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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.