How to Store Leftovers in Jars

It is no secret that I love jarsBig jars, little jars, tall jars, short jars…they’re all useful.  One of my favorite ways to use jars is to store leftovers.

Many have asked how in the world it works to store leftovers in jars – isn’t it hard to get the food in and out of the jar??  I have two words for you:  Wide Mouth.  (No-no, I’m not calling you a Wide Mouth.  Oh dear.  I’m just saying that wide mouth jars are my favorite and the most wonderful for storing leftovers.)

The regular jars are fine and I like to use them for canning produce and such, but give me a wide mouth jar and I can do all kinds of things with it.  You can fit your whole hand into a wide mouth jar, making it easy to wash or to put food in and take food out.

The best thing about having leftovers (and other food) in jars is that you can clearly see what is in the jar, unless of course the jar somehow got shoved to the back of the fridge and forgotten, causing it’s contents to change somewhat in appearance.  Not that any of us would ever let that happen.  But really, I can open my fridge and easily see if I need to make more Ranch Dressing, if we have any homemade sour cream, if we have enough cooked chicken to make dinner and what kinds of leftovers are available for lunch.  As you saw in this post, my fridge is full of jars of all shapes and sizes.  Let’s talk just a little bit about those jars, because many of you have asked what kind I have and where I get them.

Pint and Half Pint wide mouth jars are wonderful for storing leftover vegetables, small bits of casserole, little portions of leftover meat, etc.  I have a nice variety of wide mouth pint and half pint jars that I can grab depending on what I need to store.  These wide mouth pint jars are great for my homemade dressings and homemade peanut butter.

Someone gave me this set of Ball Wide Mouth 1/2 Pint Elite Jars for Christmas last year and I LOVE them.  They are short and perfect for small amounts of leftovers.  They’re also quite cute, not that it matters, but shucks cute jars are fun. 

My favorite, favorite, absolute all time favorite kinds of jars for leftovers are the Elite Pint Sized jars When we were going through my mom’s canning supplies after she died, I found loads of them and brought them home.  I love canning with them and using them for leftovers.  They are the perfect size for me to use at least 80 different ways in my kitchen.  And they are from my mama.  Of course I love them best. 

I also use Quart Sized Wide Mouth Jars constantly, both for canning and for storing leftovers.  I find the quart sized wide mouth jars work great for storing leftover soup, sloppy joe meat, cooked chicken, creamy mac and cheese, etc. 

In addition, I have several sets of Wide Mouth 1/2 Gallon Sized Jars, which I use mostly for our milk, but also for chicken broth and large amounts of soup.  I buy these Wide Mouth 1/2 Gallon Sized Jars from Azure Standard, but you can also get them from Amazon or sometimes at hardware stores.

Which leads me to:  Where is the best place to buy jars?  That’s hard to say.  You can get several different kinds from Azure Standard if this is accessible to you.  The best place to find jars for very little money is yard sales or auctions.  I’ve also acquired many jars from people who are simply not canning anymore.  It pays to ask around to see who might have jars they’re not using anymore – they are usually happy to get rid of them!

If you’re going to purchase jars, like some of the specialty sizes I mentioned such as the Elite which are harder to find, I’d say you are making a pretty good investment.  They’re less expensive than tupperware, and because they are glass, they are safe and will not leach plasticy chemicals into your food.  Being able to see your food in the fridge is an invaluable time saver.

By the way, I love having a drawer full of Wide Mouth Plastic Lids, which makes it super simple to fill the jar and throw leftovers in the fridge.  I have Regular Mouth Plastic Lids as well, I love having both.  They’re so clean and nice!

One last thing:  for storing leftovers like lasagna or hamburger patties - foods that would be hard to put into a wide mouth jar, I love having these Pyrex dishes with lids.  They are fantastic for storing leftovers and warming them up in the oven or toaster oven right in the dish.

Shew.  Well, you just found out way more about my leftovers than you ever wanted to know.  Again, let’s just be clear that I was not calling you a Wide Mouth.  Although, after reading my post, you would realize that even if I was calling you a Wide Mouth (which I wasn’t), it would have been a compliment.

How do you store your leftovers?

