Author Topic: Any tips on how to do canning/preserves cost effectively?  (Read 5899 times)

Babymoustache

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Any tips on how to do canning/preserves cost effectively?
« on: March 13, 2014, 02:10:44 AM »
Hiya, I've had a mustachian recommend canning fruit to me. I love the idea and it would be fabulous to stock my shelves with affordable fruit for any season.  However, I've looked at how to do this online and it seems like a very expensive exercise with having to buy the preserve cooker, the jars, sealing rings etc. 

Rather than let myself be put off, I thought, there must be a mustachian way to do this that I haven't found yet. So, I'm putting out the call to the seasoned mustachians on here for tips on canning/preserving fruit the non-spendy-pants way! :)

kt

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Re: Any tips on how to do canning/preserves cost effectively?
« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2014, 02:41:52 AM »
i'd also be interested in this.

i bulk-bought around 50 metal-lidded jam jars from amazon using vouchers from swagbucks and made jam without any additional fancy equipment. i would like a funnel next time as it was a little messy without. i didn't use wax seals and it's been fine. just get the jars hot and make sure they are still hot when you add the hot jam.

snyder66

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Re: Any tips on how to do canning/preserves cost effectively?
« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2014, 05:39:32 AM »
If you buy fruit and vegetables in season, It's certainly cheaper and better than buying canned.  Many times you can get deals from farmers for in season fruit and produce.  Just spend the time canning and you'll reap the benefits in the cold, winter months.  The inital cost of equipment is a bit high.  After that, You are just paying for more jars.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Any tips on how to do canning/preserves cost effectively?
« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2014, 05:58:44 AM »
Try and find equipment used. In my sister and my case, we take turns using ancient pressure canner that used to be our Mom's.

Keep in mind, the benefit of canning isn't just saving money, it's having healthier canned goods :)

MrsPete

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Re: Any tips on how to do canning/preserves cost effectively?
« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2014, 06:11:23 AM »
I've been doing this all my life, and I can give some good tips:

I inherited an old, old canner from an elderly family member, so my cost was zero.  You might find one used.  Be aware that three types of canners exist:

- Hot water bath; this is nothing but an extra-large pot (with a piece on the bottom to keep the jars from touching the actual bottom of the pot /to allow water under the jar), and it is the simplest type of canner.  It can only can acidic fruits and vegetables, but that covers a wide range:  tomatoes, green beans, peaches.  It's also good for relishes and salsas, which contain only acidic foods. Hot water canners can be had -- new -- for $30 or so at Walmart.  This type of canner is your obvious first step; you don't have to mess with the pressure.

- Pressure cooker canner; this type can can meats and non-acidic vegetables.  It is more complicated, and the foods must "stay in" longer periods of time.  These are more expensive.  I'm going to guess $100+  You can hot-water-bath can in a pressure cooker, but you cannot pressure cook in a hot water bath; thus, this is a more versitile item.

- Steam canner; though the official sources say that this isn't an acceptable way to preserve food, my family's been doing it forever, and none of us have been injured.  the benefit is that it's not so heavy and can be used on glass-top stoves. 

All these canners come in a variety of sizes.  The larger ones are attractive, of course, because you can preserve more jars in one "round" of cooking, but the smaller ones don't weigh nearly as much. 

Which brings me to a warning:  If you use a heavy canner on a glass-top stove, you may be buying a new stove.  No amount of canned green beans can make up for that cost, so be careful.  An acceptable option:  Buy an "electric eye" and use it on the counter top.  I'm very interested in buying an electric canner, which plugs into the wall and doesn't use the stove at all.  My main motivation is that I could prepare my foods in the house, then let the canner run outside on the back porch, keeping all that heat outside.  I am holding out, however, because they cost about $300, and that's tough to justify.  If I could find one used for half the price, I'd snap it up.  Also, the electric models are ONLY hot water baths.

