Canning and preserving food are skills that have been around for ages. But does canning food really save you money? The answer is yes…and no. Confused? Let’s dig into this with “Frugal Canning: Does Canning Food Really Save You Money?”
Long before what we know as “grocery stores” existed (Piggly Wiggly opened the first grocery store in 1916!), families were responsible for their own food supply.
Folks grew large gardens every year, not as a hobby, but as a matter of survival! Every member of the family helped to maintain the garden, to insure the best harvest possible.
Livestock such as chickens, cows and pigs were kept to provide meat, and possibly some income, for the family. Once again, they weren’t raising animals for enjoyment necessarily, it was for survival’s sake.
Hunting and fishing were also skills that children were expected to learn from a parent, as another means of acquiring food for the family.
As the fresh meats, fruits and vegetables were harvested and brought into the home, knowledge about food preservation methods were critical to keep the food from spoiling! There was little room for error!
Fast forward to the 21st century and we see a very different picture of where our food comes from and how it’s preserved.
Today, our nation’s food comes from all over the world! Regardless of “seasons”, you can find and buy fresh produce just about anytime of year!
Grocery store chains compete for our dollars by offering “loss leaders” every week, because the profit margins for groceries is so thin.
The Benefits of Canning Your Own Food
But, then are those of us who prefer the old (and healthier) methods of acquiring food!
The modern-day homesteader still grows as big a garden as her property allows!
Those who are sustainably-minded are also interested in growing perennials, these are plants that return year after year without replanting.
Don’t forget about the livestock!
Depending upon where you live, you can raise rabbit, chickens, pig or beef for your family as well!
Raising your own food can greatly lower your overall food bill!
Here again, the issue of food preservation comes into play. In order to take advantage of your ‘bounty’, you must be prepared to can, freeze, dehydrate, ferment or smoke your food right away, to keep it from spoiling.
Yes, it’s more work. Putting up food is extremely satisfying, but it does take time. But, the quality and nutritional value of the food cannot be compared to anything found in the stores!
But does canning food really save you money?
There are several things to consider before one can quantify the amount of money that could be saved by canning your own food.
How to Homestead Alone and Not Die in the Process
Before you can process fresh food by “canning”, you will need to make an initial investment for the proper equipment.
You will need:
*Canning lids and rings (New jars come with lids and rings)
The great thing about purchasing canning equipment is that it’s a one-time investment! You will likely be able to use the same canners for most of a lifetime!
You could even purchased good, used canning equipment (which is what I did initially!). There are great deals to be found on Facebook Marketplace as well as garage sales.
Besides your canners, you will need jars, lids and bands. Once again, these are a one-time purchase! You’ll be able to use the same jars over and over again, year after year!
Lids need to be replaced after one use, but they are reasonably priced, especially when purchased in bulk.
How to Can Tomatoes in a Water Bath Canner
How much you spend to get your garden up and producing will greatly determine whether or not you can really save money by canning.
If you are someone who typically goes to the local nursery to buy plant starters for your garden, you will probably not save money by canning.
Compared to the price of store bought food, canning food this way can’t compete, at least price-wise.
That said, you will definitely have a better quality of food! Fresh food that is picked and canned the same day cannot be compared to store-bought food! The quality and nutritional value is so much better when you grow it yourself!
But you won’t save any money with this methodology.
On the other hand, if you practice sustainable gardening, you will definitely save lots of money!
In order to save money canning, your product/produce needs to be pretty close to FREE.
What’s sustainable gardening?
Seed Saving: Saving your seeds from year to year is a great way to reduce your gardening costs! You will want to save seeds from heirloom plants. The seed-saving process differs from plant to plant, but let me tell you, it’s not difficult!
Seed Starting: Using your saved seeds to start your own seedlings each year will save you a ton of cash! As much fun as it is to go, staying away from the local nursery is the best way to save your hard-earned cash!
Perennials: Perennials are one of the best investments for food security! Once they’re planted and stable, perennials will give you years and years of fresh food, if cared for properly. Asparagus, blueberries and strawberries are all wonderful perennials to start!
How Much Money Can You Save Canning?
Utilizing Loss Leaders
There are times when, for one reason or another, it makes sense to take advantage of “loss leaders” at the store or farmer’s market.
I’ve had years when I didn’t harvest as many strawberries as I needed to accomplish certain goals. Perhaps I have clients who want more strawberry jam than I can make from my personal crop. Why not take advantage of “loss leaders”?
“Loss leaders” are those items that are in season, producing a “bumper crop” of supply, which drives prices down.
Produce that is under $1 a pound gets my attention and that’s usually when I will buy. Some years, I’ve seen berries as low as .88 cents a pound! If they are good quality, I will buy several cases of them!
Whether I make a product to sell or I keep it for my family, it’s still a great deal!
You might become aware of a great deal on bulk meat. Rather than putting it all in the freezer, you can pressure can it! That way, it’s ready to use and shelf stable!
It never fails.
Every summer, people go on vacation, only to leave their gardens unattended. Quite often, folks are comfortable with friends “gleaning” from their gardens while they’re away.
If you want free, fresh food this summer, stay in touch with your gardener friends! Offer to keep an eye on their house while they’re gone in exchange for gleaning from their garden!
Living in the country, I see “Free” zucchini signs at the end of driveways quite often. Why not stop and take a couple? Never take them all.
Go home and fry them up for dinner or grate them and put them in the freezer for Zucchini Bread later!
You can’t beat FREE.
How to Take Advantage of Grocery Store Loss Leaders
Foraging is one of the best kept, “free food” secrets.
It’s too bad, because you can forage fresh, organic and nutritionally superior greens, berries, mushrooms and nuts with just a little education about what edibles grow in your area.
Just to share a bit of what our family forages:
*Mulberries – Make jam and freeze for smoothies.
*Black Raspberries – Make jam and freeze!
*Dandelion – Make salve and teas.
*Chickweed – Use in salads and smoothies, very mild taste.
*Elderberry – Make elderberry syrup for colds and flu!
Take the time this year to learn at least 3 edible plants in your part of the country and eat them!
Bottom Line: Does Canning Food Really Save Money?
The best way to make sure that your canning food will save money, plus worth your time and effort is to:
- Make the one-time investment for your canning equipment and jars.
- Start your own seedlings rather than buying from nursery.
- Grow a garden!
- Acquire free food from other’s gardens, foraging and loss leader sales.
I can’t imagine my life without canning! It’s how we make sure our family eats fresh, nutritionally-rich food all year round!