Mason Jars: 20 Budget Friendly Uses for Your Mason Jars
Not all preppers are food production enthusiasts, but for those of us that are, few items are more ubiquitous than the popular Mason jar. Mason jars are so popular, in fact, that November 30 has been named National Mason Jar Day.
Mason jars were invented in 1858 by John Landis Mason. These jars were the first hermetically resealable glass jars on the market, and they revolutionized the ability of home producers to safely store food for the future. However, it wasn’t until the patent expired in 1879 that the Ball Corporation began mass production. In the end, John Landis Mason never made much money from his invention.
The jars were hugely popular in the early 20th century, but their popularity waned as people moved into cities and relied more on food from grocery stores. However, since the 1960s, more people have been increasingly interested in producing their own food for both health and ecological reasons, and the jars have come back in style.
Today, the jars are as popular as ever. In 2015, enough Mason jars were sold that if they were laid end-to-end, they’d circle the entire globe.
What Do We Use Them For Today?
Now, with not as many people producing their own food anymore, you may be wondering, what on earth do people want with so many Mason jars? Well, here are twenty uses for Mason jars, most of which I’ve done myself.
- Home canning: Obviously ☺
- Dried goods storage: This may not be so obvious if you’re not used to buying in bulk. One of the easiest ways to save money on groceries is to buy in bulk. You don’t need another super-cute little jar every time you need cinnamon. Just buy bags of what you need, and then store them in jars you have on hand. The bigger jars are nice for things like flour, rice, beans, and so on. The half-pint or four-ounce jars are nice for herbs and spices.
- Christmas décor: I am pathetically un-crafty myself, but many people aren’t. If you are looking for attractive ways to decorate your house for the holidays using mostly what you have on hand, browse through these.
- Leftovers: The lids close tightly, and microwaving in glass is preferable to microwaving in plastic.
- Collectible items: Because Mason jars have been around for so long, some have turned into collectibles. For example, when I bought my old homesteading cabin, I found hundreds of jars in the old root cellar. Some were unusable, but I found a few 1976 limited-edition bicentennial jars. I’ve kept them because I think they’re cool, but some people pay a lot of money for collectible jars on eBay.
- Cookie mix gift sets: Christmas is coming up, people are in the mood to bake, and it’s also time to give gifts. Cookie mix gift sets are attractive, inexpensive, and fun.
- Fermentation vessel: This is made easier with Ball’s fermentation spring and lid. These are available at hardware stores or places like Walmart. I’ve used these for years now to make lacto-fermented pickles.
- Cloches: If the temperature drops a little lower than expected in the springtime, you can use Mason jars as cloches to protect your seedlings.
- Children’s science projects: Whether you want to sprout a potato or make a vacuum chamber, Mason jars can do it. There’s a whole book, Mason Jar Science, devoted to fun projects for school-age children.
- Drinking cups: The elderly family I bought my house from were a little embarrassed that they drank out of Mason jars growing up because they couldn’t afford a separate set of drinking glasses. Nowadays, drinking out of Mason jars is trendy. Go figure.
- Water bottle: You can buy lids specifically for drinking here or just reuse one of your regular lids.
- Vase: Sunflowers in a Mason jar look really nice.
- Swear jar: Self-explanatory, regularly needed at my house.
- Chicken feeder: A lot of the bases for smaller feeders and waterers available at hardware stores are made to fit onto regular-mouth quart-sized jars.
- Sprouting seeds: Sprouts are healthy, delicious, and a fun project for small children. You can find detailed instructions on growing sprouts in a wide-mouth Mason jar here.
- Making yogurt: If you eat a lot of yogurt, making your own is cheaper than store-bought. You can find instructions here.
- Candle holders: For that rustic farmhouse look.
- Twine holder: Put a hole in a lid and pull a little bit of string through. It’s far neater than rolls of twine or any other kind of ribbon lying around.
- Catching bugs: We can trap bees or wasps that come into the house. We release bees outdoors and squish wasps.
- Loudspeaker: I got this idea here, tried it out, and it actually works. If you put your phone in a wide Mason jar, it will amplify the sound. Like the author, I also enjoy listening to music or podcasts while doing housework but will not pay for any kind of Apple Home products. This makes listening to the phone a little easier.
I have personally done everything on this list except for the cookie mix (I’ve received them) and the twine holder (I need to do that). I bought the jars I use for canning and use the ones I inherited for storing things. Many of the jars I found in my cellar are 40 to 60 years old, and over time, they’ve gotten slight irregularities in the tops, so I don’t trust them to seal properly for canning, though they are great for everything else on the list.
Thrifty Fun for the Holidays
A lot of people are struggling financially right now, and there are many signs things will get worse before they get better. However, it’s not time to despair. It’s time to look around and take inventory of what we already have and ask ourselves how to best use what’s already around us or what is very cheaply available.
If you don’t have a collection of Mason jars already, check your local thrift store. f you have older relatives in the country, odds are they’ve got boxes of Mason jars in their garages or basements. Once your eyes are open, you’ll probably spot Mason jars all over the place. They really are endlessly useful.
A huge part of preparedness is having a positive mindset, but that can be hard to do when you are expected to spend money you don’t have during the holiday season. Americans are already holding record amounts of debt, and the holiday season has barely begun. If you want to have fun decorating and gift-giving without the waste and expense that often accompanies it, look at what you have on hand.
You may already have a large amount of Mason jars ready to be put to good use, making your home more cheerful and functional for the holidays.
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