Mrs Green reuses her herbs and spices jars

Filed in Blog by on February 13, 2009 27 Comments
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The three rsIt’s not exactly a rocket science post today, but we all know that the 3 R’s are in the order of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle for a very good reason.

Reducing comes in at first place because the less you consume the less rubbish you create. Hot on the heels is reuse – better to reuse something and prolong it’s life than recycle or landfill it. It’s important to remember that recycling comes LAST on the list; it can be energy intensive and is the solution to a symptom which we need to prevent in the first place.

Here at Chez Green we have a few more R’s of our own including reject and repair and we’d love to hear some more of yours in the comments below.

This week I did a little reuse of my own. One of our regular landfill demons is the plastic lids from schwartz herb and spice jars. We are growing quite a lot of herbs this year, so we hope to reduce the amount we buy in the future, but for now, these pesky items go into the landfill.

Little Miss Green wanted boiled eggs for breakfast. It’s not something she asks for often, so I’m ashamed to say that we do not own any eggcups. The only ones I have seen in local shops are plastic, and although they will be used a lot, I have had these in the past and they easily crack and split. I’m waiting until I can find some pottery ones.

Fear not though, because I came up with this:

reusing glass jars for an egg cup

It will prolong the life of these glass jars for a little longer before they end up being recycled.

What about you? What items do you reuse around the home? I’d love to hear your creative solutions!

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (27)

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  1. John Costigane says:

    Mrs Green,

    Rcycling is important but, as you rightly say, reduce and reuse come first. Reduce is my current attitude with reuse not as prominent.

    My main reuse is plastic milk jugs which hold spent cooking oil. This oil can be reused as fuel. I am waiting for this activity to take-off locally.

    Young Kristal used plastic caps, of all kinds, for a textile project involving recyclable material. Collecting these caps has some merit. In general, I collect my useful plastic waste items to avoid landfill. There is not a huge amount it of either.

  2. Madeleine says:

    Yes, sometimes it’s forgotten by some that it is better to reduce or reuse in the first place. My daughter recently had a talk about this at school which was great.

    You could buy refills of the herbs for the glass jars? They usually have cardboard packaging.

    I’ve seen other glass jars re-used in this way: attach the lid with a screw or strong glue onto the underside of a shelf in say your garage then use the jar to hold nails, screws, washers etc – you just screw the jar onto the lid and then you have a nice row of jars suspended under the shelf and you can easily see what you have.

    Glad to hear you’ll be growing your own herbs! I’m sure they’ll last longer than the supermarket ones.

    Most plastic pots/containers get put into my daughter’s ‘make and do’ box or are used as pen holders/storage containers for bits and bobs in the cupboards.

    I’m just about to paint some tins to use as mini herb pots for a project but am not sure about whether anything would leach from the tin into the soil – do you know/know where I could find out about that?

    I’m sure I’ll think of other things I reuse just after I post this!

  3. Peter says:

    Well, you won’t be surprised to hear that our home is a slight temple to reuse.

    Here’s one a few people seem to have liked when I have shared it…

    Bearing in mind you can pay a few pounds for some plastic can lids (and so far have seen none for the larger diameters. Still searching for the ideal for the ‘standard’ size… closest so far is from a Pringles tube, but it’s loose), it is a good way to use what you need and keep the rest in the can in the fridge until you next need it, without having to dirty and/or wash other containers or use clingfilm.

    I invite all your readers to share their ideas on the site.

  4. Kris says:

    Hi Peter, this may be repeating an old wives tale, but I thought it was generally discouraged to store partially emptied cans in the fridge?

    I quite often have half tins of pulses and tomatoes when I make chilli and find they decant perfectly into plastic tubs that once held pre-made sandwich fillers.

  5. maisie says:

    I also thought that you shouldn’t store things in their cans in the fridge once opened.

    My main re-use is of margarine tubs which are used to store all sorts of things in the freezer.

    When I get too many or have any without lids they go to the HWRC and can be put into the plastics there.

    I do also re-use jars of all kinds when making jams and chutneys etc, and for stroing things in like spices etc which I buy in bigger bags.

  6. Peter says:

    Ladies… it looks like you are correct. I apologise and thank you.

    That said, there do seem to be a lot of advices that can err on extreme levels of caution, which is what has caused quite a lot of the food waste issues we face (sell by dates, etc).

    I guess I was just looking for an alternative to the commercial versions openly sold in all supermarkets. Maybe they should be informed.

    Actually, in our family such things only last a few days only so I think I’ll stick with it. Interestingly, my wife has rebuffed any attempts to reuse one foodstuff in a container previously used for another, but is quite happy with the sealed can. But you are right to raise the caution.

    Mind you, sometimes you have to then worry about plastics…

    All tricky, eh? But that’s why sharing info like this is great.

