds of baby mantises to emerge. A butterfly chrysalis is another fun one to watch in a jar.
15. Build a Terrarium
Another idea for the kids is to use a Mason jar to build a terrarium. A terrarium is a self-sustaining environment with plants and, sometimes, small animals. Using a larger, half-gallon or gallon pickle jar for this project is ideal.
Carol Alexander is a former newspaper columnist whose work has been published in BackHome, Grit, Hobby Farms, Urban Farm, From Scratch, Home Education, The Old Schoolhouse and regional parenting magazines across North America.