Various foods in jars of different sizes

Glass jars are great for storing leftovers. But I don’t remember my mother ever using them that way. She stored her leftovers in empty margarine and ricotta cheese containers. They were free, the lids held tight, and she could toss them in the trash when she was done with them.

For years, I also reused plastic containers to store food. I liked that they were lightweight and I could recycle them when I no longer wanted them. But my system had some drawbacks: Heating some plastics causes them to release harmful chemicals I don’t want in my food. This can also happen if using plastic to store acidic, greasy, or salty food.

So I began to think about reusing jars instead of plastic containers for food storage. Glass jars are safe for food storage and they’re recyclable.

But I have to admit that I was nervous about using glass for transporting lunch to work. Jars seemed so fragile and heavy. And I was sure that you couldn’t use them for freezing food because glass would shatter in the icy temperatures, right?

Turns out that I was wrong! With a little research and experimentation, I found that I could freeze food in glass jars. The trick is to leave about one-third of the jar empty to allow for expansion and not close the lid too tightly. Also, leave space between the jars in the freezer and thaw them slowly at room temperature. I wrap a dish towel around my jars to slow the thawing and to absorb condensation. Slow thawing means that I need to allow for extra time when using frozen food in a meal.

I like to freeze small portions of stews and soups to bring to work. I also freeze food like tomato paste because I can’t use a whole can at once. By freezing it, I don’t have to worry about it going bad and wasting food. I also use jars to store the eggplant pickles that I make because the vinegar could cause a plastic container to leach chemicals into my pickles.

And as for transporting my lunch in jars, I didn’t find it that hard once I got used to it. It’s easy to wrap them in a cloth if you’re worried about them breaking.

By reusing jars, I have a useful, nontoxic, free, and recyclable food storage solution. I think they are a wonderful item to have in any sustainable household.

By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.