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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 spicehouse.com 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!

              3. thinking i'd do a chow search for blends, i came upon this post for a persian spice blend: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/547229

                here's emeril's southwest blend: http://www.recipesecrets.net/blog/rec...

                baby bam blend: http://www.cdkitchen.com/recipes/recs...

                epices du sion: http://www.cdkitchen.com/recipes/recs...
                look at the menu on the left for other interesting spice blends

                looking for flay's rub blend, i came upon this "spanish spice rub": http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/food/b...

                here is his mesa grill 16-spice poultry rub recipe: http://www.recipezaar.com/Sixteen-Spi...

                oh, ideabaker, you're gonna need even more jars! ;-).

                3 Replies
                1. re: alkapal

                  Alkapal, you are wonderful! (And yes, I thought, maybe I need more jars, too!)

                  I am particularly captivated by the Persian Advieh spice blend. I have several dried roses from a very fragrant bush and wonder if the dried petal would work with that. I also like the Epices du Sion mix "made up" by the person cooking the turducken... kind of gives me license to do my own thing.

                  BTW do you use spicehouse to purchase small quantities of spices? I think so many went bad because even the little jars (which were ridiculously expensive) were more than I needed.

                  Thank you so much for the links!

                  1. re: ideabaker

                    i usually buy the smallest amounts that i can locally. is spicehouse online?

                    as to the roses, as long as the roses are pesticide-free (and that would be impossible in my old rose garden), the petals should be just wonderful. i'd also check whether the fertilizer used is compatible for growing fruits and veggies (edibles). <i don't really think there is a problem posed by fertilizer, but just double-check....>

                    1. re: alkapal

                      Good point about the fertilizer. I don't use pesticides in my garden but do fertilize now and then (but it is fertilizer for vegetables and edible plants... and coffee grounds on the roses). Still I will double check on that!

                      Yes, The Spice House http://www.thespicehouse.com/ is an online compendium of spices and they sell any kind of spice I'll ever need, as well as their own spice blends, books and tools (like microplanes for grating spices) to use with spices. I really like that they share essential information about the spices when you look a spice up, and they have an extensive recipe section featuring spices they can provide.

                2. Hi - I buy my spices in bulk at my local food coop and so I always reuse my containers. If you have a coop near you there is usually a place to leave empty jars so that they are available to other people.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Fiona

                    Guess what ? I went into a health food store in Vermont once and they had bulk spices for sale in small recycled bottles - some of them had held spices or pills or condiments previously. I still have one left - Cloves 31c

                  2. I like the ideas above of making your own spice blends or using the containers to make gifts for others. On a completely different tack, DH always takes my empty spice jars and uses them for nails, screws, whatever other small hardware crap he has at the moment and needs to keep neat. Hey, I guess it's better than a drawer full of all that stuff jumbled together.

                    1. Think outside the kitchen. I'm a quilter & my hubby fishes & also does a bit of antiquing/furniture repair:

                      * use a jar for worn out sewing machine needles instead of just throwing them naked into the trash.
                      * make a little sewing kit.
                      * use them for storing small craft supplies.
                      * store smaller fish hooks or sinkers.
                      * store brads, nails....
                      * root a little cutting of a plant on your window sill -- maybe even an herb.
                      * save one to use for traveling as your traveling pill/vitamin bottle.
                      * write all of your personal info/contact info on a piece of paper & stash it in the bottle inside your car's glove compartment.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: PattiCakes

                        "write all of your personal info/contact info on a piece of paper & stash it in the bottle inside your car's glove compartment."

                        What a fabulous idea, PattiCakes! This is one I'll definitely use. Thanks!

                        1. re: Deenso

                          I really like the personal info capsule in the car idea, too! Very utilitarian and could actually save a life!

                          1. re: ideabaker

                            Also recommended in the house for elderly or disabled in the door of the fridge, usually using a pill bottle.

                            Another idea, depending on size and shape, offer them to any family members or friends who collect coins.

                            1. re: lgss

                              Hey... I collect coins! Thanks for that idea, lgss. I have three bottles that don't have the shakers and they would be perfect for that!

