A new friend and I have recently been talking about gifts in a jar. There are so many creative things that people can do! They've been around for a long time, but now there's new ideas a-brewing on the web. And before you go out and buy canning jars, remember to just look around to see what you have on hand. Practically any clear jar with a lid can be used for some of these ideas. If the lid is all scratched up, give it a coat of paint (on the outside, of course!) or sand all the paint off of it and then clean it well. Don't be too shy to ask friends and relatives if they have any they want to part with and there's always the thrift stores and auctions. Grab up the little 1/2 cup or 1 cup jars for spice mixes, too.
New lids and rings for canning jars will run you about $0.12 for each jar, so that's not bad. You could also spray paint the rings, red or green for Christmas, red or pink for Valentine's Day, black or orange for Halloween, etc. I love the ol' curling ribbon on the spools. Also rafia and jute. You can get so much mileage from that stuff if you stick with the basic or neutral colors. Wrap it around the jar, tie a knot or bow, glue on a button, cinnamon stick piece, little do-dad if you want, add the label (and cooking instructions if needed) and you're done. Make several at a time while you have the mess and you're good to go later.
Buyer beware!! Use your nose before you buy anything from the thrift shops. From now on I'll pass if they already smell like perfume or aftershave. I bought a really cute bottle at the thrift store a while back. The plan was to put some vanilla beans and vodka (homemade vanilla) in it for my daughter. Honestly, I tried everything I could think of to get that smell out of the bottle and cap, including soaking in full strength vinegar for days. It still smells like aftershave. I got to thinking that when you buy something from the thrift shops, you really don't know what's been in there, so food things probably are best put in food type containers, ya know? I later did some vanilla for a friend using a bottle from when Bill had bought some tea when he was working. That was smarter.
So, take a few minutes and browse these links. There's more than just the standard cookie mixes and soup mixes in these jars. Gift ideas for about any occasion and some have printable labels, too.
http://www.tipjunkie.com/jar-homemade-gifts/ - 48 gift ideas in jars, some printable labels offered.
http://www.craftbits.com/gifts-in-a-jar - lots of different ideas for jars and mugs including some nice sounding herbal stuff.
http://www.recipelion.com/Christmas-Recipes/Mason-Jar-Recipes-34-Holiday-Ideas-for-Gifts-in-a-Jar# - this site has a free 77 page cookbook that you can download.
http://www.budget101.com/frugal/jar-gift-mixes-190/ - offers suggestions for presentation. There are also links on the right side of the page for gluten free mixes and diabetic mixes. Gobs of spice mixes for little jars, too.
Got a dehydrator? My sister dried a bunch of apple slices, and filled a pretty apple shaped jar with them for a gift for our mother. Mom was thrilled! Unfortunately she ate all of them in two days...then couldn't get too far away from the pot for the following two days. :o) But I thought it was a great idea.
Beef jerky is really expensive to buy. But you can get a roast on sale, ask the guy at the meat counter to slice it for jerky and make your own. Stuff some in a jar for a gift. Send one to Bill.
Need a gift for a cook? Real vanilla is another thing that's expensive to buy. Around here, the beans are $7 PER BEAN. I spent $28 for 200 vanilla beans online. That's enough to keep me in vanilla for the rest of my life with plenty to spare. You can put 6 or 12 vanilla beans in a jar for a gift, too. Then they can add the booze of their choice - vodka, rum or brandy are all good choices. I bought mine at http://www.vanillaproductsusa.com/servlet/StoreFront
Infused oils would be nice - a few garlic cloves, or some fresh rosemary, etc in a fancy little bottle filled with olive oil. There's some ideas here: http://homecooking.about.com/od/condimentrecipes/r/blcon3.htm
Homemade flavored vinegars, like baby lemon vinegar or these: http://busycooks.about.com/library/recipes/blflavvin.htm sound good, too.
Got a gardener in the family? A gallon plastic jar filled with good potting soil, a ribbon with some packets of flower seeds, or a pair of gardening gloves, or a little shovel (think kid's toys) would be cute. Or forget the potting soil and put the gloves, etc in the jar instead. If you can gather the flower seeds from your own flowers, you can put them in envelopes, label those and gussy them up with stamps, stickers or magic markers (where ever your creative abilities lie) to put in the jar, too. Now's the best time to get gloves and other gardening stuff since it's the end of the season. If you have a lot of flower seeds you can gather, you could fill little jars with the seeds. Don't forget to label so they don't end up with mystery stuff unless you're doing a wildflower mix. If you remove the staples from newspaper slicks and run them through the shredder, you'll have colorful packing stuff for filler and to hold stuff in place in the big jars. They can also use the shredded paper for mulch.
Thanks, Little Rooster!