With a little work and some creative inspiration, these glass jars could become beautiful hanging lanterns.

iStockphoto.com/Roman Milert

Jelly, salsa, olives, mayo, mustard ... if these items are common staples in your household, then you probably have quite a few glass jars in your pantry and refrigerator. Perhaps you've even made an impulse purchase because one brand's jar was such an unusual shape. The question is, what happens to the jar when you've used up the food?

Whatever you do, don't just chuck it in the trash. At the very least, you can keep using the jar as a sturdy, attractive food container. (One of the many advantages of glass is that you always know what's inside -- no more mystery leftovers.) Some people turn old jars into reusable, portable water bottles -- a convenient way to avoid the concerns of pollution and chemical contamination that come with many plastic water bottles.

But glass jars have potential far beyond that. Glass is strong, heat-resistant, sterile and beautiful. Glass jar crafts use glass to contain everything from food to fire to plant and animal life.

You'll need a few tools for bottle crafts, including a pair of pliers that can double as wire cutters, a smock, nail polish remover and Goo Gone or a similar type of product to remove sticky tags and labels. Soaking the jar in a solution of water and bleach also works and a scrub brush or wire brush will help with really resistant labels. Many other tools depend on the specific project. And speaking of tools, as with any craft project, be sure to take caution when using crafting tools and closely supervise children who are helping with the crafting endeavor.

For decorating, you may want to have some stained-glass paint or spray-on translucent color (such as Krylon) on hand as well. You may also want to look into decorative touches such as ribbons, raffia and other trims.

In this article, we'll explore jar crafts such as hanging lanterns and candles. We'll also look at the immense variety of ways to reuse jars to create clever -- and thrifty -- gifts. We'll start with the fish: turning glass jars into aquariums. Read on.