If we do not permit the earth to produce beauty and joy, it will in the end not produce food, either. Joseph Wood Krutch

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Mason Jars Don't Use a Secret Handshake

I love Mason Jars. Our pantry used to be full of plastic bins and bags. Now it is full of a standing army of Mason Jars. (Truth: There are still a few plastic bins and bags left but we are using up the contents and they'll be gone soon.) Anyway back to the main story.

We buy bulk now whenever it is available. Flour, beans, lentils, rice, oatmeal, spices, there are hundreds of things you can buy in bulk. It is always much cheaper and there is no packaging to throw away. I also like the fact that my food is in contact with glass and not plastic. Did mention that I hate plastic now?

I know some people are out there washing and reusing plastic bags, and I've tried it, but I could never quite get the hang of it. Mason Jars are so much easier and it's glass!

Some stores ( most stores?) will weigh your jar and note the tare weight on it so it can be deducted after you fill it. I don't bother with that, I just carry cloth reusable bags into the store,fill them up, then transfer the contents when I get home. The cloth bags can be easily washed then line dried and will last for years. Spices are the exception. For spices it is easiest just to buy it once in glass jar and then keep refilling that same jar over and over. No need to label as long as you don't ever run the jar through the dishwasher. (Don't forget to have the tare noted though before you fill the jar!) The bulk price of spices is a lot less than buying prepackaged stuff. Don't be fooled by the label on the big jar at the store that says it costs like $26.99 per pound. The spices weigh so little it usually comes out to only a few dollars when you fill the jar.

Mason Jars can be bought at most groceries, especially during canning season. Often in the off season they are piled on top of the freezer cases and require hunting down an employee with a ladder to get one down. I guess they just don't have the same appeal as candy bars which are always at hand level and everywhere. Here is another way to get jars though. Some products, like spaghetti sauce, come packaged in regular old Mason jars. Just buy the product, eat it, wash the jar, get a lid and you are set. "Free" Mason Jar.

If you decide to convert your pantry to an army of mason jars, here is a tip I learned from experience. I labeled the jars on the front....Wrong! Label the lid instead. It is much easier to find what you are looking for when they are four deep in your pantry. And don't forget, if you drop one and it breaks, don't throw it away, it still recycles. If the lid gets crusty you can recycle the lid in the metal bin. New lids can be bought separate from the jars in a little cardboard box but since you are not using the jars to preserve food (canning), they can get a little crusty or be bent out of shape and still be OK for pantry use.

I read the Fake Plastic Fish blog every day now and, as Beth has found out, it takes a long time to rid your life of plastic. I second that notion. I am on a much smaller campaign than Beth to rid the plastic from my life but so much comes in plastic now, I sometimes scratch my head at how it is really possible to fully eliminate plastic from my environment. Even the computer I write this blog on is made of plastic. Well, a lot of it anyhow. Slowly but surely I am ridding my life of as much plastic as I can. The Mason Jars (OK, sometimes they are Ball Jars) are a very good start and the way they look like an army of glass in the pantry is rather cool looking.

UPDATE: Beth at Fake Plastic Fish has come up with a great way to clean lids from spaghetti sauce jars. Here's the link to her post.

"It is not so important to know everything as to appreciate what we learn." - Hannah More (1745-1833; author, philanthropist,educator )

Green tip:

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLFS) are used in shampoo's, toothpaste, dishwashing liquids, soaps and many other products as a sudsing agent. There is evidence they are a carcinogen and also can inhibit eye development in children. These chemicals are absorbed quickly through skin and mucous tissues so ingestion is not necessary to be exposed. SLS is also lethal to fresh water fish and since it does not break down well in the environment any put down the drain stays around for a long time. Don't forget that what goes down the drain goes to the sewage treatment plant. The solids are then removed and are commonly pumped onto the edges of roadways and into fields as a fertilizer. The SLS and SFLS enters the environment again at this stage and can wash into fresh water sources.

The Materials Safety Data Sheets for SLS cautions workers to avoid body contact. But this same chemical is put into most body and hair care products. Is that weird or what?

ALWAYS READ THE LABELS! Avoid products with these ingredients.


Stretch Mark Mama said...

We've been buying the Smucker's natural peanut butter for a while now (as it has no sugar) and each time I finish a glass jar there is a little chorus of angels with me at the sink. It's the small things, really.

And I agree about the plastic - egad - I had no idea how many things came wrapped up tied up in plastic, until just recently. It feels like an unbeatable battle, but I keep telling myself that every little thing counts.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it funny how we both wrote these posts today. Great minds? Or random coincidence?

If I used peanut butter as fast as I use pasta sauce, those jars would be preferable to pasta sauce jars because I believe there's not as much odor to remove in the first place. But if I ate peanut butter as fast as pasta sauce, I'd be so big I couldn't fit through the kitchen door!