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The humble Mason jar: Once reserved for canning Grandma's peaches, these trendy vessels now hold everything from cocktails to cake mixes. But why the sudden surge in popularity? Jars lend a homemade appeal to even the most basic meal. And they symbolize a sort of rustic chic that looks especially good in Instagram filters.

When layering parfaits and salads, a mix of colors and textures make each meal look like a little edible terrarium. But the benefits aren't entirely aesthetic: Jars make for easy food prep, an organized fridge, and portion-controlled meals on the go. (Plus, they're microwaveable, too!). Fashion + function = dinner (and breakfast, and dessert) is served!

Layered dessert with granola yogurt and banana in mason jar.
Layered dessert with granola yogurt and banana in mason jar.

What to Serve in Jars

The possibilities are nearly endless. If you've been paying any attention to Pinterest, you know that salads in jars are particularly hot right now. What's not to love about a healthy, hearty lunch you can make on Monday and eat all week? Bonus points for being able to throw it in your bag and (mostly) not worry about it leaking all over your presentation notes before noon.

Want to have the most successful salad? Don't forget the protein—not just meat, but beans, seeds, and grains as well.

Lunch isn't the only meal that's gotten the Mason makeover. Combine oats, Greek yogurt, almond milk, and peaches in a jar and let sit overnight in the fridge. Voila, easy (and portable) breakfast!

Here's a delicious healthy breakfast made in a jar. Have fun mixing up the fruits, seeds, and nuts!

overnight-oatmeal-pic resized
Photo by Kim's Cooking Now!

Other add-ins for breakfast: peanut butter and bananas; shredded carrots, bananas, and cream cheese; mango, pineapple, and coconut; pumpkin puree, cinnamon, and cloves; cocoa and dates.

Strawberry cheesecake in a jar. Photo by Sugarplum
Photo by Sugarplum

You can bake anything in a jar! Make cute little cakes, pies, cheesecakes, etc. Cakes and pies even freeze well, so you can divide up a recipe into single servings, freeze, then bake and eat when the craving strikes—great for folks who live alone!

Tips for Creating Your Own Meals in Jars

  • Don't mix wet ingredients with anything you want to keep dry.
  • Any jars will do, but the wide-mouth variety (like these) are the most easily accessible if you're eating right from the container.
  • When layering salads, put the dressing on the bottom (along with anything like shallots that benefit from a bit of softening), and layer the least absorbent foods from the bottom up, ending with the greens. Alternately, you can pack the dressing separately and just throw it in to shake and toss before eating. Ingredients like hard-boiled eggs and avocados should also be added at the last minute.
  • Cakes baked in jars (especially those cute tiny ones like these) may be easy to eat, but those clinging bits of chocolate goo are no fun when it comes time for dishes. Toss yours into a sink of hot, soapy water as soon as you're done to make the task easier.

Homemade jarred mixes make lovely gifts!