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Quantifying My Canning Output

I often get asked if canning is worth it?  Do I really save all that much money?

If you ask me during canning season, when I hate my life and I want to throw all jars in to the road and hope that the garbage truck runs over them, well then, the answer is hell no.

However, this year when the canning started in July, I wanted to keep track of what I produced, to see approximately the financial output vs. savings.  I love excel and all things nerdy, but for this project when I was super busy and staying up until midnight every Friday and Saturday, I decided to go “low tech” for reporting.

A very wrinkled piece of scratch paper that I’ve taped on top of the rubbermaid tub that holds all my canning stuff.

A few things to know about my “math”:

  • I’m not including the cost of the jars.  I get a lot at Goodwill, I had a lot on hand, and I did buy a bunch new.  However, since they’re a reusable resource, I’m not including the cost in my estimates.  And I have so many, that next year, I likely won’t have to buy any.  Bwahaaaa, that’s a lie I tell myself every year.
  • I’m not including the cost of lids in my math because, well, I forgot to track the ones I purchased!  Also, two years ago, my mom bought me three dozen reusable Tattler lids.
  • I didn’t include the cost of spices, vinegar, etc., because again, stupid me, I didn’t think to track the costs.
  • I’m not including the cost of my pressure canner, or the toolkit I use.  Those are things I’ve had, and will last years.
  • I’m simply guessing at the costs of these equivalent products in stores.  Some estimates might be high, while others might be really low.  It is what it is.  However, assume everything is for the price of an organic store-bought product.

100% completely free items made from plants from my garden, or products from my “urban harvesting“.  And more gleaning!

-Chicken stock (well, I didn’t glean this, but it’s made from scraps that would have been throw in the garbage), I made 25 quarts.  Assuming $2.50 per quart, I “made” $62.50.
Dill relish. I made 7 half pints.  Assuming $2 per jar, I “made” $14.
-Pickles.  11 pints (I know I made more than this, but I must not have tracked it).  Assuming $3.50 per jar, I “made” $38.50.
-Pickled beets.  I made 6 pints.  Do they even sell these in stores????  I assumed something like $2 a jar, so I “made” $12.
-Plum and blackberry jam.  A total of 19 half pints.  Assuming $3 per jar, I “made” $57.  Can you even believe that we’re down to 2 jars of jam?  It was almost anarchy in our house when that news was announced! It was every jam lover for themselves.
-Blackberry pancake syrup. A total of 15 half pints.  Assuming $3 per jar, I “made” $45.
-Asian Plum Sauce from this book.  15 half pints.  Assuming $4 per jar, I “made” $72.
Diced tomatoes.  15 pints.  Assuming $3.50 per jar, I “made” $52.50.
-Tomato soup.  19 quarts.  Assuming $3.50 per jar, I “made” $66.50.
Applesauce.  23 quarts.  Assuming $4 per jar, I “made” $92.
Diced pumpkin.  16 quarts.  Assuming $2.50 per jar, I “made” $40.
Total amount I “made” by canning free items: $552.00

Stuff I spent money on (I spent a total of $406.70 on produce during the summer.  Part of it was from the fruit CSA ($333), some was from road side stands, and a bit was from a farmer’s market:
-Raspberry jam.  I made 12 half pints.  Assuming $3 per jar, the value of the product is $36.  I spent $20 on the raspberries, for a net profit of $16.
-Applesauce (part of CSA).  I made 15 quarts.  Assuming $4 per quart, the value of the product is $60.
Apple slices (part of the CSA).  I made 20 quarts.  Assuming $4 per quart, the value of the product is $80.
-Pears (part of the CSA).  I made 20 quarts.  Assuming $4 per quart, the value of the product is $80.
-Pears (purchased from Azure Standard for $43.70).  I made 18 quarts.  Assuming $4 per quart, the value of the product is $72.
-Cherries (part of the CSA).  I made 8 quarts of whole, pitted cherries, and 15 half pints of jam.  Assuming $5 for the quarts, and $3 for the jam, the value of the the product is $85.
-Peaches (part of the CSA).  I made 20 quarts.  Assuming $4 per quart, the value of the product is $80.
Dilly beans (farmer’s market $10).  I made 5 quarts.  Assuming $3 per quart, the value of the product is $15.

So, let’s recap:
By using free produce, I earned myself: $552 worth of canned goods.
By spending $406.70, I earned myself: $508 worth of canned goods.  The net “profit” would be $101.30.
Total amount of “profitable” canning I did from July to December: $653.30.

I don’t even want to estimate the time I spent doing this, and what my “time” is worth.

I showed you the math, and the output.  Financially did it work out for me?  I would say so.  However, in addition to just saving money, I had direct knowledge of what I’m feeding my family.  I don’t have to worry about any national safety recalls, or worry about the quality of the produce that was going in to the product.  The vast majority of my stuff came from within three blocks of the house.  The CSA items came from about 200 miles away.