  7. Dormouse says:

    On a more frivolous take on reuse – I reused a single earring which had long lost its partner, as a mobile phone charm recently which my nearly teen daughter pronouced as “COOL!” (my phone is in teen terms “a prehistoric brick” but it does the job so why replace it?)

  8. Sarah says:

    I grew some of my own herbs, dried them here, and then refilled my herb jars with my own dried herbs! I got silicon egg cups from Lidl a year or so ago and they’re fab. But nice pottery ones are good too – tried looking in charity shops?

  9. The one thing that I do store in the fridge, using the pringles lids a la suggestion from Peter, is cat food. It works a treat 😀

    Over this last year, we have spent a lot of time reducing and indeed reusing what we have, especially the growing range of glass jars that have come our way.

    Love LMG’s egg-cup though. No doubt, she’ll be getting the glass paints out soon and having some fun with it. 😀 x

  10. ruth_dt says:

    If you don’t have any egg cups, do you have any shot glasses left from a mis-spent youth? I find Aftershock glasses (plastic) are the ideal size:

  11. just Gai says:

    When buying dried parsley this week I faced a dilemma. Should I go for a glass jar with a plastic lid and a plastic seal or a cardboard box refill with atleast one if not two plastic packets inside? Jars can be reused (athough there’s a limit to how many will fit on my spice shelf) but the plastic seal cannot, any more than the plastic packets. It’s never easy, is it? In the end I opted for the jar.

    Ive tried growing herbs but with little long term success.

  12. Ablissa says:

    When I lived in the country, I saved all the plastic milk and soda bottles. In the early spring they made great individual plant greenhouses (in the garden). Leave the lids in tact, but cut off the bottoms. Plant your seedling and them put the jug over the top of the seedling and sort of push it down into the soil. In windy conditions I would stick rocks or clods of dirt in the jug handle to help weigh it down. If you can bury them about an inch into the soil they stay pretty well. If it’s a hot sunny day, then go out and take the lids off so it doesn’t get too hot inside…

    I save wine corks for assembling cork boards. I have enough cork boards but they make a great gift. 🙂

    And I also collect the plastic grocery sacks that seem to be everywhere. Cut into 1×8″ strips, they are making a doormat with latch hook. Since it is plastic it’s great for outdoor settings. I’m making mine for the entry to the tent when camping.

    Do you have Freecycle there? (
    Freecycling is one of my very most favorite things. “It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills.” If you don’t have a Freecycle in your area, you can start one! We have over 2500 members on our local group. ~I did a quick search for groups in the UK and you have one in Birmingham.)

  13. Slightly off-topic, I think, but I like freezing my home-grown herbs. Of course, then you have to remember they’re in the freezer.

    I second the Freecycle idea for getting rid of spice jars — or possibly donating to a school for arts and crafts? Little containers like that come in handy.

  14. Kris says:

    Mrs G does indeed know of Freecycle – she started it going in our area 😀

  15. I use the spice containers for craft doo-dads as well 🙂 Also, I saw this idea to reuse a rigid plastic cake container for a greenhouse to grow your own spices ( which I intend to do this spring combined with your idea of starting seedlings from toilet paper tubes. Thanks for all the great ideas all!

  16. Mrs Jackson says:

    Oh I love the egg cup. I have taken the “rejection” approach and it’s saving me money! For instance in Waitrose there were some lovely in the night garden characters but there was so much plastic, so I decided not to get it for this reason (also my toddler really doesn’t NEED any more toys).

  17. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: Hi John, yes we must be mindful of reduction BEFORE reusing. I hope the spent oil will come in useful. One of our friends used to make his own biodiesel with pretty good results.

    @Madeleine: Hi Madeline; good to see you. We share a passion in using herbs for both medicinal and culinary use 🙂 The cardboard packages still have small plastic bags inside them. But we will be drying and storing our own this year if we are successful in our heavy soil. I can’t say for certain about the tins, but in Mr Green’s scouting days they were encouraged to burn and crush tins and then bury them in the ground as a ‘natural’ method of disposal …

    @Peter: Hi Peter, thanks for sharing your idea. I know it caused a bit of a stir on here and it’s good to sort out the health and safety issues. We do, however, store food in this way, most certainly an open tin of fish for the cat etc. Pringles tops and coffee jar lids work well for this!
    It’s bought up an important subject because there is a LOT of information about storing things in plastic. Purists would not use any sort of plastic around food, but we all have to find what works for us as individuals.

    Hi Doormouse – welcome to the site and thank you for sharing your lovely story with us. If it’s cool from a teenager, then you really did surpass yourself!

    @Sarah: I’ll have a browse, Sarah and keep a look out for the Lidls ones too. Hopefully we will be joining you with her herb jar refilling by the summer!

