When I was younger and lived in Spain, I helped at my parents’ health food store almost every Saturday morning. In the beginning years of their business, dozens of people came into the store, with their own container in hand, to buy honey in bulk.
People brought plastic containers and glass jars of all sizes. We would fill and weigh them (and deduct the weight of the empty jars beforehand). This allowed us to sell the honey at a cheaper price, which our customers appreciated.
At that time my only thought was that some of these containers where very sticky and needed a good cleaning. But what I didn’t think of was that by reusing their jars, these people where being more respectful towards the environment and their budget.
I haven’t taken my own jars to the supermarket yet (just my shopping bags for now), but last month I decided I would store my bulk dry goods that usually sit in plastic or paper bags, in used clean glass jars.
Mason jars are beautiful, but you can reuse any glass jar to store your bulk items and keep your kitchen cabinets tidy.
The jars are from marinara sauce, salsa, and other used food items that I have saved, or forgotten to recycle, over the last couple of months. Some are nicer than others; for example, I have a Mason jar from salsa that looks great with lentils inside.
The advantage of reusing glass jars is that your food will be better preserved in an air tight container than in a bag loosely tied with a rubber band. You’ll also have a better idea of how much food you have.
Certain home stores sell glass or porcelain containers for this purpose. The large ones are great for flour, sugar or dry pasta. You can also buy traditional Mason jars in small quantities. In Kansas, they are sold at the grocery store, but I am not sure about other areas.
There is a charming quality to having jars of all shapes and forms in your cabinet. You are also helping the environment by reusing. Just make sure that the jars are clean and have no residual odors. Peel the labels off completely before storing your food, too.
I wash the jars twice in the dishwasher to eliminate odors, but for persistent smells, soak the jars in a water and vinegar solution. The best way to peel off labels is to do it before washing the jars. If they are stubborn you can try vinegar as well.
Since I have transferred my bulk items to these jars, I like opening my newly organized kitchen cabinet. The best part, though, is that doing this makes me think of my parents and their business; reusing has always been a part of my life.
Olivia Blanco Mullins is a journalist and has been eating healthy most of her life, as her parents have owned health food stores for more than 20 years. Currently she lives in Manhattan, Kansas, where her husband owns an Italian restaurant .