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Jan 8, 2009 06:09 PM

Uses for empty spice shaker containers?

I am still in the midst of an early "spring cleaning" of my kitchen, and this week has been the spices cabinets (yes, more than one). I found (because the design of the cabinets are too deep) duplicates of many of my spices (over twenty duplicates) which is no problem because I have friends who can use them. I also found many expired spices (Yes, Bittman says throw them out after a year, but I'm talking two- to three- year old ground spices in shaker containers. Some didn't even have a fragrance left.).

The (former) schoolteacher in me could not bear to throw the containers out, so I opened the 14 or so ones from obsolete spices that I had and shook or scraped out the contents, hand-scrubbed all of them and dried them out (I don't have a dishwasher and some were pretty gritty). Now I have fourteen (different sized) lovely shaker jars with lids. And I'm wondering... what the heck do I do with all these things?

Thought about buying Powdered Paint and some butcher paper, then using my basting brush to coat the paper with a thin layer of water. I could then have a different color in each container and throw it on, creating modern art. But that sounds kinda messy, and I have no free wall space to display my masterpieces...

Do any of my fellow CH'ers have more practical uses for the small shaker jars? I've already invested time and money (most of the cost of the spices is paying for the jar anyway) into this, and am not turning back. Any ideas, not necessarily culinary (but great if culinary) for using the empty spice shaker containers would be greatly appreciated!

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  1. If this were two weeks ago I might have suggested dressing up the jars and filling with your fave spice blend and giving them out with a recipe... but it's after christmas and at the moment all I can come up with is non food related - storage for small things like paperclips, sewing things etc.

    1 Reply
    1. re: maplesugar

      Maplesugar, I'm a year-long giver, so spice blends make sense. Have never done it before so it stimulates the creative juices, and my friends love food-related gifts at any time of the year. I've just got to study up on the how-to's. Don't even know where to start except for my own personal tastes. Would start with a crabcake/crab salad seasoning blend.

      Thanks for the suggestions, both food and otherwise (I have a few spice jars with no "shaker" inserts).

    2. Donate to a local school. Make new spice blends.

      1. Take them to your local public school and offer them to the pre-school teacher for arts and crafts.
        Most teachers don't get any budget for that sort of thing and they're usually happy to have good crafts materials. If you're feeling generous, fill the jars with glitter since there's hardly a kid on earth who doesn't like sparkly stuff.

        If you're feeling really kind, stick around and see if the teacher can use some help.
        Since you were a teacher once upon a time, you can appreciate how much a helping hand can mean.
        Maybe you can help do some food projects with the kids.

        2 Replies
        1. re: MakingSense

          MakingSense, thank you for your suggestions... since I usually taught middle-grade [10-13 year old] primary students (and most teachers have a 'calling' for a certain age group) the concept of pre-schoolers with shakers of glitter is absolutely terrifying :-).

          I do really like the idea of doing food projects with the kid with or without the shakers.

          Thanks for the inspiration!

          1. re: ideabaker

            As a former middle school teacher myself, let me tell you that I would have picked up those shakers in a second. Science classes use odd materials all the time. I loved projects and provided many materials for my students.

        2. The obvious choice is to recycle them and create your own spice blends. I have made my own Jerk, spice Rubs and Cajun seasonings......rather than purchasing prepared blends. Personally, I do not like Garlic Salt, but others in the home and guest like it for Pizza. I do use granulated garlic, so I have combined it with Kosher Salt to make our own home version. As noted earlier, it is suggested to throw out spices if they are believed to be a year or more older..... Creating spice blends from what is already in your pantry is not only being creative, but practical as well.

          I also cook with Kosher Salt and keep a ramekin near the stove and use as needed by adding pinches with my fingers.....the Kosher Salt box is large and it's rather difficult to gauge how much comes out of the spout...thus, I have since added Kosher Salt into a smaller plastic shaker size with larger holes to accommodate the coarser grind of the Kosher Salt.

          1 Reply
          1. re: fourunder

            I never thought of making my own spice blends... looks like I'm headed to a mini-shopping venture... making my own personal blends is even more avant garde than making butcher paper art! Think I would really enjoy it.

            Culling my spice cabinet has made me very aware of the spices I use the most (other than the traditional herbs, I have a ton of different peppers, paprikas, and smoky/spicy individual spices, as well as a few spices critical in Asian cooking.

            I actually found an old crystal sugar bowl with lid (for placing on a formal table during tea/coffee service) while digging through the cabinets. Immediately made a "salt" label and taped it on the front, filling it with my Kosher salt. (I like to feel the granules between my fingers for 'to taste' measuring.) Will see how that works (to date have been using doubled Ziploc baggies, the inner one filled with the salt and never closed, kept in a drawer. It was a cute idea until the bags sprung a leak, filling the drawers with salt.

            Thanks for your suggestions!

          2. i'd make some seasoned salt blends -- like rosemary salt.....
            and one should be used for cinnamon and sugar blended together, for shaking on hot buttered raisin-nut bread toast! ;-P (i'll bet you've forgotten how delicious that is!).

            5 Replies
            1. re: alkapal

              Ha, Alkapal, you are right about the raisin-nut bread toast... it has been decades since I've had it. Looks like I'll be searching out salt and herb blends to fill the shakers. Thanks for the idea (and the subsequent growl in my stomach over the toast :-) ).

              1. re: ideabaker

                i think i'll have some cinnamon toast myself this chilly morning! ;-).

                (and about the rosemary.... i just made a great lima bean salad, using fresh minced garlic and rosemary, apple cider vinegar, and good evoo. it was better by far on day 2! and i felt very righteous (calorie-wise) eating it! gosh, what a terrific combination of herb flavors -- esp. when i amped up the garlic. the limas were larger, green ones. the salad would be great using baby limas, edamame, or... my favorite: chick peas!).

                i forgot to mention that i use recycled spice jars for "decanting" spices that come in larger packages from the indian grocery store. MUCH cheaper than mccormick's, for sure!

              2. re: alkapal

                "cinnamon and sugar blended together, for shaking on hot buttered raisin-nut bread toast! ;-P (i'll bet you've forgotten how delicious that is!)."

                Okay, you've hit me twice in one morning, alkapal! I sure haven't forgotten how delicious that is - it's a childhood favorite that I often dream about. Are you psychic or something?

                1. re: Deenso

                  deenso, maybe i AM psychic! and while you may not get those good grits and eggs there in manhattan, you can make them and the cinnamon toast at home. it is hard to get up early in the cold weather, but those dishes really don't take a lot of time at all.

                  1. re: alkapal

                    Yeah - well - I get up at 6:30 on workdays, to be out of the house by 7:30, and I move kinda slowly at that hour. By the time I get downtown, there's usually just enough time to get coffee and a cruller from the guy in the truck parked on the corner near my office. But there's always the weekend... and I think I know what we're having for breakfast tomorrow!