How to Label Jars of Spices, Grains, and Other Ingredients Without Using a Label Maker
At one time or another, we've all encountered a pantry, cabinet, or drawer that's packed with mystery jars—each filled with spices, flour, grains, legumes, or who knows what—of indecipherable origin. Despite the best of intentions, the label is smudged and therefore illegible; totally missing, because it slipped off, or you never stuck one on (assuming that you'd always recall its contents); or in some other state of disarray. Who wants to spend precious cooking time sorting through the clutter? Luckily, we have plenty of simple solutions to help you get those essential jars better organized. Best of all, none of these ideas require you to own a label maker!
The Magic of Markers
There are times when it's more efficient to forgo any kind of label and rely solely on markers. When you're canning tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, or working your way through a batch of strawberry preserves and quickly filling Mason jars with the sweet stuff, it might make sense to write out the contents and date directly on the glass or seal. Of course, you can't use any old marker on porous glass or even metal tops: Sharpie Peel-Off China Markers ($9.29, amazon.com) in water-resistant white, red, or black ink are one option. If you prefer metallics, experiment with XSG Metallic Marker Pens ($11.99, amazon.com) featuring quick-dry, odorless Japanese ink. Another bold idea? Long-lasting erasable Crafty Croc Liquid Chalk Markers ($19.12, walmart.com) in white, bright neon, and earth tone colors.
Best of all, you can remove permanent markers with rubbing alcohol; temporary markers come off with water, although they sometimes require a bit of effort. This means you can reuse your jars down the line.
Chalk It Up
If liquid chalk markers appeal, keep the school days theme going with blackboard-inspired labels. Some options, like Torubia Chalkboard Labels ($11.99, walmart.com), are blank, so you can fill out the waterproof labels any way you want; others, such as Kitchen Almighty Chalkboard Labels ($11.97, amazon.com), come preprinted with the names of every quotidian and exotic spice imaginable. Attach to your glass jars or vials, then give yourself an A for organization skills.
The Wonders of Washi
A step up from regular masking tape and a favorite tool for crafters, washi tape has loads of advantages. For starters, you can snip off a piece of tape and reposition it without leaving a sticky residue on the jar. Washi also offers a world of creative options, from stripes and dots to graphic patterns. Some companies sell packages with multiple rolls of color-coordinated designs for different types of jars. Case in point: Scotch Eight-Pack Expressions Washi Tape Geometric Madness ($9.99, target.com). Grab a thin-tipped marker, use your best penmanship, and just like that, your homemade kimchi or spice blend becomes a thing of beauty.
Make It Minimalist
Is your spice cabinet bulging with too much turmeric and cumin but somehow light on oregano? When all of your containers are different sizes and shapes, finding what you need can be an exercise in futility. Consider transferring your collection to uniform spice jars, then purchasing weatherproof, easy-to-read, minimalist-style spice labels printed with the names of standard herbs and spices. Or go for bespoke labels that have the same modern aesthetic, but allow you to customize the labels to your specifications. OrganizePrioritize Spice Labels (from $9, etsy.com) is one of our favorite options.
Stickers to Show Off Your Homemade Goodies
Sure, you could opt out of labels and just go the marker route with your seasonal batch of preserves, but you could also go whole hog and make your family's favorite plum jam especially memorable (and gift-ready) by ordering waterproof stickers in custom-printed designs with the professional look of supermarket goods. Jam Labelizer (from $14, jamlabelizer.com), for example, lets you choose a festive pattern for your front and back label, as well as add details including product name, batch date, and jam type. Sweet satisfaction!