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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. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. 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!

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

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

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

  10. 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!