Next you need jars.  These aren't so difficult to find.  Check out old antique stores.  In my experience, they run .25 to .50 each, and they're likely to last you the rest of your life.  Avoid the type with the wire bail that flips over the lid -- it's near impossible to get the rubber rings necessary to close them.  The pretty blue ones are rare; thus, they're expensive.  I like pints better than quarts.  They fit my family size; however, I do like to have some quarts for things like spaghetti sauce.  Wide-mouth rings will cost more, but wide-mouth jars are nice for packing pickles.  The experts say you shouldn't re-use commercial mayonaise or spaghetti sauce jars, but my family's been doing it forever without trouble.  IF the food doesn't process properly, you'll see that the jar isn't sealed, and you can run it through again (or just eat the food immediately). 

In addition to the canner and jars, you'll need some accessories:  Lids and rings and a wide-mouth funnel are all that really matters.  You already own long-handled spoons.  A magnetic lid-lifter is handy for lifting lids out of the not-quite-boiling water.  A lift-out thing that keeps your lids separated while they're submerged in boiling water is also nice, but I don't have one myself. 

Finally, you're going to need some food to process.  Commercially canned food is pretty cheap when purchased on sale, so to make this a money-saving enterprise you really need to grow the food yourself OR get it very cheaply.  At the end of the season I can almost always get a bushel of apples or a large box of tomatoes for $10.  These are often labeled "canning quality", which means they have bad spots that must be cut out. 

Regardless, I rarely save money on canned food; rather, I can have better quality for the same price as store-brand sales (my thick, tasty homemade applesauce bears no resemblance to that watery stuff they sell at the store) . . . or I can have unusual items, like my great-aunt's pepper relish (why would you ever eat meatloaf without it?), for the same price as store-bought stuff . . . or I can have things that can't be purchased commercially like Stawberry-lemonade concentrate. 

Two last suggestions:

Check out several canning books from the library.  The instructions are simple to follow.  Or look online -- you can find plenty of canning websites.  Do not modify the recipes.  Think of this as chemistry class rather than a creative endeavour. 

Consider taking a class at your county's Home Extension office.  They're typically offered in the summer, and that type of class tends to run $10 or less. 




MissStache

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Re: Any tips on how to do canning/preserves cost effectively?
« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2014, 06:20:24 AM »
Trying looking on craigslist or freecycle.  It may also be worth it go to to some estate sales or yard sales if you are in an area where older or poorer people live- they are more likely to have canning supplies. 

I think I got my pressure canner on Amazon for something like $75, and you can get one of the canning kits with jar tongs, funnels, etc for pretty cheap. 

The initial outlay can be pretty expensive, but as 95% of the supplies you need are one-time purchases, they are a good investment in the long run!

Worsted Skeins

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Re: Any tips on how to do canning/preserves cost effectively?
« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2014, 06:32:32 AM »
You have received some good advice but I will add to look at some small batch canning sites on the Internet.  You can try your hand at a few jars of marmalade or fig jam from dried figs without a major canning equipment investment. 

MayDay

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Re: Any tips on how to do canning/preserves cost effectively?
« Reply #7 on: March 13, 2014, 06:47:55 AM »
We do water canning.  I have the basic Ball set that has the big pot, metal insert in the bottom, and lid grabber/jar grabber accessories (may have come with others that I tossed as those are the only ones I use).

Yes the jars and rings are a big up front cost.  But now that I have been canning for over 6 years, I don't have jar expenses anymore.  I also do occasionally come across them for cheap at garage sales.  This is uncommon as canning is popular now!  Your best bet for cheap/free jars is calling all the elderly people you know and asking if they have a basement full of them. 

The lids have to be replaced every year but not the rings.  I found a source for free lids and rings- the farmers market that I shop at has flower vendors who sell arranged flowers in canning jars.  At the end of every market they give me all their rings and lids for free! 

For the fruit/veggie source, we do pick your own places mostly for fruit.  We did plant 2 peach trees last spring.  I might not save money at pick your own places, but I can berries for 2 reasons:  low/no sugar jams are impossible to find, and child labor is extremely prevalent in berry picking (exception is wild blueberries) so we try not to buy conventional berries.  For vegetables we get them from our own garden or from local farmers who sell in bulk and/or trade labor for veggies.

