7 Easy Kitchen Upcycle Ideas

For the environmentally conscious, upcycling is a great way to reduce waste. Taking a look around your kitchen is likely to turn up tons of upcycling opportunities, many of which have the added benefit of adding charm and function to your kitchen in the process. Here are a few ways to keep old jars, cans, boxes, and kitchen utensils out of the landfill and in your home in a new, functional way.

Old Jars

Empty glass jars – whether from pasta sauce, jelly, or salsa – make perfect countertop planters for fresh herbs. A collection of glass planters is a space and cost efficient way to have an in-home garden, ensuring you always have your favorite fresh herbs on hand when you’re cooking.

For a uniform windowsill garden, collect your favorite empty jar and add a new herb whenever you get a new jar. If you’d rather plant several herbs at the same time, or achieve a more eclectic look, use a mix of small, large, and differently shaped jars. To get a clean, consistent look no matter what jars you’re using, strip the labels off using warm, soapy water.

If you want to keep track of what you’ve planted, paint of rectangle on each jar with chalkboard paint and label your herbs. Using chalkboard paint means your jar planters are reusable, simply erase the label and write a new one with chalk!

(With a little paint, old jars also make excellent countertop kitchen utensil holders. Find out more in our previous post, 10 DIY Ways to Add a Pop of Color to Your Kitchen!)

Tin Cans

Old cans can be used for so much more than pouring grease into! A repurposed and decorated can is perfect for candles. Start by painting the outside of the can or wrapping it in scrapbook paper. Decide on a pattern and punch holes into the can. You now have a fun and functional candle holder for tea lights!

If you want to take it to the next level, you can make your own citronella candles in a can. For this project, opt for wrapping the can in paper or twine instead punching holes.

Rusted Cheese Grater

You wouldn’t want to use a rusty grater on your fresh cheese, but that doesn’t mean you need to throw it away. Flipping a triangular-shaped box grater (one that narrows toward the top) upside down makes for an interesting and functional kitchen utensil holder. Put a piece of sturdy cardboard in the opening at the top of the grater (near the handle) to keep the utensils from slipping through.

Then simply mount the inverted grater directly to your wall, the inside of a cabinet door, or mount it on a piece of scrape wood that you painted a fun color or decoupage with photos from a cooking magazine. Larger garters are the perfect size to hold larger utensils like spatulas and whisks while a smaller grater can keep your forks and spoons within easy reach.

An Old Table and Chairs

Did you come across an old table and chairs through a hand-me-down, at a garage sale, or simply on the side of the road? If you like the shape but aren’t in love with the outdated finish grab them anyway for a fun upcycling project that will leave you with a new trendy dining set.

Strip, sand, and prime the table and chairs (there are plenty of how-tos for this type of project online). Once you’ve prepped your dining set decide on your colors. There’s no need to go traditional with this project – pick a bold color that speaks to you or go with a trendy, bright pastel. Modern spray paints offer a wide range of colors and finishes. You can even go two-tone by painting the top and bottom or seat and back of the chairs different colors. Mimic the look of your two-tone chairs by painting the top and base or legs of the table to match. Be sure you use a paint that’s designed for wood. When you’re done, put a clear coat over everything to protect your project.

You can also use this idea to brighten up tired and boring wooden bar stools. No one said wood has to look like wood.


If you’ve replaced your kitchen colander, upcycle the old one into a fruit basket instead of throwing it away! This transformation makes for a beautiful hanging or countertop basket.
For a hanging fruit basket, drill three holes around the top of the colander so you can string it up by light chain or heavy-duty twine – whichever look you prefer as long as it’s strong enough to hold a basket full of fruit. If you’d prefer a countertop basket skip this step.

Give your old colander a new look by giving it a nice coat of spray paint in your favorite color (be sure to pick spray paint that will stick to metal or plastic depending on what the colander is made of). Once the paint is dry string your chain and hang your new fruit basket from a small hook underneath a cabinet or pick out the perfect spot on the counter.

Sandwich Bag Box or Trash Bag Box

Any shallow box – a rectangular tissue box would even work – can quickly and easily be turned into convenient storage. Start by cutting the top of the box (the side with the hole) off, following the natural edges of the box. Next, cover all visible sides (inside and out) with contact paper in your favorite pattern or color – here’s an easy step-by-step guide with images. Using different contact paper for different boxes will make it easy to quickly grab the box you need with nothing more than a glance. If you want to make sure you can’t see the box’s original colors and logo through the contact paper give the box a quick brush with white paint before applying the paper. There, you’re done!

You can store just about any small kitchen item in these versatile boxes:

  • Use them in a draw to keep your forks, knives, and spoons separated.
  • Put your most commonly used spices in a box so you can grab all your favorites out of the cabinet at once.
  • Leave an assortment of teas on the counter in a pretty holder.
  • Love baking? Keep all your sprinkles and food colorings together so you don’t have to go digging around the pantry.

2 Liter Soda Bottle

Raise your hand if you have a “bag of bags” to hold all those plastic shopping bags. Make the bulky bag mess easier to maintain by upcycling an empty soda bottle.

Carefully cut the top of the bottle off slightly below the narrowest point, but far enough down so that you have a reasonably sized opening to pull a bag out without struggling. Next, cut the bottom of the bottle off above the molded base. This is a good visual of what your bottle should look like. Make sure the edges aren’t rough or you run the risk of tearing the plastic bags.
Using sticky mounting strips, hang the bottle upside down on the back of the pantry door. Put your plastic bags in the bottle and you have a neat, organized, and handy plastic bag holder and dispenser.

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