Comments

  1. says

    I thought of you when I dug a grimy box of large jars out of hubs’s grandma’s shed! They had quite an accumulation of ick and grime, but after a soaking and a washing and a vinegar soak, I think they’re good as new. Unfortunately most of them are regular mouth, but at least that means I can use the plastic lids on them, and I use them for storing things like uncooked rice and beans in the pantry.

    [Reply]

    Sarah Reply:

    Hey Lenetta,

    I love using wide mouth jars because I can use plastic lids on them too.
    I actually just recently bought a few and found that they make silicone seals for them!
    This is great for me because now I can keep soups and other messy things in them without fearing leaks.

    This post just made me think of that :)

    If you want to check out the seals that they make for plastic storage lids then check this page out… http://www.etsy.com/shop/PrimalKitchen

    [Reply]

  2. says

    Great post, I love jars as well. I do have a question though. Have you used them in the freezer yet? I have seen some labeled as being freezer proof, but haven’t been brave enough to try it. Any one have any experience to share?
    Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yes, I often use my jars in the freezer! Just don’t fill the jars too full or they will expand and break. :( Also, make sure the food inside the jar is COMPLETELY cooled before you put it in the freezer or it will break. :( Ask me how I know these things. ;)

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  3. Rachel says

    This is pure genius! I’ve been trying to find glass “tupperware” that can easily be put in a lunchbox and not leak all over. I kept thinking, “If only they had screw on lids!” I don’t know why canning jars never came to mind. Thank you for the great idea!

    [Reply]

    beth Reply:

    i know what you mean, i was thinking the same thing! this is genius =D

    [Reply]

  4. says

    I was JUST talking about you and your jars to my husband after the post of your fridge. I buy occasional jars, never sure why. I use them for water for painting and if they’re blue Ball jars, I use them to store my art supplies. But after seeing your fridge, I now want to store all my food in them. So inspiring! i know what I’ll book looking for at garage sales this summer! thanks for sharing!

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  5. says

    Those Elite jars are cute. I store my dried beans, nuts, dried fruit etc in jars. Gotta try the leftover storage.

    I usually find most of my jars at yard sales. I bought two, 1/2 gallon ball jars for $0.50 each at a church sale. :)

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  6. Darcy says

    Someone just asked me if I needed pint jars and I said no, but now I might ask if they are wide mouth and if so, I’ll take them! Thank you for sharing!

    [Reply]

  7. Marcilia says

    And to think I was going to email this very question to you this morning! The Lord brought you to mind last night, and I log on and find you have addressed the specific thing I have been wondering about. Thank you!!

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  8. Amanda says

    Last time I was at my grandma’s house, I mentioned I was going to look for canning jars at the thrift store. Lo and behold, she brought me down to her basement and gave me a whole grocery bag full of them! :) Thanks for the inspiration.

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  9. Tiffani says

    I love my jars too! Never thought about storing leftovers. What a great idea! You never cease to amaze me. Thanks for the post!!

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  10. says

    Oh yes, we store out leftovers in jars too and love it. I love being able to see what’s in there, more stores in the fridge and I’m sure it keeps things fresher longer. I’ll have to pick up some plastic lids some time though. I just use old metal lids. I also like them because real canning jars can go into the freezer too, then right to a pan of water to thaw my soup or whatever.

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  11. DorthyM says

    I love jars! i bought some canning jars because I love how they look on my shelf holding beans, couscous, and other items. And my dear mother in law saves jars of all types, including the ones from like spaghetti sauce. She likes to send over batches of her homemade vegetable soup and other yummy items so I’m not complaining. I put those jars to use as well. i am slowly getting rid of most of my plastic stash and replacing it with glass.

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  12. Susan says

    Just came into a free stockpile of 150+ jars of all sizes from hubby’s 95 y/o granny. She loves me and is so glad to know I will actually use them! AND, I thought of you Laura, in that you would be as excited as she and I are, for receiving such a blessing, especially the 16 half-gallon ones :)

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  13. McKinsey says

    We are in the process of cleaning out my granny’s cellar house. There are literally hundreds of jars of food down there, no telling how old some of it is (ick!). We are emptying the jars, soaking them in soap and water and will then sterilize them when they are clean. It’s a huge blessing to know I will have jars until the end of time lol! It’s really neat to see some of the jars, they are really old. There are a lot of 1/2 gallon wide mouth jars which I’m super excited about!

    I use jars for anything and everything. It’s so much fun to open the cabinet and see all the jars of food, salt, sugar! I.Love.Jars!