The key for me was starting off very slowly- I borrowed a canning pot and made one thing the first year.  Now I have about 10-12 dozen jars of food in the basement.  It was a progression. 

amyable

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Re: Any tips on how to do canning/preserves cost effectively?
« Reply #8 on: March 13, 2014, 08:46:25 AM »
Hiya, I've had a mustachian recommend canning fruit to me.

If you're only interested in canning things that are naturally acidic, like (most) fruit and tomatoes, you don't really need to buy anything.  I can blackberry jam, blueberry jelly, salsa, and pickles with minimal specialized equipment.  I did break down and buy a jar funnel, but I canned for years without it.  You really just need two big pots, jars, and lids.

senecando

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Re: Any tips on how to do canning/preserves cost effectively?
« Reply #9 on: March 13, 2014, 08:59:30 AM »
A jar funnel will likely pay for itself in food not ending up on the counter in the matter of a few months. I use the jars for storage in the fridge (extra fats, liquidy leftovers, yogurt, etc.) and the funnel is well worth the few bucks. Because I'm insane, I have two.

Catbert

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Re: Any tips on how to do canning/preserves cost effectively?
« Reply #10 on: March 13, 2014, 12:59:29 PM »
Used equipment and supplies is the way to go.  25 to 50 cents for jars is a fair price. 

 If you have to buy jars/lids try Smart and Final for the cheapest prices I've found.  (Not sure if they are nation wide in the US).  Ace hardware is a bit more expensive, but if your local store doesn't have a particular item they will ship it to the store for no extra cost.  The internet is the worst way to buy jars because jars and heavy and break.  That cost is either build into shipping or the cost of jars themselves.

Buy a basic canning book like Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  Read all the boring parts a couple of times before you tackle your first project.

 A great website is www.foodinjars.com She had a lot of canning 101 posts as well as interesting recipes.  Punk Domestics is another interest source.

SweetLife

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Re: Any tips on how to do canning/preserves cost effectively?
« Reply #11 on: March 13, 2014, 01:19:44 PM »
So excited you started this thread!!! Lol... sorry took so long to respond on your other thread put one there today ... as I mentioned we have been canning for years with excellent success only using a large pot to sterilize the jars and lids ... no pressure cooker required ...

:) Good luck! Can't wait to see you update with your first batch :)

MsSindy

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Re: Any tips on how to do canning/preserves cost effectively?
« Reply #12 on: March 13, 2014, 01:25:15 PM »
Hot water bath is somewhat limited....I mean you can only have so many jars of tomato sauce and jams!  :)  Start with this.  But, once you get those down to a science and you really enjoy it, consider getting a used pressure canner - this is where the savings have been for me.  I no longer buy ANY canned veggies, soups, beans, tomato products, chilis, stews, etc.   You can pressure can meat when it goes on sale like chicken - use them later for chicken salad, burritos, chicken soup, etc.  I also pressure can roasts, stews, chilis, soups, etc.  In addition to green beans, and all dried beans (pinto, kidney, northern, chickpea (hummus anyone?).

There is nothing better than coming home after a long day of work and opening up a beautiful homemade stew for dinner....esp in winter.

I also grow a lot of my inputs (fruits and veggies).  Start with something easy like paste tomatoes.  Also, strawberries are super easy to grow for jams.  When you grow your own veggies and can them, then you start seeing a bit of return on investment.  Plus, as MrsPete said, it's the fact that I'm canning organic food, where I'm controlling things like salt.  There's also just a lot of plain old satisfaction of opening up a can of something delicious that YOU made....esp in the winter.

Other benefits:
It also serves as a hobby - you have to enjoy it.
Keeps us from going out when I don't feel like cooking....there's always something delicious ready to go in the pantry
You can make inexpensive and very thoughtful gifts with your canned goodies

Bottom Line - it's not super cost-effective if you have to buy all your inputs, or if you're comparing it to buying cheap can goods at the supermarket, and it can be a lot of work, depending on how much you can.  You absolutely have to enjoy doing this sort of thing.
« Last Edit: March 13, 2014, 01:27:26 PM by MsSindy »

Worsted Skeins

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Re: Any tips on how to do canning/preserves cost effectively?
« Reply #13 on: March 13, 2014, 03:40:00 PM »
If you want to make jams, you may need pectin.  Grocers sell a couple of brands but I highly recommend Ponoma's Universal Pectin.  I buy it from my co-op.

