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Last year, I made a vow to reduce my use of single-use plastic containers and plastic storage containers. I concerned about the environment and I worry about how the long-term use of these containers will impact my dogs' health. A few years ago, I began setting aside random jars – CocoTherapy coconut oil, jam, spaghetti sauce, etc. – saving them for reuse, cutting down my plastic use. Around the same time, I started fermenting vegetables for my dogs and my partner suggested that I look for used wide mouth jars instead of buying them new – he found several cases for me on Craigslist the next day (now that's romance!).
If you're interested in doing the same, here is what you need to know.
Can You Reuse Store-Bought Jars for Canning?
I don't do traditional canning where the jars are heated during the process. I simply use jars for storing food for my dogs. In my research, I found many sites that explain how to use random jars in canning, but a warning stood out to me. The jars we see in grocery stores (jam, spaghetti, etc.) weren't made for temperature extremes and may not be able to stand up to the canning process.
However, we can reuse store-bought jars for storage.
Which Store-Bought Jars are Best for Reuse
Any glass jar can be reused, but not all of them were made to stand up to extreme temperatures. When trying to determine which jars I will or won't reuse, I look at the thickness of the glass and how well the lids seal. I've found that the Classico brand of spaghetti sauce and the CocoTherapy brand makes great jars that can stand up to reuse and freezing. Jars that aren't recommended for freezing (mayonnaise and baby food jars aren't recommended) still have uses – DIY creams, etc.
Cleaning Store-Bought Jars
All of my jars and lids are run through our dishwasher, air-dried, and stored in a cool, dry place until I'm ready to use again. I prefer jars with a wider mouth to make cleaning easier.
When Jars Crack in the Freezer
I don't heat up jars, but I do store them in the freezer and a few months ago, three of my wide-mouth jars cracked in the freezer because I overfilled them and sealed the lid too soon. Usually, I leave 2 inches at the top of the jar and set the lid on top, going back to seal the jar a day later. This has worked great for me for years; as long as I follow the correct steps.
When I found that a few of my veggie mix jars had cracked, I tossed away the jar and contents – I didn't want to risk any glass in the food.
How I Reuse CocoTherapy and Store-Bought Jars
Keeping store-bought jars on hand has saved me a ton of money; especially in 2020 when there was a shortage of wide-mouth jars and lids. I set aside the jars I know can be reused for the following:
1 – DIY Veggie Mix / Fermented Vegetables
I add vegetables to my dogs' diet as a source of fiber, food for gut bacteria, a source of antioxidants, additional nutrients to round out the diet, and a natural source of probiotics (when fermenting). I prefer low-glycemic vegetables because they are lower in starch (aka sugar). I puree or ferment them to make them easier for my dogs to digest.
When I ferment, I use wide-mouth canning jars. When I puree vegetables, I reuse store-bought or CocoTherapy jars.
Making the veggie mix is easy. I gather two bundles of my favorite low-glycemic vegetables, puree them into a mix, add green-lipped mussel powder, spirulina, and chlorella. My go-to vegetables are:
- collard greens
- green beans
- peppers (green, red, yellow, orange)
2 – DIY Golden Paste
This weekend, I made a huge batch of golden paste for our senior dog. Although golden paste benefits all of our dogs, Rodrigo's arthritis and age inspired me to mix up a new batch. Golden paste serves as an anti-inflammatory, a powerful anti-oxidant, it's said to have cancer-fighting benefits, it reduces blood clots, and it offers pain relief.
When I'm making a large batch, I use the following measurements:
- 6 cups of water
- 3 cups of golden paste
- 2 cups (a single 8-ounce jar) of CocoTherapy coconut oil
- 12 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons of Ceylon cinnamon
3 – DIY Bone Broth
I mix up large batches of bone broth three times a year using a pressure cooker. It takes 4-6 hours and then I'm prepping a new batch until I'm out of bones (or jars). I add bone broth to my dogs' diet to warm up a meal in the winter, to soothe an upset tummy, and to tempt a picky eater. I know that many people feed bone broth for joint support, but all these years later, I'm no longer convinced that bone broth is the best option for joint health.
- raw bones (lamb necks and duck feet are my favs), enough to fill an 8-quart (or 6-quart) pressure cooker
- enough water to cover the bones
- 4 tablespoons of Braggs apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 garlic bloom
I set the pressure cooker for 4 hours, allow it to simmer for an additional 2 hours, then I turn off the pressure cooker and wait for the broth to cool down. You can also add some golden paste while the broth is simmering. Once cooked, I skim the fat off the top and strain the bones out, and fill up empty jars in preparation for freezing.
4 – Cheese from Answers Pet Food
If you've ever tried the cheese from Answers Pet Food, then you may have noticed that it dries out and becomes hard pretty quickly. I transfer the cheese from the box they arrive in over to a glass jar to keep the cheese from drying out.
I love the Answers Pet Food cheese treats because they are a healthy option that our dogs love. I alternate between the different recipes, preferring turmeric, ginger, and cranberry for my dogs.
5 – DIY Cream or Balm
Do you love essential oils? You can make a DIY cream or balm, using a smaller glass container for packaging. I use the 8-ounce CocoTherapy jars and glass baby food jars.
A great lavender-infused calming salve that I love is easy to make and great for stressful days, toning down a headache, and alleviated inflamed skin.
- 1 cup of carrier oil (I prefer coconut oil and almond oil)
- 3 tablespoons of beeswax (those little circles)
- 2 tablespoons of shea butter
- 25 drops of lavender essential oil
- (optional) – 5 drops of a complimentary essential oil, like chamomile, rosemary, sweet orange, ylang-ylang, bergamot, geranium (this one is strong, so go easy), or sandalwood
I combine the coconut oil, beeswax, and shea butter in a glass container. I set the glass container (with ingredients) in a pot with water and slowly heat the pot until the ingredients melt. I add the essential oils, mix, and allow the container to cool and the ingredients to turn into a soft salve.
6 – DIY Oil or Cream
Do you have tall glass jars? Like the MCT oil jars from CocoTherapy? You can create a DIY oil or create that can be stored in these tall jars. The recipe for cellulite immediately came to mind.
It's easy to make a cellulite cream and save yourself some money. To start, you'll need:
- 1 cup of coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons of beeswax
- 3 tablespoons of witch hazel
- 10 drops of an essential oil that is e effective against those pesky fat cells: juniper oil, grapefruit oil, rosemary oil, coffee oil, or cypress oil.
Massage the “problem” area for at least 10 minutes once or twice daily. As I understand it, these ingredients work together to jump-start the skin's natural firming process.