In my opinion canning is one of the absolute best skills any prepper can learn. It is a HUGE step in learning how to affordable feed yourself, and of course in sustainability. Canning let’s you not only grow your own but also to save it for later! And of course nothing looks prettier on your pantry shelf than rows and rows of beautifully canned green beans. Canned good could save your life, make great gifts, save you money, and offer you a healthier alternative to running to the grocery store.
As soon as preppers learn how to can, they learn how expensive canning jars are and I see all kinds of questions regarding where to get them, what kind to get and if they can use pre-owned canning jars. This usually draws two kinds of responses: One that is super cautious, and that lives by the USDA canning guides and use only new ones, and the other that can’t afford new ones so they have learned how to wisely shop for used canning jars. So let me answer that last question for you. OF COURSE YOU CAN BUY USED CANNING JARS AND REUSE THEM. That’s the beauty of canning! You can keep reusing the jars! It fits right in with preppers’ lifestyle of reusing, recycling, and being self-sufficient.
First I recommend using new jars while you are learning to can, as they are more forgiving of errors. I personally stick to either Ball or Kerr brand canning jars. I prefer wide mouth jars for most things, as they are easier to fill, easier to empty and easier to clean, but if regular mouth jars are on sale I will get those.
Once you have the hang of canning and need more affordable canning jars (canning is an addicting habit) go ahead and start looking for used canning jars. Here are some shopping tips for finding safe used canning jars:
1. Shop yard sales, craigslist, freecycle.org, estate sales, thrift stores, and the good old classified section in your local paper. Also let your friends and family know you are looking and if they know anyone who is liquidating their supply (like when grandma has move in with them.) They will remember that you want the canning jars, trust me.
2. Remember what you paid for them new, and do not pay new prices for used jars. You are not antique shopping, you are looking for cheap useable canning jars.
3. Stick with brands you trust – avoid mystery brands, and jars that were never meant to be canning jars. I know some people use them – but my batches of food are too valuable to ruin a batch because of an exploding jar. Since mason jar crafts are so popular right now, there are some copy cat jars out there that look like real canning jars but are not made for home canning purposes. Stick with Ball and Kerr brand jars while you are learning to shop.
4. Run you hand along the rim of the jar, if you feel any rough spots, or chips (as pictured above) pass on that jar, there is a good chance it may not seal and will only make you mad.
5. Pass any jars that have defects in the glass such as, bubbles, swirls, rough or imperfect seams as pictured above. Older jars were more prone to defects than newer ones so you need a good eye.
6. You may want to set aside any jars that are old enough that they have a slight blue tint to them. They may have antique value and selling a few of those could pay for three more boxes of canning jars.
Sometimes you can’t pick and choose jars, the seller just wants them all gone. You will end up with several boxes of jars. In that case when you get home, clean them up and go through them one by one. Any that you can’t use for canning you might be able to use for storing dehydrated foods in with an oxygen absorber, like one with glass defects but the rim is fine. If the jar does fail it’s not going to ruin a whole batch of food. If you are dealing with a chipped rim there are still many uses for that jar such as: a flower vase, a candle container with wax or tallow, or a portable rechargeable lantern with a solar yard light with the stem removed and hot glued to the top of the jar.
If you come across used canning rings – you can reuse those for a long time as well. I stop using mine when they get rusty for obvious reasons so pass on rusty ones and keep the ones that are smooth and rust free. You won’t need many rings as canning jars should be stored without the ring on them. The ring only holds the lid on long enough for it to seal and has a tendency to rust and get stuck on the lid if left for a period of time.
Use your older jars first and save the newer ones for a rainy day, this way if a jar fails you will find out now, while you have the luxury of time to fix it or redo it. As with anything, approach using older canning jars with common sense, if it doesn’t look right to you don’t use it for canning.