Canning jars: fabulous in freezer, reuse for decades

Hello All, I posted this as a reply to a thread by Ubique, but it occurred to me it would be useful as a forum topic on its own. Canning jars are awesome for freezing most anything that’s liquid or cut small enough to fit! Reusable for both jar and lid, and I’ve never had a case of freezer burn even 3-4 years in. Flavors don’t transfer or degrade, in my experience. Since gardens and fruit trees often alternate off years and bumper years, it’s nice to freeze extras for the poor harvest years.  

Make sure to pack food in tightly, and for something with lots of gaps like green beans add some water to reduce air. Be sure to leave the top inch empty (or even more headspace with larger half gallons) for freezing expansion, and DON’T crank lids tight; close lightly, and tighten after solidly frozen if desired. Honestly I usually forget to do that, without bad results.

Works best in an upright freezer in sturdy tray-like boxes such as what fruit comes in at stores, so they don’t fall out as you rummage around. Soups, spaghetti sauce, burger, stew meat, fruit, juice, etc…thaw in fridge for best results.

Generally, pints are the most durable and useful for our family, plus the wide mouths have no shoulders so partially thawed contents can slip out into saucepan if you’re in a hurry.

I love the fact that my jars & lids can be reused for decades (yes, some of mine are that old!) as long as I’m careful with them, unlike other freezer packaging. Since the contents don’t contaminate the lids, they last perfectly too. I write contents & date on the glass sides with a Sharpie, which wipes off easily with a dash of baking soda when you wash jar. Anyone else do this?


  • Comments (12)

    • 2

      We like to use old pasta sauce jars and clean them out and then use them in the freezer. Not as good as the mason jar variety because the lids wear out faster and always smell of pasta sauce no matter how much you clean or bleach them, but it works for our needs.

      If I was to use mason jars more often to freeze soups, stews, juice, etc, I would probably just place the jar in the freezer, set the lid on top, and then let it freeze. Then I would put the ring around the lid once it was frozen and I knew it wouldn’t expand any further. That way there would be no risk of the glass breaking from expanding.

      Didn’t know about the Sharpie trick, that’s pretty neat. We put a piece of painters tape on our jars and write on that or for permanent jars that will only be used for one purpose we make a little paper label and attach it with packing tape. We’ll have to give the sharpie trick a go though.

      I haven’t looked in the stores in a while, are canning supplies available yet? There was a shortage for quite some time.

      • 6

        I haven’t checked lately, Mike. Often Walmart.com is a good source, can ship to store or your home. Our local store is often short on canning supplies anyway. 

    • 5


      Glad you turned this into a post. It is a good topic because the glass helps people to be sustainable with their prepping. I love reusing items or repurposing them.

      • 1

        Thanks Ubique! I started out canning, but found I like frozen stuff better for many garden things, and discovered how much better the jars work than plastic packaging. I love that they don’t add or subtract anything to the contents, just protect, then wash up perfectly for the next batch, unlike plastic containers that stain, corrode, and leach chemicals over time, then end up in landfills. 

    • 5

      How do you know when it’s time to replace the lids on mason jars? We have some mason jar screw rings that have a bit of rust on them, but seem to be holding everything tight still. Don’t wash your mason jar lids in the dishwasher, that seems to make ’em rust faster. Since we have started washing by hand and drying immediately after we have seen a decrease in lids rusting.

      • 5

        Hi Alisa, to clarify your question, of the two separate parts, lids (flat part with rubbery seal) must always be clean, sound and completely free of rust. I toss both rings or lids once they rust, for a couple of reasons. 1: rings don’t tighten as nicely, 2: rust is a contaminant that I don’t want near my preserved food, 3: I hate how it stains everything.
        Do you boil your rings? You don’t need to, and that may be contributing to your rust. I do use dishwasher on mine, (both lids used for freezing and rings) and they last plenty long, plus they’re pretty much sterile immediately after the dry cycle. 

        Now lids, on the other hand are always brand new every time they’re used for actual canning, and reach a brief boil before use. Note that I use filtered water for all canning, including boiling of jars & lids. We have really hard water, so that prevents all that buildup on my equipment.  

        When used for freezing, per my original post, lids are kept in a separate large ziplock and are reused until they wear out or pick up strong smells, etc. If your budget is tight, you could likely reuse former canning lids for freezing only, but take care if the rubber is deformed from canning, (or smell funny) they may not seal very well, which is less crucial in freezer.

        I have some of the white plastic full lids too, but unless you add a silicone washer ring bought separately, they don’t seal & you can get freezer burn. Mostly those are just good to use in the fridge or when you have opened a jar of jelly & prefer a one piece closure during use.

        Final word, since I reuse jars & bands so long I only buy Ball or Kerr brands of jars, rings & lids. The store brands of rings especially have failed during tightening and I won’t use them. Thanks for your question!

      • 2

        Oh my! Thank you for the great wisdom and advice. 

      • 1

        You’re welcome!

    • 2

      …Mind BLOWN… never thought of this, and yet it makes PERFECT sense! Thanks for sharing, I’ll be digging all the old jars out of the garage!

    • 3

      We’ve used canning jars as drinking glasses for years. Get the straight-walled ones, because the curved ones aren’t freezer safe. You can buy plastic lids for them, or even drink lids that let you insert a straw. They also have measurement marks on the side so you can use them as measuring cups. And there are fermenting lids! So many uses, if you can find them. I found four 12-packs at Walmart yesterday and bought them all.

      • 4

        Oh, I didn’t know straight-walled jars are freezer safe!

      • 9

        Yep, wide mouth pints are the best! Glad you scored some! I’ve used wide mouth quarts with no problems too, freezer expansion tends to occur through the middle upward in my experience, often resulting in a little hill in the upper center of jar. With a lot of liquid, leave more than an inch between the contents and the top of the jar, or just stay below the “shoulders” to be extra safe. Maybe even put new jars in a bucket until frozen solid. More air in the jar is less desirable tho, in terms of keeping a long time. Of course always use sound, undamaged jars, with not even a chip on the rim.