Vintage Jars in the Kitchen and Beyond

May 25, 2010(updated on December 16, 2023)
lip balms in a jar

Last week, I got an email from my friend Jen. She recently inherited nearly a dozen vintage Tang jars from her great-aunt. She’s currently using a couple for general kitchen activities, but wondered if I had any additional ideas as to how to use these very cool jars (some date back to the Bicentennial).

In addition to the obvious uses like grains, sugar, flour and tea, I like to use jars to cluster little collections. I’ve got a jar on my dresser that corrals my lip balms (I tend to get a shop-happy when I encounter a new-to-me display of balms and salves at drug and health food stores) and an array tucked into my kitchen cabinets that hold rubber bands, clothespins and twist ties.

How do you utilize jars in the kitchen and beyond?

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25 thoughts on "Vintage Jars in the Kitchen and Beyond"

  • i keep coleections in some of my old jars such as OLD DICE,GAME PIECES, DOMINOS, SPOOLS of THREAD, TOMATO PIN CUSHIONS (larger jar)

  • I use them to organize my knitting needles (half-pints for the smaller sizes, pints for the larger ones) and crochet hooks, as well as assorted notions. I really like the way they look lined up on my bookcase.

    I also use them as

  • Argh, apparently I can’t write a complete sentence.

    I also use them as vases for all sorts of flowers I buy from the farmers’ market. Pretty much any flower is transformed into “quaint” when put into a mason jar.

  • I have a giant jar, I use it for the soap in the bathroom, I buy a lot of different soap at the farmers market!

  • I have become a recent jar freak! i remember helping my g ma can when i was younger and she had the coolest jars, since i recently bought a house ive been putting everything in jars, flour sugar, nuts bolts, craft suplies, bathroom items( q tips cotten balls soaps) i even have 4 jars set up in my toddlers room, he seperates his change into the jars (pennies,nickles,dimes and quarters) window herb garden, think of it and you can use a jar, ive bcleaned out all the surrounding good wills and have started surfing the net 😀 thanks for a great site to help give me ideas!

  • I use a tall vintage jam jar to hold candles for our outdoor table. It keeps the wind from blowing the candle out and it looks pretty too.

  • i use the tiny tiny ones from the room service jams to hold vitamins in my purse. i like giving my jams to friends, but iam always sad to see my jars go with them!

  • In my bathroom, I have a vintage Ball jar to hold my cotton balls and an old milk bottle to hold my Q-tips. By my sewing machine, I use more jars for buttons, ribbon, etc. I also use an old jar as my everyday sugar bowl. Now that I think about it, I have a lot of jars around the house!

  • I use jars for my home made spaghetti sauce, salad dressings, mayo, etc. They are fabulous, especially the wide mouthed ones.

  • We have dozens of vintage jelly jars (from the canning with paraffin days) that we use for serving wine, booze and cocktails for a crowd. They’re just the right volume, sturdy, and feel good in the hand.

  • Many of my special jars are filled with the things others have mentioned above, but I also have one handy that is an quick access mending kit with a few basic color spools of thread, packets of needles & pins, safety pins, buttons, snaps and a tape measure. I collect vintage buttons which look great in old jars as do hanks of old (and new) lace and ribbons. Other special jars contain embroidery floss in color families, rose petals, shells, sea glass and potpourri.

  • Dead Batteries live happily in a glass jar on my basement shelf until I can take them them to the twice a year battery recycling. Also, it keeps me a aware of how many I’m using during a year.

  • I recently bought some potpourri at a garden show and immediately regretted it when I found it stunk up the entire house. I stuck the two different kinds in jars, which allowed me to display the colors without having to smell them. If I do want the scent, I only need to take off the lid for about a minute.

    Last fall I ran into a problem of using canning jars as storage. It was late, I was in the middle of canning tomatoes, and I ran out of canning jars. I tore apart the house trying to find ways to empty jars so I could can with them, even going so far as to dump my calcium water for my pectin. Ever since then, I prefer to save my canning jars for canning and use the storebought jars for storage, even if the lids still smell a bit like peanut butter, saurkraut or green curry.

    Kris, that’s a great idea for serving drinks!

  • Cool jars. I have a commemorative blue glass bail canning jar from the bicentenial that my mom saved for me. I love it, but don’t plan to actually can with it.

    I have some canning jars that came with lug screw caps. I have found that you can find those and all sorts of other screw lids from Fillmore Container.

    I plan to get some myself. You order them based on the diameter (in millimeters) and the type of screw closure.

  • I’ve been cutting down on plastic use, so I decline the plastic bags at farmer’s market and bring home the stuff and put it in glass jars with lids in the fridge. Right now I have scallions and rhubarb in old 1/2 gallon jars – one from honey, one from maple syrup. I save glass jars and their lids from commercial products too – I can put stuff in these to give to people rather than just thunking the jar in the recycling bin. I make iced tea in my big half gallon canning jars. I keep buttons in old pickle jars.
    I LOVE the other ideas here – esp. as booze glasses and candle hurricane.

  • I have lots of things in lots of jars – I really like the bonne maman jam ones – it’s the red and white top. Being english I have dozens of ‘french style clip’ kilner jars (some very old ones) lined up in a row and now living here in Rome the Italian version which is just as nice. I have just found you and it is pretty good timing as I have just caught the preserving, conserving bug. Lovely lovely blog.

  • I didn’t actually answer the question – well lots of thngs are jarred in this house – chalk, elastic bands (bonne maman) pencils and pens, old lighters from the old smoky days, a hudge jar for My partners drum sticks, hairbands, toothbrushes. All my kitchen ingredients have a jar or two. Ther is a jar of something very odd in the back of the fridge that neither of us can name – really should sort that out.

  • We use jars for everyday- store our grains, pasta, rice, beans (we learned from a nasty moth infestation) and take leftovers without spillage. Otherwise it is the typical go-to container in the house- from change to buttons. I use some for paintbrushes- but I love the idea of storing knitting needles!

  • I use them in our bathroom for cotton balls; and with my sewing things for spools of thread & bobbins and my crochet hooks. I have an old gallon jar that I’ve used to make sun tea for all 37 years of my married life.

  • I love old jars and I’m currently using a lot of them in my sewing room. I’ll also be using some larger ones on shelves in my laundry room for powdered soap and clothespins. The small ones would be great for herbs and spices, seashells, acorns, etc to set up a little botanical display, wire them together and put candles or flowers in them, craft room for jewelry parts,and other small things, bathroom for q-tips, cotton balls, bath salts…can you tell I like jars?

  • I have been in love with jars since I was a kid.

    My most recent foray into jars was using them to hold paperclips/pens/office stuff on my desk at work. The newest Ball elite collection ones are quite stately for that.

    Also, definitely love the jar lanterns you can find on etsy.

  • I love to use old jars to hold office supplies (pencils, pens, paper clips, binder clips) at work.

  • I have a great old one as a toothbrush holder! but mostly I use them in my kitchen – I have open cupboards, so they look great filled with grains, beans, dried fruit, sugars, popcorn…