And I agree that home canned goods make lovely gifts!  I gave peach jam to some family members at Christmas and have a few jars of a caramelized apple chutney in the wings for some spring birthday gifts. 

Additionally I can things like apple and pear sauce when I see apples or pears on the bargain shelf.  Store apple sauce is cheaper but it does not in anyway compare qualitatively to the homemade product. 

TrMama

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Re: Any tips on how to do canning/preserves cost effectively?
« Reply #14 on: March 13, 2014, 05:20:08 PM »
You don't need anything fancy to can fruit since you can do it in a water bath.

I save the sturdy mason-style jars that the fancier brands of spaghetti sauce come in. Then you just have to buy the lids. Save the lid that came with the jar to use as the ring.

Then I just pack the sterilzed jar with fruit (usually cherries or peeled peaches) and pour store bought apply juice over them to within 1/2" of the top. Seal and boil the jars for the prescribed time. Easy peasy.

kimmarg

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Re: Any tips on how to do canning/preserves cost effectively?
« Reply #15 on: March 13, 2014, 07:07:39 PM »
I got my water bath canner at a thrift store for $4. Jars I haven't had much luck with but I buy them when they are <$10/ case new. A others mentioned you reuse the jars so in subsequent years so the cost is amortized.

Pick-your-own has always been my best bet for fruit. Also inquire with local growers about bulk purchases (specify for canning they sometimes sell blemished ones at a better price)

It's not rocket science but do take the time to learn how to do it right. If you buy a used pressure canner have it checked for free by your local extension service. One poster here mentioned a few things that aren't recommended but they 'have never have trouble with' while I certainly believe them I would strongly encourage you to learn the most current methods as older jars and reused jar lids are not considered up to snuff. For low acid foods like veggies this can be a serious (as in deadly) problem. In my mind it is not worth saving a few cents on new lids.

Threshkin

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Re: Any tips on how to do canning/preserves cost effectively?
« Reply #16 on: March 13, 2014, 07:16:14 PM »
Great timing on this thread.  I canned my own apple butter last weekend.  It was my first time canning though I remember my mom doing it a lot when I was young.  Yes, apples are out of season right now but i needed something good to bring to a class this weekend.  Problem is, the apple butter is so good, that i don't want to share!

I used the hot water method.  I did not know about the pressure cooker method until I read this thread.

I have a huge set of jars, about half are new and unopened boxes with rings and lids.  They were my mom's.  She hasn't done any canning for at least ten years so I was able take them when she moved.  I was going to sell them on CL and give her the cash but after my first canning, no way!  I did give mom a jar of the apple butter though.

6 lbs of apples made just over 4 pints of apple butter.  The apples were 87 cents a pound at Sprouts.  Everything else I already had so my out of pocket cost was less than $6.00 for $20 to 30.00 worth of delicious homemade preserves.

plantingourpennies

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Re: Any tips on how to do canning/preserves cost effectively?
« Reply #17 on: March 13, 2014, 07:16:27 PM »
Buy a basic canning book like Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  Read all the boring parts a couple of times before you tackle your first project.

Check your library for this book.  Our library system had enough copies that with with renewals I was able to keep one at the house for 3 months. 

The ball website is also good - lots of recipes and walkthroughs how to water bath can for beginners.
http://www.freshpreserving.com/home.aspx

So far I've only done jams and jellies, but the results have been pretty awesome.  The sea grape jelly I mailed out to family and friends for Christmas was a great taste of the tropics in the midst of a terrible winter. 

KBecks

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Re: Any tips on how to do canning/preserves cost effectively?
« Reply #18 on: March 14, 2014, 06:33:44 AM »
This year I started water bath canning.  I made salsa, applesauce and pickles.