So…why do I can?  Safety, security, “fresh” summer food in the middle of the winter, and monetary savings are just a few of the reasons that I give to people.

But, let’s be honest.

In the end, it’s all about the view.

 

There is more on another shelf.  It makes me happy.  I’m a simple soul.

Just like I won’t estimate the time I spent canning, nor will I admit to the amount of time I spent in my basement staring at these beauties.

Just a head’s up, this post contains some Amazon affiliate links.

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39 comments on “Quantifying My Canning Output”

  1. I’ve loved canning over the years. My Mom and Grandmothers canned produce and I treasure hearing stories about how my maternal Grandmother canned from their garden to get thru the Great Depression. This process is one I’m still learning about. I’ve never tackled canning meats; my neighbors look forward to hunting deer and processing it into jars for their shelves. This year I canned anything I could get my hands on. My husband also got into picking grapes with me; we love Concords, which we picked from vineyards that sell their Concords to Welch’s – yes that company. My BIL gave me my sister’s steamer-juicer-extractor which she bought many years ago.( I miss her.) A steamer is expensive; I recommend purchasing a stainless steel one and consider it a good investment. Next year I’ll use it for steaming berries to make jelly/jam with. The Concord grapes yielded about 25 + Qts. I also steamed apples into apple juice as our trees are overloaded. We love to make apple cider. This will be our third year to produce maple syrup too. Our son is building a new maple sugar shack as I write this, he loves the process of boiling sugar and we do too. Maple Syrup is the first crop produced in Pennsylvania every year. It’s cold but it gets warm by the evaporator after collecting maple sap. Not for the “stay inside people” but I love getting outside in winter. People are always wanting to buy our syrup so we may do that someday. We don’t make a lot but what we do make is good; I can it into Ball jars of half-pints and 12 ozs quilted jelly jars. I started canning this year in Feb. and am winding down with apples. Apples in November! Who knew?

  2. In a word, wow. I aspire to be the “super canner” you are. I make jam, sauces and syrups every summer, which is great, but still…I bow at your feet. And your jars! 🙂

  3. There is one thing you didn’t mention…the fact that your home canned goods, especially the jams, relishes and pickles will taste way WAY better than what you would get for the prices you marked. That in itself is priceless! You could probably compare with the prices of “gourmet” foods to get a more accurate comparison and then you will find that you actually “made” more money than you calculated.

    I did something similar last year with my garden produce to see what was worth growing and what simply wasn’t. With each garden haul, I estimated how much it would have cost me to buy a similar amount at the market (more than at the grocery store, but I was trying to compare quality at the same time…not some dried out, imported, flavourless tomato). It is quite surprising how quickly it adds up.
    Thanks for sharing…it was a very interesting post.

    • So very true! The favorite thing about homemade jam, is that it isn’t as sweet as store-bought. It tastes much fresher, and you don’t feel like your teeth are going to fall out.

  4. Gorgeous array of hardwork and delicious food!!

  5. I just bought a new pressure canner a few months ago as my Mom’s old one came up missing (amongst other things) during our move from the Puyallup/Graham area to San Diego/LA area. I am amazed at the availability of fresh produce here and if you shop right, how much cheaper it is in season. We get strawberries 10 out of 12 months a year! I have made pineapple jam, prickly pear jam, dragon fruit jam, fig jam and more. We do have blackberries, but you can smile in knowing that the wild, “free” ones in Washington are so much sweeter and I’d trade any of my jam for a few jars of the pacific NW blackberry jam any day!
    P.S. I won the Apple Butter category (hundreds of entries)the year before we moved at the Puyallup Fair!

  6. This is so awesome! I want to start (with easy stuff like tomatoes and apples that we grow) but it takes real guts to gather a stockpile like you have. Hard working, lucky lady.

    • I’ve worked up to what you see above. The first year I canned, I just did jam. Then I didn’t can for a year. I eased back in with applesauce and pears. It’s kind of snowballed from there as I got comfortable and gained skills and knowledge.

      What you see above is about a 7 year process.

  7. How much do you grow? I have always grow what we eat and can from bulk purchases at a farmers market. I would like to plan my garden to be able to can some of it.

  8. OMG!! I’m in awe of you. I’m so impressed with that pantry, and with your canning skills. You’re definitely inspiring me to give it a try.

  9. I did not can at all last year because of pain in back and knee, but your stash of canned foods looks fantastic. I remember my mother canning peaches, green beans, and tomatoes. I am sure she canned other things, but that is what I remember. By the way, keep those beauties in absolute dark to preserve the vitamins and nutrition for your family. I m going to staple a piece of dark, thick, light stopping fabric over my open shelves when I run out of room in shelves with doors.

    Are you going to try to top your output this year?