    @Almost Mrs Average: Hi Mrs A; I’m sure you have hundreds of tricks for reuse up your sleeve. Hmmm, glass paint; they are a little bit runny for my liking!

    @ruth_dt: Hi Ruth! What a great idea; perhaps I could pick up some of these in a charity shop too. My miss spent youth was spent drinking Guinness, not shots LOL!

    @just Gai: Hi Just Gai; that is exactly the dilemma we face! I have bought in bulk, in polythene bags, but there are only a certain amount of herbs we use that much of. I currently have two coffee jars full of turmeric and it seems such a mountain to get rid of! Like you, I favour the glass jars at the moment…

    Hi Ablissa, welcome to the site and thank you for sharing some of your fabulous ideas. The one about the mini greenhouses could be put into use here. We have clay soil so it takes a long time to heat up in the springtime.
    I’m glad you are enjoying Freecycle so much 🙂

    @SavvyChristine: Hi Christine. Do you freeze your herbs in ice cube trays ready to put into a dish or in some other way? I’ve frozen herb butter before now and that was a big success. I would just drop a piece of frozen butter onto veg after cooking and it would melt down. Mint and basil was particularly good.

    @Recycle Raccoon: Hi Recyclingracoon – I’m loving your site; good luck with that. Jen’s idea of the mini propagator was great, wasn’t it! I think we might be using that idea too; to start tomato seeds off in the dining room.

    @Mrs Jackson: Mrs J – rejection comes before the 3 R’s – this is one of Mr Green’s favourite drums to beat. Glad you were able to resist the night garden stuff; as you say, how many things do they need?

  18. Carole Blake says:

    This is one I’ve used, and it really works!

    Where I used to live I had a veggie garden (I’m in a flat now, so no garden :() I re-used some 2litre coke bottles to help water the veggies deep down where the roots need it. You remove the lids, cut off the bottoms near the bottom and invert them deep into the soil. You have to dig a coke bottle sized hole for each one as the inverted bottoms should be level with the soil; place it near the crops. I put one near each one of the cauliflower plants I had.

    When the ground really dries out and the crop starts to wilt, watering by filling up the coke bottles really helps to get the water where it’s needed as it gradually seeps down through the narrow neck end of the bottle, and you don’t have to spend ages watering as you just fill up each one and walk away!

  19. Poppy says:

    @Carole Blake:

    I have done similar with growbags and tomato plants, though obviously it’s not possible to dig them in very far. Still works 🙂

  20. Mrs Green says:

    @Carole Blake: Hi Carole; I’d heard of this idea, but never had such a good description as you just gave – thank you! We might try that in the summer as it would save having to water and would probably help reduce water waste as it is going exactly where needed. Thanks for sharing your tip. Sorry to hear you no longer have a garden 🙁

  21. Carole Blake says:

    @Mrs Green: I’m selling the flat this summer (hopefully – in the current climate nothing is certain!) and moving in with my fiance; he’s got a nice little patch of garden out the back and I can’t wait. I’ve already planned some chickens and a veggie patch, so I’ll be re-using the soft drinks bottles again at some point!! Talking about my fiance, when I first met him he recycled nothing apart from glass! Well, I wasn’t having that was I? Now one corner of his kitchen has been taken over by recycling sorting bins and he uses them (or I get very cross!)

  22. Mrs Green says:

    @Carole Blake: Good luck with the selling of the flat. Who knows what the current climate will bring. Good luck with living with your fiance; it sounds like he is doing you proud with his recycling 🙂

  23. Cara says:

    We reuse (repurpose) so many things in our household that it’s hard to keep track! My husband always asks me before tossing something into recycle…. “Are we keeping this?” To which I almost always say, “Yes!” One of the most useful ideas we’ve employed is this:

  24. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Cara – welcome to the site! Now why haven’t I found your fabulous blog before!? You have some amazing ideas on there. Thank you for sharing your link with us and good luck with your blog. I think you will inspire many people with your ideas 🙂

  25. Peter says:

    Seconded! Another nice clean blog, too. With lots of nifty functions. Like this one. I am green with… (not a sin that one would wish on our favourite colour), and must revisit all that is possible asap.

    Happy to add another to my ‘green blog’ list!

  26. LOL…”thirded”, if there ever was such a word. Or can I re-use Peter’s “seconded”. It’s a fab blog and I’ll be uplisting my list too. 😀 x

  27. Mrs Green says:

    @Peter: 😀 Peter; you’re so funny. Thou shalt not covet, remember !?

    @Almost Mrs Average: we don’t mind thirded and I’m sure Cara doesn’t either. I think we can officially say we have all come across a great site today. I’ll race you to add Cara to our links section!

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