5 Mason jar hacks, including a sippy cup for grown-ups

Turn your Mason jar into a to-go sippy cup.

Turn your Mason jar into a to-go sippy cup.

(Joseph Shuldiner)

Mason jars are certainly useful for canning and preserving, but the familiar glass jars with the distinctive metal lids are terrific for a lot more than making jam. These days they've replaced water and wine glasses in restaurants, they're used as terrariums and flower pots and outdoor lights — they even have their own Tumblrs and Etsy pages. Here are five things you can do at home with your own Mason jars. 

1. Soap dispenser

soap dispenser

(Joseph Shuldiner / For The Times)

Most dish soap comes in unimaginative, even downright ugly plastic bottles. We don't need to see logos or inane phrases like "New! Fresh, Clean Scent!" on our countertops every time we wash a cereal bowl.

Step-by-step directions  Transform a regular-mouth pint jar into a sink-side dish soap pump dispenser using a Transform Mason pump insert in place of the jar lid. You could also use this hack as a liquid hand soap dispenser.

2. Tea infuser

Tea strainer

(Joseph Shuldiner / For The Times)

Comparing whole-leaf tea to tea bags is kind of like comparing Blue Bottle coffee to Folger’s. Whole-leaf tea contains all the oils and flavor you're interested in extracting; tea bags often contain the crumbs and powder left behind after sorting the whole leaves. With this tea infuser hack, you can experience great steeped whole-leaf tea with no disposable tea bags or filters.

Step-by-step directions — Just find or buy a stainless steel 70mm (3") wire mesh tea strainer basket and place it on top of a wide-mouth, pint Mason jar. 

3. To-go drinking cup

sippy cup

(Joseph Shuldiner / For The Times)

No more plastic water bottles. Glass is the new plastic, and with this Mason jar hack, you'll probably be stopped every 10 feet by someone asking you where you got it. 

Step-by-step directions — Using a paper punch, punch a hole in the center of a metal Mason jar lid. Pop a rubber grommet into the hole, fill the jar with your favorite beverage, place the lid on top of the jar, place screw band on top and tighten. Slide a stainless steel straw through the hole. 

4. Twine dispenser

Twine dispenser

(Joseph Shuldiner / For The Times)

Handmade preserves and pickles make the perfect gift, and the simple addition of some baker's twine or a piece of ribbon tied strategically around that gift easily dresses the whole thing up. 

Step-by-step directions  Follow Mason jar hack No. 3, omitting the straw. Depending on the size of the jar you choose, place twine, yarn, ribbon, string, etc. in jar and thread through the hole in the lid.

5. Pour-spout pantry container

Pour-Spout Pantry Container

(Joseph Shuldiner / For The Times)

Organize your pantry without resorting to plastic Tupperware. This hack repurposes a half-gallon milk carton, transforming the screw cap into a resealable pouring spout.

Step-by-step directions Wash and rinse an empty half-gallon milk carton (the kind with a screw-cap dispenser). Open the top and bottom of thecarton. With a pair of scissors, cut off the bottom of the carton and recycle it. Cut along one of the vertical side folds, remove the screw cap, reserve and flatten carton out on a work surface, printed side down. Using the metal Mason jar lid as a template, place over spout opening and trace with a pencil or pen. With scissors, carefully cut out the circle, erring on the inside edge of the pen mark.  To assemble, fill Mason jar with bulk item of your choice, place milk carton cutout circle on top of jar, then place screw band on top and tighten. Replace screw cap.

Joseph Shuldiner is the founder and director of the Institute of Domestic Technology, a modern home-ec university in Los Angeles.