                            2. re: ideabaker

                              Put a spare housekey and/or car key in one. Hide or shallowly bury it somewhere outside the house in a location you can easily remember.

                              1. re: greygarious

                                Gregarious, that's a great idea. I live near the beach (read lots of salt air) and hiding keys outside has always been a problem, since they tend to rust and become unusable. The container would prevent air from getting to it.

                                Now the finding it again part might be a challenge... I can see myself (like a squirrel) digging hole after hole after hole :-).

                        2. Fill with
                          --baking soda to use as a scrub for cleaning surfaces
                          --barbeque rub
                          --whole tabasco peppers and vinagre to make your own Texas Pete
                          --DIY mineral powder

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Caralien

                            The baking soda idea is great... and I have lots of uses for the scrub around the house. Thanks for that!

                            1. re: ideabaker

                              also cocoa, powdered sugar, coloured sugars...

                              1. re: Caralien

                                Caralien, these are all great ideas that I will implement. You've really jump-started my brain on thinking about uses for these containers. I abhor working with powdered sugar (and cornstarch) directly from the bag (and hence, miss out on using them because it's too much of a hassle). I always end up spilling the powder on the countertops and floor or tearing the bag or box. The shakers will make working with powders much more user-friendly. Thank you so much!

                                (Looking for my pretty computer labels now...)

                          2. We buy most of our spices in bulk and reuse the bottles for those. Are you talking about glass or plastic bottles or the metal "boxes"? If they're plastic they may be the right size for travel shampoo, conditioner, lotion, etc containers.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: lgss

                              Some (McCormick "Gourmet Collection") are glass and some (mostly Bada) are plastic. One is the smaller height (It's the standard line of McCormick, but the little spice jar...about two inches tall?) The ones with the shaker tops have holes that are either very small in size (as for granulated things like garlic powder), medium sized (for dried oregano, basil and the like) or pretty big (like for crushed red pepper flakes).

                              I travel way too much, and have my TSA approved travel-size stuff automized (it is always already packed in the clear plastic baggie and never leaves my carry-on except while being refreshed), and that is a very useful tip. The shorter containers would certainly be very good for creams, lotions, baby powder, etc.. and could also transport Kosher Salt (poured from my huge box at home) or other dried/powdered ingredients in my checked suitcase when my destination has kitchen access. Loads of travel applications for the containers.Thanks for suggesting that creative use for them!

                            2. As a music teacher, I would fill them with rice or beans, attach the lid securly and give them to my kindergartners to use as shaker instruments! Okay, now I have to go look for empty spice containers.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: Oboegal

                                empty soda bottles work well for this as well (both large & small). When my son was a college swimmer, we used to take cleaned & dried plastic soda bottles, put a few pennies in them, and use them as noise makers during the meets. Believe me, in an enclosed pool, the sound bounces off the walls like crazy & make quite a racket. You could probably put different items inside to create different sounds.

                                1. re: PattiCakes

                                  or use the ubiquitous water bottle! i like the noisemaker idea!

                                  1. re: alkapal

                                    actually the bottle we used were tonic bottles. Any guess how we got so many?

                                    1. re: PattiCakes

                                      hopefully, with decent gin! btw, that dog at your stove is stupendous!!!

                                      1. re: alkapal

                                        I've had golden retreivers in my life for a long time, but that is not a picture of one of mine. I found the picture on the internet & just fell in love with it. I wish I could teach my dog to cook, but she is not the sharpest cheese in the cheese drawer, if you know what I mean. We got her from Golden Retreiver rescue, and she is no more GR than a pot. Probably a chow/corgi/??? mix they picked up (pregnant) and wandering the streeets in WV. I am such a sucker.

                                        Hey greygarious, I really like that spare key idea!!

                              2. ideabaker! here are a bunch of new salt-blend recipes: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/569347

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: alkapal

                                  Alkapal, this is terrific... so many great ideas and all those additional links. Thanks so much! (Thinking about emptying out my other spice jars to make room for homemade salt and spice blends...) :-)

                                2. If you do crafting projects , you can store beads in them and other small items.