What Can You Do With Baby Food Jars?

baby food jarWe are really, really, really trying to make most of our baby’s solid food instead of buying it in tiny glass jars. But apparently you’re not supposed to make your own carrots or spinach because of some issue with nitrate levels, and he really likes carrots and spinach, so we are generating a number of jars around here.

The lids don’t fit properly once they’re opened, which is a shame, or I could use them to store the food we’re making. The necks are smaller than the jars, which makes it annoying to feed him out of them, or I could use them as dishes. (Might do that anyway, actually, since we tossed out all the plastic in the kitchen a while back thanks to reports about safety issues on our sister blog Eco Child’s Play.)

While I investigate other brands in hopes of better reusability, what the heck can I do with all these bitty jars?

Yes, candles, I know. We don’t burn any in our house. What else? According to the internets, I can also glue stuff on them to make them look like reindeer, snowmen, turkeys, or Santa Claus. Slightly out of season, I’m afraid. If the lids fit, I could definitely make progress on some areas of our home with a baby food jar organizer or two, so that’s something to keep in mind for the future. Speaking of the lids, if I had a small army of slightly larger children, I could use them up by making baby food jar lid finger cymbals. If we’re ever invaded, I should be able to buy myself some time with that project. Then there will be noise.

Really, though, what’s an eco-crafty mom to do?

I love these firefly lights, and you could green them up by skipping the fireflies so you don’t use paint (or would milk paint bond to glass?). Candles outside would be a sweet look for a party, supposing that I ever get organized enough to host one.

If people can make chandeliers from yogurt cups, plastic spoons, and ping pong balls, as well as teacups, and milk jugs and a hula hoop, I’m sure there’s a light fixture idea out there for baby food jars. I just don’t want to unleash my husband to figure it out until he’s finished installing the safety gate at the top of the stairs.

This baby food jar sewing kit is too cute. You can find instructions for a similar pincushion effect on Cut Out + Keep. I don’t imagine I’d need more than one, though. And I could buy this cute blue one on Etsy if I really want one.

Also on Etsy, grass in a baby food jar! Brilliant, and the paintings on the jars are lovely.

I don’t want to invoke the wrath of the Fake Plastic Flower Death Squad, but these baby food jar gardens offer some possibilities. You can probably score them at thrift stores or steal them out of my sister’s house, ’cause honestly, she’s WAY too cool to have silk flower arrangements for decoration. (Rebecca, consider this a public intervention.) However, I’d prefer to see these re-imagined as tiny dioramas, 3-d collages, or what have you. You can mount paper or paper affixed to cardstock on popsicle sticks or something similar but green – perhaps chopsticks?

In the end, I know the best option is to REDUCE before looking for ways to reuse and recycle (though we are recycling, of course). These ideas, though, give me some hope that I can make my limited supply of jars into something lovely.

[Image from Wikimedia Commons.]

Written by Skye Kilaen

Skye Kilaen began sewing at an early age and eco-rabble-rousing shortly after that. Many years later, someone finally told her that there are books about how to make quilts. Life was never the same. In fact, she spent more on her sewing machine than her car. Bringing her green and crafty passions back together, Skye is now happily discovering ways to create beautiful and useful objects using thrifted and sustainable materials. No, that's not just an excuse to visit Goodwill more often. Honest.


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  1. I want to know more about this issue of not making your own baby food because of nitrates. How is it the jars of baby food don’t have this problem? I just googled it and the article I read said that babies who suffer from nitrate poisoning are being poisoned by high level of nitrates in well water, probably in relation to chemical fertilizers. It’s not like commercial baby foods with spinach and carrots removes the nitrates. I know we all want our babies to be safe, but it sounds like another way to scare parents into buying products. How about supporting organic farming or growing our own carrots so we can lower the risk that we will be poisoned by bad water?

  2. I vote for turning a few into projects. The pin cushions are adorable! Set the rest aside for juice glasses. My kiddos are 6 and 7, and small jelly jars are the perfect size to go with a meal or quick snack. They would also be great for mixing up finger paints in!

  3. Hi GardenGrrrl, the information I have read is that you’re right, well water is the usual culprit. However, carrots, spinach, and some other vegetables grown in some areas have been found with high levels of nitrates.

