Tuesday, June 8, 2010

It Pays To Can!

This is my most recent Farming Magazine artice, it will be in the Fall issue, enjoy!

Home Canning Saves Money
I was sharing our food philosophy recently when a man piped up and dogmatically stated that home canning is a nice hobby but “you’re never going to save money doing it!” He went on to say that he bought his canned goods by the case load from Save-A-Lot and $.40 a can was cheaper than any home canned goods could ever be (needless to say, he isn’t a Farming magazine reader :-)). So, does home canning really save money? Let’s look at the facts. A typical 600 square foot garden will yield, on average, one pound of vegetables per square foot. Seeds, plants, fertilizer and tools cost approximately $60 amortized over 5 years, using these figures brings the cost of raising vegetables to 10¢ per pound. Obviously if you buy direct from growers or at pick-your-own farms the price is somewhat higher. Canning jars purchased new cost about $8 per dozen, amortized over 20 years brings their cost to 3¢ per jar per year, add the cost of lids (which shouldn’t be reused) and the cost for jar, band and lid is 20¢. Figuring 2 pounds of vegetable in each quart jar brings the grand total to 40¢ per jar, so indeed, canning does “pay”.
Home Canning Assures Quality
Home preservation of food also assures that my family is eating the quality of food that is important to me. Pork raised in China, fed on human waste, at bargain basement prices from my local mega-mart food chain might seem like a thrifty purchase until you factor in the real cost. Some people don’t mind, but I do. Likewise, we raise or buy locally our own vegetables; what goes into my canning jars is naturally grown, non GMO wholesomeness. It hasn’t gobbled up fossil fuels by flying 2000 miles across the country before hitting my plate, in all probability it was picked only hours before we ate it or put it into jars to enjoy this Winter.
What About The Value Of My Time?
Farm wives of a generation or 2 ago didn’t view home canning as a separate, optional activity apart from their regular duties. It was taken for granted that if you wanted to eat in the winter then you worked to preserve the harvest in the summer. The old farm families never accounted for their time or what it was worth. Only today, the modern woman, city dwellers or those new to the homesteading way of life do that. It’s part of the city mentality (and Marxist “labor theory of value”) that they cannot get past the fact that their time is worth money. Back to the 40¢ canned vegetables that my friend buys, why doesn’t he factor in the time he spends in the car and the store plus the gas money he spent to get there? The true cost of the 40¢ can is the number we should really be using for an honest comparison. From all angles home preservation is the healthiest, most economical, environmentally friendly way you can feed your family!

The 13 jars of strawberry jam that we canned yesterday. I do all of my jam in bail lid jars, I only wish I had more! I have never, ever had a seal failure with bail lids, but I've certainly had plenty with regular lids. The lids today are made so cheaply (like everything else) compared to lids 20 years ago and I think that's why they fail so often. I want to try these lids.

I am canning lemonade concentrate today, it's on sale locally and will be a nice treat this winter.


  1. What is lemonade concentrate? and how do you can it?
    I do not do a lot of canning, I do do a little bit of jam but that is about it for me.
    I like to persevere food without canning. One thing I am going to try doing this year for the first time is beetkraut (lacto fermented). I will put it in soup and eat it in the winter. A really good book that I have found to be a good one is: "Preserving Food Without Freezing Or Canning"
    I really like the jars that you use!
    This is a good article. I think more people need to think about how they are going to persevere their food. I hope alot of people read what you wrote.

  2. Grace,
    Lemonade concentrate is store bought frozen lemonade that you mix up. We usually make our own homemade lemonade (there is a recipe here somewhere) but sometimes I just having a craving for the "junk stuff", it has high fructose corn syrup in it so it's hardly healthy. :-) I poured the concentrate into pint jars, put on the band and lid and put it in the canner and processed it for 15 minutes. Since I don't use my freezer anymore this is the way I chose to preserve it. I hope that helps.
    Mrs. G

  3. That is so interesting! I have never thought of that, I think that it is very good that you do not use a freezer. My parents use a freezer, so we have one. But I when I have a household I am going to try to preserve all my food without having a freezer. I like the idea of a having an ice house. Do you have an ice house or thought of having one? We know of some people that live without electricity and they have an ice house and it is really neat!

  4. Grace, if we had a pond to harvest ice from I think we'd consider it. There are enough Amish around here that use ice blocks that you can buy the blocks here locally but I'd have to spend money to do it so I look for other ways. I do enjoy drying things, we do that a lot too.


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