All the Amazing Things That Changed When I Started Upcycling Glass Jars


Emma Hayes

There I was in a hot yoga studio with plenty of bright natural light and bending myself into pretzel like positions for the very first time.



We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission.

While cleaning out the pantry at my father-in-law’s farmhouse, I found a massive collection of old glass jars. It was incredible: Mason jars in every shape and size, ancient spice jars, old-fashioned milk jugs! Most had already been carefully stripped of their labels, cleaned, and still had their original lids. 

It felt like a gift from the universe. My kitchen at home was a mess, and I had been thinking of scouring junk shops for some jars. It started with a suggestion from a friend who was trying to reduce her household trash, followed by a tip in Sara Kiyo Popowa’s Bento Power cookbook, in which Popowa talks about her own jar-hoarding tendencies. Finding this treasure trove of jars was the subtle hint from the universe that I needed to get my own pantry in order. 

How I Organized my Pantry with Upcycled Jars

Armed with my (free!) set of sustainable storage containers, I ruthlessly attacked my kitchen. I took everything out of my cabinets and lined up the contents on the counter, tossing anything that had obviously gone bad or looked questionable. Then I started sorting. 

My kitchen has four cabinets that are accessible for everyday use, each with two shelves, so I divided my pantry into four categories: herbs and spices; oils and condiments; nuts, grains, and legumes; and canned goods and specialty items. Next came the fun part, which was choosing the right-size jar for every item that wasn’t already in one. 

I set aside the smallest jars for herbs, spices, and seeds. Cinnamon sticks were taken out of their pouch and went in a tall, skinny jar that had once held pickled asparagus. Oddly-shaped items like dried limes and my chili pepper collection went into jam and pickle jars. Quart-sized canning jars were used for things like dried beans, quinoa, and chocolate chips. Starches, loose tea, and leftover quantities of specialty flours went in pint-sized canning jars. I saved all of the largest jars for the items I keep on hand in large quantities: flour, rice, oats, sugar. 

Armed with painter’s tape and a sharpie, I labeled everything. I stood in front of my pristine pantry in awe of the impact that a few dozen glass jars could have. I stored the rest of my jar haul in a cabinet under the sink, organized by size, with the smallest jars in the front and the largest in the back. 

All the Things That Changed When I Switched to Upcycled Jars

Over the next few weeks, I started incorporating these into my everyday kitchen routine. When I had an odd half-cup of a sauce left over, I put it in a jar, labeled it, and placed it prominently in the refrigerator. I honestly don’t know why, but I soon found that I was more likely to use up a leftover if it was in a jar than if it was in a different storage container. A little silly, I know.

Homemade fruit syrups went into old maple syrup jugs, and nut milks and cold brew went into glass milk jugs. Pickle jars became aesthetic containers for pre-made lunches. I did, in fact, like Popowa, start keeping little two-ounce jars of spiced nuts and chocolate in my tote bag as an emergency snack. Putting away leftovers and bulk-purchased groceries became a creative endeavor, rather than a chore. 

To say that upcycling jars changed my life might sound like an exaggeration, but as someone whose life revolves around their kitchen, it’s had a major impact one year later. Not only does it help maintain a sense of order in my often chaotic kitchen, but it also helps keep sustainability at the forefront of my mind. If I have the option to bulk-purchase a grocery item and forego some single-use plastic, I do it because I know that I have plenty of packaging at home. 

Carina Finn


Carina Finn is a New York-based freelance writer and recipe developer with a massive sweet tooth and a love for vintage cookbooks. Her work has appeared in various publications including The Takeout, Architectural Digest, Insider, and elsewhere.

Source link

related posts


Emma Hayes

There I was in a hot yoga studio with plenty of bright natural light and bending myself into pretzel like positions for the very first time.