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updated: 11/9/2010 11:50 AM

Use old canning jars for decoration

Frugal Living

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Q. I need help with old glass-top canning jars. I was given two boxes of glass-top canning jars. They have the orange rubber seal and the metal that is around and on top of the jar. How do you use these? I wanted to make a small batch of spaghetti sauce. My sister-in-law got them for me from a tag sale.

Amy, Connecticut

A. I wouldn't use them for canning. Those glass lid, rubber seal/gasket and wire/bale jars aren't endorsed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture anymore (not since late 1980s) and are considered unsafe. The USDA recommends Kerr/Ball/Mason jars with rings and lids.

You can find replacement rubber seals at places such as Amazon.com and Lehmans.com, but I'd use your jars for decoration, crafts or short-term food storage. The lid/ring method makes it easy to see whether a jar is properly sealed.

Also, your old jars might not hold up to canning. Many have cracks on the rims from use, and even if it looks OK before canning, it can break during canning. If the rim cracks while processing, air can get in, and you don't have any definitive way to know whether the jars have a good seal. Although some people will argue that you can grab the jar by the lid and know that it's sealed well, it's not worth the risk of jar breakage (think: exploding jars of tomato sauce) and compromising food safety.

Reuse coffee canister: We use a large plastic coffee can for a "lights out" canister.

In one of the taller Folgers cans, we put these items inside: a small flashlight, extra batteries, votive candles and small holders, a lighter and a small wind-up radio. My husband then attached the can to the wall in the laundry/pantry room off the main room. In the event we lose power, we will not have to root around for candles, lighter, batteries or a flashlight. This happened to us once late at night, and finding those things while in total darkness was not fun.

It's also helped when we've had sitters at the house. We show them where it is, and it has been used more than once. (Unfortunately we're in an area that loses power a lot!) No matter how dark it is, all I have to do is find the pantry door, and the can is just inside on the right-hand wall.

M.K., e-mail

Clean shower door: I clean my glass shower door with cup white vinegar to a gallon of water. Sponge it down, squeegee it clean. No scrubbing. The vinegar dissolves the soap scum on contact. I have new brushed-nickel hardware and cannot use any commercial cleaner on the finish, so I use the vinegar/water solution to clean the hardware and dry/buff with a clean, lint-free cloth.

C.H., e-mail

Burn Remedy: You can slice potatoes thin and lay them on the burned area. This also works for burns in the kitchen. I have used this many times and even on bad grease splatters. Never got a blister. If the potatoes have been in the fridge, it feels even better. Just keep them on until the stinging stops, and then rinse off the potato-starch residue.

Karen, Texas

• Sara Noel owns Frugal Village (frugalvillage.com), a Web site that offers practical, money-saving strategies for everyday living. Send tips, comments or questions to Sara Noel, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016, or sara@frugalvillage.com.

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