    • I don’t think I’ll make a big effort to exceed this year, but I’ll take stock in spring to see what we actually consume. I’m not going to waste time canning items we don’t eat!

  10. My mama used to can and can and can… approx 400 qts of green beans, salasa, applesauce, venison… each year! Please come share your post with us at Eco-Kids Tuesday! http://likemamalikedaughter.blogspot.com/2013/02/fairy-finders-eco-kids-tuesday.html

  11. can you can fresh strawberries? How long are your canned goods shelf stable?
    Thanks!

  12. Why won’t you live with me and be my sister-wife?

  13. I’ve recently started canning our summer goods, and my husband’s secret favorite thing to do (I’m SURE it’s the ONLY one….) is to gloat to people who come over to our house for the first time. He shows them all my various stashes and equipment. So I’ll climb into your simple soul boat… But he’ll be the one joining you on the staring at the cans. I love it, and have used many of your recipes as bases to my own so thank you!

  14. Canning is a stress reliever for me. I love looking in my pantry and seeing rows and rows of canned food knowing that if for some ungodly reason we can’t afford food for a few months- I can feed my family.

  15. I do all my chicken broth in freezer bags and I want to start canning them because it would be easier to break out a can instead of planning ahead to thaw what I need and it would provide somewhere other than my freezer to stockpile. I am still jealous of your canning!!! It might be a little bit up front to start but I know that it will be totally worthwhile to use what you are getting and have homemade things through the year (or until the jelly runs out).

    • What you see pictured took me about 7 years to achieve. I mean, I did it all last year, but it took me that long to get comfortable with the process and my abilities.

      If you want to can chicken stock, you’d need a pressure canner. If you haven’t used one before, I wouldn’t recommend starting with canning meat (like stock). It’s too easy to have something go wonky. Wait until you’re comfortable with how everything works before getting in to the “danger” foods like meat.

      How I wish you were my neighbor. I’d just let you come over and I’d teach you!

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  17. It really is amazing how much money canning can save you. I often tell people that I can because I cannot afford to purchase the same quality of product at the store. Sure, I can buy a jar of generic salsa for the same amount of money it takes me to put up a jar, but it’s no where near the quality of what I put up. And yeah, I sigh when I walk into my pantry, too. It’s a thing of beauty. Keep up the good work!

  18. Awesome! I’m so jealous of your stash! 🙂

  19. My grandmothers always canned! My mother-in-law actually taught me most of what I know about it, however. I can tomatoes, tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, salsa, peach slices, peach/honey butter, pear/apple sauce, pear butter, pear slices, berry sauce, purple hull peas, pinto beans, venison, chicken, chicken broth, meatballs, end-of-garden vegetable soup, venison chili, beef and/or venison stew, potatoes, carrots, hot peppers, and anything else I can get my hands on. It is SO comforting to know that there are components for a meal, on the days when I’ve forgotten to thaw something…or get home late from work, etc. If I could figure out how to make money at it, I would can for a living….it is truly my passion!!

    As for shelf life of home-canned goods…most ‘authorities’ today say no more than 1 year for shelf-life. However, I have consumed home-canned food that was considerably older than that with no ill effects. Both my grandmothers canned vegetables and meats, and believe me, they didn’t throw anything out unless it was totally ruined and beyond salvation. So, as long as the seal is good, and there is no foul smell, or bubbles when you open it, it’s likely consumable. Whatever YOU are comfortable with…IMHO!

  20. In the midst of my canning projects I often question why in the world I am putting myself through the time and effort and messy kitchen to do this, but as soon as they start “popping” on my counter it all fades away and I get a huge satisfaction from that final, untampered with product!

    • I can be heard saying “it would be easier to move than to clean this crap up” in the midst of a late night of canning. But somehow, my kitchen always becomes clean again.

      I totally hear you with the popping! Usually when I’m late canning, I sleep on the couch because I don’t want to wake Troy. The sweet sound of sealing lulls me to sleep.

  21. Love this Post! Love to Can! Love it! Love it! Will you please share your recipe for dill relish? My husband eats it on everything and I would love to make him some. Thanks!!!!!!!!

    • It’s not my recipe, but it is from the Ball Blue Book. If you can on the orange “dill relish” above, it is a hyper link and will take you directly to a post I did on canning the relish. It has step by step instructions and the recipe.

      I’ll say, it’s a bit vinegary for my taste (and I love vinegar), but I think it is my fault more than the recipes. I didn’t get a scale until the end of summer. Most of the recipes called for “x pounds” of produce. I was just holding them in my hands and guessing!

  22. I am determined to learn how to can this year! Thanks for the fun inspiration!! I enjoy your blog so much!

  23. I definitely want to do more canning. I’ve only done jams. It sounds like to do stuff like chicken stock you need a pressure canner which I don’t have. What kind/how big of a pressure canner do you recommend?

    ETA: Deleted old comment and reposted under correct acct. Sorry!