Zero Waste Team: Food In Glass Jars

Los Alamos County Environmental Services Zero Waste Team offers suggestions for preparing food in glass jars. Courtesy photo


Zero Waste Tip: Preparing and bringing your lunch to work can save you money compared to buying lunch every day and it can make it a lot easier to resist temptation when faced with fast food options.

Glass jars are a symbol of the zero-waste movement, and for good reason. They are super useful, readily available, and extremely versatile. If you’ve been throwing your empty glass jars in the recycle bin, think again!

Jars can be used for storing food for things such as taking lunch to work, keeping your pantry organized, holding snacks, storing leftovers in the fridge, or even storing food in the freezer. (Remember, when storing food in the freezer, do not overfill the glass jar because frozen food will expand and break the jar.) Glass jars can also be used on the go for smoothies or coffee. 

Mason jars come in a variety of sizes, but the ones most used for salad recipes are the pint (16 oz) and quart (32 oz) size jars. The wide mouth jar is generally a better choice for salads because it’s much easier to get ingredients in and out of the wide opening. If stored properly, most Mason jar salad recipes can last four to five days in the refrigerator. 

Let’s talk about how to layer the Mason jar to keep your salad fresh. This order works well to keep the salad crisp: 

  1. The dressing – goes on the bottom
  2. Grains and proteins – quinoa, chicken, chickpeas, edamame, or anything else large and chunky is next. This layer helps keep the dressing separate from all the other top layers and helps bring extra flavor to the proteins.
  3. Everything else, except leafy greens – tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado, carrots, or fruits.
  4. Top if off with your favorite leafy greens – arugula, iceberg, spring mix, spinach or butter lettuce.

Now the salad is ready to go for when it’s time to enjoy it!

You can buy ingredients to create a variety of salad combinations for lunch without having to break the bank. Visiting the Farmers Market is a great way to find the freshest salad ingredients. Or, if you want to rescue food, you can visit a local food depot or pantry. Of course, there are other recipes out there besides salads to put in mason jars. Explore and try using a jar the next time you prep for your next lunch.

If your collection of jars gets too large and you need to recycle some, recycle glass in the yellow glass dumpsters at the Lemon Lot, the Co-op Market, Overlook Collection Center, or the Eco Station. Don’t forget to rinse them lightly and remove the metal lids. The metal lids may be recycled in your recycle roll carts. You may leave the labels on the jars before recycling.

For more tips on how to practice Zero Waste check out the Zero Waste Los Alamos Facebook page, the Zero Waste tab on the Los Alamos County Environmental Services Webpage (, or email the Zero Waste team at for any questions or tips.