    [Reply]

  14. tammy says

    Hey Laura,

    I am really enjoying your blog. Thank you for all you put into it. I have a question, how do you pour your milk when using canning jars? Just this week i have bought some milk that will need to be stored in jars and do not know how to pour out of them with out spilling some of its yummy contents. Thanks again!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yes, pouring from a half gallon jar when it is full of milk is kind of difficult! I find that if I’m pouring it into a larger container (as opposed to a small glass for my kids) it pours more easily because I can pour faster. If the jar is half full, then it’s a little easier to pour into small glasses or cereal. ;)

    [Reply]

    dotty Reply:

    I use a funnel that I keep in the kitchen just for pouring

    [Reply]

  15. Christy says

    Maybe this is a silly questions, but can someone tell me if you can microwave leftovers in the jar? Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I’m not a big fan of microwaves, but yes, you can microwave leftovers in a jars. :)

    [Reply]

    Becky C Reply:

    But it’s nice to know for when the hubby takes them with him to work!

    [Reply]

    Connie Reply:

    I’m glad you asked this, I was wondering the same thing.

    [Reply]

  16. Candice says

    Great post! There’s something about glass jars that just makes me feel pioneer-ish. :)

    I am new to canning and have a quesetion about the metal lids. Am I correct in thinking that you can only use a lid for canning purposes once?

    If I use a lid for storage of something dry, like beans, can I wash and use that lid for canning at a later time as long as it didn’t previously go through boiling water?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yes, you can use a canning ring more than once, but the lid with the seal part can only be used once for canning.

    And yes, as long as the lid had not been used to seal something before, it can be washed and used for canning later!

    [Reply]

  17. Liz says

    I use ball jars for storage as well!

    Other great uses that I have come up with are:

    1. 2oz and 4oz jars are great for baby food purees, traveling with small diced baby food, keeping formula (if used as I have occasionally) safe and dry on the road.

    2. Quart size and smaller ball jars are great as drinking glasses – inexpenzive and cute on the table. Especially the 4oz size as juice glasses on the breakfast table. I don’t love the diamond pattern as much though and other patterns have been harder for me to find around my home.

    Need a cold ‘to-go’ cup for iced coffee, iced tea, lemonade? Quart size ball jar with plastic lid!! They don’t fit well in cup holders but they don’t leach chemicals into what I’m drinking either!! I have also used them as to go cups for hot beverages with a kitchen towel as a cup cozy!

    [Reply]

  18. Tracy says

    I was wondering about the lids. The kind with rings and then a flat circle have some sort of plastic on them to help seal it up, that I have heard contains BPA. Also, I’ve never seen completely plastic lids. Where are they? And do they have BPA? This has been my hesitation with switching over to using jars.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I’m not entirely sure about the BPA factor in these lids, but since they aren’t touching the food, I guess it’s not as big of a concern. Here’s where I get them: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003VYAGWE?ie=UTF8&tag=wwwheavenlyho-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=1789&creativeASIN=B003VYAGWE

    [Reply]

    Tracy Reply:

    Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Erin S Reply:

    There are reusable lids without BPA called Tattler. They are a little pricey though.
    Here’s a nice write up on them. http://www.foodinjars.com/2010/09/canning-101-preserving-with-tattlers-reusable-lids/

    I try not to worry about the BPA in the Ball lids too much. It only touches the food
    during processing. The plastic lids for storage don’t worry me at all as the food never touches that. I get mine through Azure.

    Danielle B Reply:

    Hey, Laura… won’t the BPA (if there is BPA in the lids) only leach into the food IF the food comes into contact w/the plastic lid?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yes, that’s my understanding that it will only be harmful if in contact with the food!

  19. says

    My mama always used glass jars to store food…..still does. I thought it was weird when I was little, but now I’m doing it too. LOL

    [Reply]

    holly zeger Reply:

    I’m the same way! When I was living at home I thought every thing my mom did was weird. Now I do it! I want to can and all that fun stuff but my husband is activy duty army and we are most likely moving across country next year! So when my mom comes to visit she always brings us goodies!

    [Reply]

    Stacy Makes Cents Reply:

    It’s ironic that when we’re young we DON’T want to be like our moms……and then we go that way anyway and realize how smart our moms really were. :-) I think it’s a good place to be.

