This time last year, I was looking to make creative, inexpensive Christmas gifts and needed several small jars to do it. In the past, I've bought Mason jars at the hardware store, so I went there first. The 12-pack wasn't too expensive -- just under $1 per jar -- but I only needed four, and sold individually, the jars were double the price.
I tried the craft store, the craft section of a big box store, even a discount store, and found that small, decorative jars were never cheap -- in some cases, they were even more expensive than big jars!
As a last resort, my now-fiance and I went to a grocery store and split up to find the crafts section. A few minutes in, I received a text message from him: "Come quick to aisle 11! They've got small jars for only 44 cents!"
I walked over and was surprised to find him among the diapers and baby powder, scanning the shelves excitedly.
"Only 44 cents… AND THEY'VE GOT BABY FOOD INSIDE THAT WE CAN EAT!"
The store, which normally sold baby food for 88 cents, was having a two-for-one sale.
The jars were perfect -- the right size for my application and a cute pear-shape, which was presumably intended to accommodate little hands but that made them all the more charming). And with flavors like apple, mixed berry, and pear (no sugar and no preservatives), we were also getting a cheap, healthy snack.
I thought of how many glass jars we'd just left out with our recycling over the last six months. If we had planned in advance, we probably could have gotten a hodgepodge of small jars for free just by saving them.
Plus, reusing stuff is also better for the planet. Sometimes, a bit of creativity goes a long way!
How to clean off the labels
I've found that the stickiness of the label varies widely depending on the manufacturer. It can be a real pain to get these off just by peeling. Here's what I do.
Boil some water, fill up the jar, then let it sit for a few minutes. The hot water will heat up the adhesive and make it easier to work with the label.
Carefully pour out the water, then rip off as much of the label and adhesive as you can with your bare hands. Of what's left, wash as much as you can with warm, soapy water.
If you've got a really tough label, try Goo Gone or nail polish remover with acetone. Both remove adhesive in seconds.
How to clean out the smell from the inside
Depending on what used to be in the jars and what you'll use the jars for, there's a chance you may not want the old smell to carry over.
I first give the insides a good scrub with warm, soapy water. Then, I stuff the jars with newspapers and a few tablespoons of baking soda, and let them sit overnight to absorb as much of the smell as possible.
If the smell still isn't gone, I pull out the nuclear option: fill 1/4 of the jar with white vinegar. I can tell you from personal experience that white vinegar will pretty much knock out any offensive smell.
After you've done all this wash and rinse the jar out thoroughly. Then add whatever it is you like -- loose-leaf tea, homemade jam, candy. The only limit is your imagination ;-)
Christina Garofalo is co-author of the blog Adventures in Frugal, where she writes about travel, food, finance, and more. Her writing has also appeared in Paste, First We Feast, Robb Report, and Art & Hustle. In her free time, you'll find her writing poetry and eating her way through Brooklyn, New York.
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