This Trader Joe’s Find Is Great for the Trickiest Type of Food Storage

published Aug 7, 2023
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Trader Joe's Retail Strip Mall Location. Trader Joe's is a chain of specialty grocery stores in the U.S. II
Credit: Jonathan Weiss/ Shutterstock

With back-to-school season around the corner, I’m starting to think about school-year meal planning, which isn’t what it used to be! As my kids have gotten older and their after-school activities schedule has gotten more complicated, I’ve had to rely more and more on meals that I can make ahead of time. I especially like meals I can make in the Instant Pot or my slow cooker because I can finish making dinner early in the day and it’s easy to keep it warm for various dinner shifts as the kids trickle home from practice. 

One of my very favorites is chicken tortilla soup, a meal that has been on standing rotation in our family for a good 15 years. My kids cheer when they find out it’s what we’re having, and I can pull out almost all the ingredients from my pantry and freezer. But there’s one extra perk to making this delicious dish that no one knows about but me: Emptying a couple of enchilada sauce containers. 

Let me explain. My favorite enchilada sauce is Trader Joe’s Enchilada Sauce. The flavor is rich and well rounded, and I don’t need to use the can opener to open the containers (it’s the small things!). What I get most excited about, though, is the glass bottles the enchilada sauce comes in. They are tall, with a wider base and a narrower neck, about an inch in diameter, which still leaves a pretty open mouth. 

These jars are my favorites to repurpose. The glass jars are perfect for storing homemade simple syrup in the fridge, and I also love putting homemade salad dressing and other sauces in them. I have an OXO salad dressing container that I love, but I often have more than one dressing or sauce to store. I also much prefer the look of the enchilada sauce jars. On top of their sleek look, they’re functional. 

Credit: Shifrah Combiths

The wide base makes them steady on the table or countertop (no one wants to clean up oily dressing that gets knocked over!), and the wide mouth makes for a smooth pour. The shape of the bottles also makes it easy to store in the fridge doors. 

When I’m lucky enough to have a couple of newly empty enchilada sauce jars, I first rinse them out and then remove the labels, which I do by soaking the jars in OxiClean and hot water. Then I soak the lids in water and a bit of dish soap and vinegar, and then scrub them with a scrub brush to remove any lingering enchilada flavor. 

I use a funnel to fill the jars with the salad dressing I’ve made, or I mix the salad dressing directly in them. I don’t usually label them if they’re filled with “obvious” contents like a vinaigrette or ranch dressing, but I will use my label maker or a dry-erase marker to label less easily distinguishable contents, such as simple syrup. 

While I usually have one or two bottles filled with homemade goodies in the fridge, I also have a stash of empty, cleaned, and de-labeled enchilada sauce jars ready to go in my cabinet. And I’m always thrilled to add a few more of these free, super useful, and versatile storage containers to my food storage stash.