    [Reply]

    holly zeger Reply:

    Sure is!

    Stacy Makes Cents Reply:

    Where are you living now in relation to where you’re going?

    holly zeger Reply:

    We live in up state ny, we are thinking cali, pa, or hawaii. Still not sure yet. Mostly its where uncle sam decides to take us :)

  20. says

    I usually use plastic containers because they are inexpensive, and I have a lot of them. But I am trying to transition over to using more glass containers. I will have to keep an eye out for wide mouth jars!

    [Reply]

  21. says

    My mom gave me a bunch of jars, and I found a ton at a garage sale. Most of them are quart-size and some pint-size, because she still uses some pints and a lot of 1/2 pints to can smoked salmon and whatnot. I’m waiting for the day I find 1/2 pints at a garage sale!

    [Reply]

  22. Jenn says

    This may be a stupid question but what do you cover the jar with? Just a regular ball lid and ring? And was wondering if you’d elaborate on your micro use. We’re trying to get away from using it. I’m trying canning this year but it seems so intimidating and scary. But I have raspberries growing all over my yard!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I really prefer using these plastic lids: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003VYAGWE?ie=UTF8&tag=wwwheavenlyho-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=1789&creativeASIN=B003VYAGWE but you can also use regular canning lids with rings for storage.

    I need to do more research on the microwave thing in order to really prove any points about it being harmful, but I have read enough about it to make me steer clear of it. We still have one, but it pretty much only gets used when someone else comes over and uses it!

    [Reply]

  23. Dana says

    I’ve never canned before, but I am interested in getting away from storing things in plastic. Can you use old store-bought jars that came with pasta sauce/Parmesan cheese/jelly/etc. in them? Or do you need to use canning jars? Do you have to buy canning lids or can you use the metal lids they came with? Would canning lids even fit random store jars?

    [Reply]

    Rebecca Reply:

    I often use jars from other store bought products for storage, and just re use the lid that came with the jar. They are not safe to can in, but storage is fine. And sometimes ball lids will fit on sold jars, its weird.

    As far as I have researched, the solid plastic screw on lids are BPA free plastic, and are not microwaveable or for canning, just storage. Regular Ball and Kerr canning lids do ahave BPA in them, I am switching over to Tattler reusable lids, they are a little more expensive, but fewer chemicals and reusable, so I should recoup the cost pretty fast.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yes, you can use any jar you might have around, including jars that came with pasta or jelly. The only draw back to this is that the mouths on these types of jars are usually little, making it hard to get food in and out.

    The metal lids that come with canning jars are what you would use to seal and can them, but you can also just use them for storage. Sometimes canning lids fit mayo jars and others from the store!

    [Reply]

  24. Rebecca says

    I have found the best place to get more cheap jars is Craigs List. I put up a Want to Buy add for canning jars at 20cents each and a lady contacted me with 12 dozen! Score.

    [Reply]

  25. Beth says

    How do you store your glass jars when you are not using them? I would love to use more glass for storage, but I’m not sure I have a place for them. Although, I guess if I emptied out the plastics cupboard, I’d have more room…..

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I have a cabinet in my kitchen that is just for my jars that I use for leftovers – and yes – it is the cabinet that USED to hold my plastic stuff. :)

    [Reply]

  26. says

    I’m curious what people would consider a “good price” for jars at a garage sale. I saw some a few weeks ago but didn’t know if it was necessarily a good deal.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    If you buy a quart sized jar brand new, it will cost you around 75 cents or more. So, I’d say a good deal at a garage sale is anything less than that – although I’d shoot for a quarter or less per jar if possible.

    [Reply]

    Rebecca Reply:

    I’d say price out what a dozen quart or pint jars costs new, here its about $8.50 for 12 quart jars. That works out to 71 cents a jar. I won’t pay more than 20 cents a jar.

    [Reply]

  27. Valerie Ringuette says

    I purchased the freezer safe jars and started using them to freeze my chicken and beef broth. Now I’m curious (since it’s my first year canning EVER!) how would I know the difference between freezer safe and not when I buy jars for canning? I’m sure they will get all mixed up.

    I also use old sauce and jelly jars for storage. Love the jar talk!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Wow, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as freezer safe jars! Maybe you could paint something on them to tell them apart??