The salsa was amazing.  I had a lot of tomatoes from our garden, but the salsa was very good, we gave some jars away and it was gone fast.  After it was gone, I tried store salsa.  It sucked, it was terrible!  I cannot wait to make more salsa again this year.  Recipe was from all recipes -- Kickin salsa.

The applesauce was good.  I traded pears from our pear tree for a neighbor's apples.  Our family does not eat much applesauce though.

Same with the pickles, we just don't eat all that many.

-------------------
Next summer it is all about the salsa -- I want to make a generous year's worth.  This will have to be from my tomatoes and I hope to score deals at the farmer's markets.

I will make applesauce again, a smaller batch and I will share with family members who really like applesauce.

I may try a small batch of pickles, a different recipe? 

We might also go to a berry picking farm and do jam.  We had gone to an apple picking farm and it was CRAZY expensive, so I will only go for berries if really motivated. 

We are planting raspberry bushes this year.  I am guessing most will get eaten fresh in the future, but extras may get frozen or jammed.
------------------------

 I have not tried pressure canning due to the expense of the equipment but might go there in the future.  Good luck! 

MrsPete

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Re: Any tips on how to do canning/preserves cost effectively?
« Reply #19 on: March 20, 2014, 07:41:03 PM »
The salsa was amazing. 
Yes, yes, yes!  I like store-bought salsa of all types, but homemade salsa is head and shoulders better!  All salsa needs some type of preserving agent, and most use some type of vinegar.  I use fresh lime in mine, and I think that makes more difference than any other single item. 

Salsa is a great starting place for a new canner.  It's do-able in a hot water bath, you're likely to be successful in your first attempt, and it's an item with a huge difference in quality, so you'll be hooked on this project!

TomTX

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Re: Any tips on how to do canning/preserves cost effectively?
« Reply #20 on: March 21, 2014, 04:08:48 PM »
organic, no-sugar apple butter was probably my best preserving ever. Spotted organic Fujis on sale for $0.89/lb, chopped them up and cooked them down. Added spices and jarred. No added sugars or anything else.

Rather than actually "canning" - I just kept them in the back of the fridge. YUM.

netskyblue

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Re: Any tips on how to do canning/preserves cost effectively?
« Reply #21 on: March 22, 2014, 10:24:58 AM »
I can TONS of chicken stock (or turkey stock).  We use it in everything, and the "good stuff" at the supermarket is like $3.99 a quart!  Sometimes you can find backs & necks really cheap, and when you make chicken, buy whole chickens, roast & debone the meat.  Then save the bones and "stuff" in the freezer till you have 3-5 and go to town making stock.

I usually start with 10 pounds or so of bones, skin, leavings, etc, in my large stockpot.  Simmer that starting in the evening, till about bedtime, strain off the stock, and put the bones in the crockpot with fresh water on low, and let that go till morning.  In the morning, I strain off that stock, and add one more round of fresh water to the crockpot, and let that go till I'm off work.  All 3 batches get refrigerated, then skim the fat off the top, and mix them back together, bring to a simmer, ladle into canning jars & can.  I usually get 3-4 gallons at a time, a mix of pints & quarts.  If I have veggie bits saved in the freezer, I might add those, but I'm more likely to use them in beef stock.  Sometimes I add some herbs to the 2nd or 3rd batches.


I also do roast, when I find a really good sale.  Chop it into big chunks, 2" or so, brown the outsides, and fill a widemouth quart jar with the beef chunks, beef broth or hot water, a smushed garlic clove, a dash of worchestershire sauce, and a pinch of basil.  It's a nice convenience food to have around, pot roast at a minute's notice!

Or you can do small chunks which will fall apart when you reheat them, but they make great beef & noodles.

I hate cooking dry beans, too, so I'll can 19 pints at once, with different seasonings: taco black beans, chili kidney beans, bbq pinto beans.  Using tomato juice as the canning liquid, for extra flavor.  We're not huge bean eaters, so that's a years worth of beans cooked all in one go.