Make Your Pantry Plastic-Free with Repurposed Glass Jars

Reusing jars from your own grocery shopping is one of the easiest, cheapest green makeovers you can give your kitchen. This pantry project not only reminds you to look for glass over plastic at the grocery store, it makes great secondary use of products you were going to buy anyway. As the owner of a secondhand shop for kids, and the mom to three budding environmentalists, taking “reused” from stigma to style is a passion of mine.

“I recycle my jars,” you say, “that’s green!” Recycling is great. Glass is a readily recyclable material. Reusing is even better, though. The mantra Reduce-Reuse-Recycle is a prioritized list! Reusing things doesn’t require transportation, factories, equipment, power, or paid labour to divert them from the landfill. Plus, reusing glass jars to organize your kitchen can look pretty stylish!

Pinterest is full of stylish things to do with mason jars, of course. Mason jars are a huge hit in our house, as they are in many others. They have replaced drinking glasses for our family. We use them with steel straws, and nifty flip-top lids for smoothies to go. We use mason jars for storing dry goods in the pantry, and wet leftovers in the fridge. But mason jars are just the beginning in our green pantry, and in our family’s challenge to minimize waste and avoid plastic.

For the last 10 years or so, I have been collecting all kinds of jars – from our own grocery cart.

For a comprehensive dry goods pantry, I find it useful to have three sizes of jars: small, medium and large. Hint:
The trick for the tidy, uniform look above is to keep buying the same brand and size of a product, and build a collection.

Large: The largest jars in our pantry are 1700 mL mason jars, which we bought from the canning aisle at a hardware store. The largest jars are ideal for bulkier staples like dried pasta and beans, or things you use in greater quantities, like rice or flour.

Medium: Our medium sized jars, shown above, are 1L Smucker’s jam jars. There are 17 of them here, holding everything from pecans to corn meal. Any jar of around 1L will do as a handy glass canister. Tomato sauce jars are equally good. Medium sized jars are perfect for things like baking powder, nuts, seeds or chocolate chips (yeah...that one’s empty a lot in our house.)

Small: The small hexagonal jars on the top shelf are my favourite! These are from Bonne Maman jam. Members of my extended family know I collect these, and are forever dropping jars off for me. I like their unusual shape. Tip: Find a product that you like to use regularly that comes in a unique glass jar -- pesto sauce?  Dijon mustard? -- and start soaking off labels. Text your friends and family a picture, so they know which ones you are collecting! Before long, you’ll have a set.

Small jars are perfect for spices, herbs...anything you want to replace regularly to prevent it from going stale, and losing potency.

Recently, I’ve added a new extra small size to our collection! While putting waaaay too many things in my weekly organics basket online at Mama Earth Organics, I discovered Riviera organic yogurt. Not only does it come in neato foil-covered glass pots instead of plastic, but they sell reusable lids for the pots right there with the yogurt. So smart! Now we have the perfect lunch size glass containers, leftover holders for that last little bit of whatever,
and great mini dry goods storage too.


In the tea cupboard (Yep. You heard me.) you find another kind of grocery jar: spaghetti sauce. Before kids, and back when I was allowed to have things like mushrooms and peppers in my sauce, Classico was my favourite. Also before kids, while I had time for crafting, I painted the lids to match. Ba ha ha! I digress…

Bulk shopping is easy with my own jars. I fill my plastic shopping bin with clean, empty jars and head for my local bulk store. The cashier weighs or “tares” the empty jars and makes a not of the pre-filled weight to be deducted at checkout. Bonus: the labels from my Brother P-Touch are dishwasher safe, so empty jars get squeaky clean and stay labelled for the next trip to the bulk store.

Advantages of reusing glass jars? Let’s recap! (See what I did there?)

    1. Be inspired to make healthier meals, using whole ingredients;

    2. Save money on food by shopping in bulk;

    3. Keep your pantry tidy and organized without buying anything extra;

    4. Refocus your family on avoiding plastic food storage containers, for your health;

    5. See at a glance what you’re low on, and pop empty jars into your shopping bin;

    6. Reuse before you recycle, shrinking your carbon footprint;

    7. Impress your friends with Pinterest-worthy cupboards, for free.

Then, celebrate with a homemade cocktail in – of course – a glass jar.

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