    [Reply]

  28. Lana says

    I have a magnetic list on my fridge that every leftover going into the fridge gets written on. All I have to do is look at the list to know what is in there. My family shops the list for leftovers at meal time and when they pack their lunches for work. When a leftover is used it gets crossed of the list. We almost never throw anything out now.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    What a great idea!

    [Reply]

    Becky C Reply:

    What an awesome idea!! I have movable sticker chalk boards on my cubbards. Think I’ll have to move them!!

    [Reply]

  29. blair says

    So laura, I usually pack leftover dinner for my husband’s lunch. But if there’s, say corn and mashed potatoes as sides, do you pack these each in their own separate jar?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yes, I use the small, short Elite 1/2 pint jars for things like this.

    [Reply]

  30. Sheila humenansky says

    Second great kitchen tip for the year. Have to go thru my mom’s jars since she gave up canning. First tip is to use folded aluminum foil to sharpen a can opener. Amazing!

    [Reply]

  31. Becki says

    We get lots of jars from the Goodwill. They are usually about 12 cents each. We also have given lots of gifts in jars (cookie mix, soup mix and things). Often, the recipient will give the jar back, so we end up recycling them again.

    [Reply]

  32. says

    I love having jars as well and yes, we use wide mouth jars. I really don’t like the regular size ones but I do have some.

    Thanks for the idea of storing leftovers in jars…I’ve not really thought of that before.

    I use other jars as well. We buy sliced green olives in jars that have straight sides and blue metal lids (Walmart brand) and after you take the label off…you can’t tell what was in them. I reuse those for all kinds of things…you could also use them to make jar candles for gifts! :)

    A friend of mine reuses jars like that (those with metal lids that have a rubber seal in them) to can things…she’ll use them until they refuse to seal. I don’t want to trust them that much but I have used our old olive jars for jelly and they did seal great.

    [Reply]

  33. Sara says

    I am new to canning and just read an article about botulism that has me a bit paranoid. It mentioned that putting jars into the fridge to be careful of that seal getting sucked down. Can you give me any tips on safety for that? I tried to find some of those plastic lids for the jars but couldn’t so I’m looking for some suggestions. The couple I did put in (chicken stock) I just covered halfway with the lids until I knew they were completely cool then I covered them, but I have kids, so possible spillage that way is high ;)
    Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I’ve never needed to put the jars into the fridge – they seal just fine without that step for me.

    [Reply]

  34. says

    Hi Laura-
    I have been following your blog for a few months and have made many changes in the way I cook and the family eats. I am just reading about your jars and if this is somewhere else, tell me – what is wrong with plastic containers. I have so many and that’s all I have ever used. I don’t ever put them in the microwave. But just storing is bad too? Are we gonna get cancer? Ugh!
    Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Naw, no need to panic. I use plastic occasionally to store my dry goods. Overall though, I don’t like using plastic with leftovers or liquid type foods because the gases in the plastics can get into our food and hurt us in the long run. I just made a gradual switch to glass and love it!

    [Reply]

    Jamie Reply:

    Do you store your pasta in food grade plastic buckets? Where do you buy them? I used to have
    a source for them but that kinda dried up, now I need about 3-4 to store
    all this pasta I bought in bulk from TT back before TG during their big
    free shipping and 30% sale. I save so much $ but I’m looking at about
    4 boxes on my pantry floor. >_< (Good problems to have :D )

    [Reply]

    LindseyforLaura@HHM Reply:

    Laura talks about how she got her buckets here: http://heavenlyhomemakers.com/how-to-store-bulk-grain

  35. shanna valliere says

    This might be a dumb question but I am new to canning and preserving. Can you do your leftovers in a water bath and freeze?…..

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    For leftovers, no need to water bath. Simply freeze as is. You do want to make sure they are air tight, otherwise your food will get freezer burn.

    [Reply]

  36. Pamela Ann says

    Loved reading this. I use the regular mouth jars, attach my blender blade and make my breakfast smoothies every work morning. Then I add the plastic straw-lid and the metal ring and perfect for hitting the R
    road. But for my soups. I use the wide mouth and always use the funnel for canning (I’m a bit messy). :). However, I always have extra half-pint jars in my lunchbox filled with dehydrated apples or summer squash. The jars keep the dehydrated chips from cracking all up into bits like I had when I used baggies. Plus…they’re just sooooo cute!

    [Reply]

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