It's about to become your new best friend.

By Stacey Ballis
Updated May 26, 2020
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It’s a waste-not kind of time. We are regrowing celery on our windowsills, making jam out of past-its-prime fruit, and pickles out of soon-to-be-wilty vegetables. Sourdough discard is as precious a commodity as the loaves the starter produces. And we are all baking like crazy.

If you are like me, you are forever discovering that recipes calling for items like chocolate chips, coconut flakes, nuts or dried fruits, and mini marshmallows and the like never seem to need all of the package that those items come in. Maybe you’ve made a half-recipe of something. Maybe you have a chocolate chip thief in your home, who cannot resist grabbing a fistful for snacking (maybe that thief is you). All I know is that at any given moment, I may have anywhere from 2 to 12 partial bags of bits and bobs of delicious mix-ins, none of which is enough to make more than a couple of cookies.

Enter the “garbage jar”

Grab a jar, friends: From now on, anything in those baking ingredient bags that is less than ½ cup goes in. I’m talking toffee bits; coconut flakes and shred; butterscotch and peanut butter chips; chocolate chips of every size, shape, and color; nuts of every ilk. I put in small dried fruits like chopped dates, cherries, raisins, currants, blueberries, and even exotics like dried mulberries or goji berries. Teeny chocolate candies bought for cookies, like mini M&Ms or tiny peanut butter cups? Toss ‘em in. Everyone in the pool!

Shake, shake, shake!

Here’s the world’s easiest trick. With every new addition, I give the jar a good, hard shake. Then, when I want to bake—cookie or bar, blondie or brownie—I have a unique blend to mix in! Any recipe that calls for chips, nuts, or raisins is game: Just swap in the same amount called for.

Great recipes for your new garbage jar

Now that you’ve built up some delicious mixture in your garbage jar, it’s time to have some fun. I love using it to replace the coconut, chips, and nuts in a classic seven-layer bar or to sub in for the chocolate chips in these butterscotch blondies. Dip into the GJ to sass up Forgotten, chocolate chip, oatmeal, and peanut butter cookies.

In a no-bake mood? Garbage jar mixes are fantastic in these haystacks and crisps. There may be no finer use than as a mix-in for a Krispie treat. And there may be no better biscotti than one chock full of fun bits; try using this recipe as a starter.

The only garbage jar no-no

The only thing I tend not to put into my mix is anything with mint, since that flavor can be difficult to blend with other flavors. On the bright side, cinnamon-flavored chips seem to go with everything!

You can even eat it by the fistful right out of the jar. I won’t tell anyone.