    Nitrate fertilizers are the culprit, and they are not used in organic farming, so the risk is minimized. So yes, we are using organic baby food, and I guess if we used organic carrots and made our own then that would be minimized as well. But I’ve seen several recommendations to wait until 8 months of age before doing your own spinach. My kiddo is 9 months, so we will be phasing out our jars in a little bit.

  4. Autumn, good tips from a mama who knows!

    Sharon, I think if I can find some where the lids fit back on securely, I will follow your example. Don’t really want a basil explosion.

  5. A cool idea I’ve seen that uses a glut of glass bottles or jars is to make a garden path by filling the jars with gravel or some other medium, then capping them and burying them upside-down in dirt. (check out http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/junk/msg0219284312078.html ).

    A fun twist I think would be to collect tiny items (like bottle caps, bread tabs, small plastic toys, etc.) and sort them by color into different jars. Then, arrange the jars in some kind of pattern when you put the jars in the ground (or completely random, even), and I think it would look pretty cool.

  6. I love Mary’s idea on this! I actually saved tons of olive oil jars for a few years (i eat almost one a week), and I make these cool crafty garden borders out of them. I think filling baby joars with colored things would be awesome!

  7. Hey – You say that the lids don’t fit properly. Does that mean they won’t go back on at all, or that they simply are not longer able to be air tight?

    Regardless, one of my friends used hers to store all of her spices (which she bought in bulk). They stored well, and looked good, and she could make a consistently sized spice shelving system that made good use of her cabinet space.

    I also think they could be transformed into an interesting art piece – glued together into honeycomb fashion, and hung up so light could go through. You could also paint some of them if you wanted a more colorful version. Depending on the number you have, it could make a really dramatic statement.

    Also, along the same lines, they could be used as building material for an outside patio piece. Basically they are small and strong and could be used very much like you would use a brick. They would have the advantage of being both structural and beautiful if you can make it so light goes through.

    Along the building theme – it’s probably also possible to glue the lids on with some sort of epoxy (something thick, so they would stay on permanently), and then they could be integrated into something like furniture building – They could be legs on a short table. Perhaps in this case you could fill each one with some colorful fabric scraps to give some extra pizazz, and also make use of those extra scraps so those don’t get thrown away.

  8. What about reusing them for jams and jellies? Or using glass paint on the inside for tinting and drilling holes in the tops to insert those hanging lights? Or better yet, wrapping the mouth with wire, dropping in a tea light and hanging them from the trees in your garden?

    I only wish I had a little one just for the tiny jars…I adore them. 🙂

    I love the spice collection idea. Uniformity creates a more organized space.

  9. If you don’t want to paint the jars for the firefly lights (or the awesome pendant lamps Summer linked), there’s always interesting/pretty/fun/unusual fabric and paper scraps lying around the house that can be pasted around the outside instead.

  10. What a fun post! Wish I had seen it when my kids were into baby food-except not the carrot part since that was the one type of baby food I actually used to make.
    I recommend making big sister or big brother treasure jars to keep all of the chokable toys and accessories in special places (My Little Pony brushes…Barbie sunglasses…) Choose a high shelf for these jars and only get them down when baby is napping. You may even want to include a counter on them so that big sister or brother can confirm all chokables are accounted for (5 pony brushes).

  11. I am writing about baby food jars. I have a daycare and the parents always send baby food…I always made my own. Anyways, I am looking for a way to use them all. With or without the kids. I was looking at your website and you mentioned about not knowing how to make a chandelier out of the jars. I read a book by MaryJane Butters…I think is her name. Not sure. But she made one out of wire, an old wire fence and baby food jars. It was really cool. I am going to make myself one! You just twist the wire around the threads of the jars, pop in tea lights and wire them to the fencing that you made into a 1 foot cylinder. Voila’ !! Very cute idea. I am still searching for an idea to do with my preschoolers with the jars. We have made candles and bunnies. Time for something new. I will try the floating fish tomorrow. Thanks for the ideas…..Shelly

  12. I love making gel air fresheners out of the baby food jars. Another idea for the plastic baby food containers is to put neat looking fabrics inside and hot glue the lid on. I made my daughter some “blocks” out of them. They can be personalized, and any item can be put inside.

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