Food storage: canning #10 cans at a cannery vs. buying bulk online or in store – My experience at a local cannery
Planning your food storage
If you have started to put together a food storage of your own, then undoubtedly you have put some thought into the most cost effect ways to accomplish your goals. Here at my house, there seems to be at least 1 magazine or catalog a week coming through the mail from different places to purchase survival and food storage items. One catalog that I find particularly useful, is EMERGENCY ESSENTIALS. I like to look through items out there, but find, more often than not, that these items are just to expensive to fit into my budget. It would be great if I could flip open one of these catalogs and find the already prepared package deals for a years supply of food for every member of my family and buy it all right there on the spot. Unfortunately, for those of us that don’t have an extra $2000.00 at our disposal, the idea of buying a years supply all at once won’t be realized any time soon. So I flip through the pages and make mental notes and wish lists. These magazines and catalogs are a great way to get ideas on what kinds of foods are out there for purchase. You will find items like, MRE’s, single use packages of dehydrated foods or the 5 gal buckets with bulk foods in them. It gets you thinking about the BEST way to put together your own storage items on your budget. Aside from online or in store purchases of BULK foods, where else can you turn to get more prepared? And which way is the best way for you to meet your family’s storage needs?
Buying at bulk food stores
Places like COSTCO or SAMS CLUB are a great way to buy bulk at better prices. You can find 50 lb bags of rice or beans instead of buying 1 or 2 lb bags at a time from your local grocery store. This is very COST EFFECTIVE. Buying in bulk though, you have to consider storage options. We have talked before about storing your bulk foods in the 5 gal buckets and/or MYLAR bags. Recently, my family was able to use all the buckets we’ve been getting FOR FREE from our local grocery store to seal our bulk foods in.
Personally, I feel more confident about the long term quality of my stored foods when I store them in the MYLAR bags. We put items like beans & rice into MYLAR bags and then store the bags in the buckets. This way, the bag is safe from rips and rodents. You can however use just the bags or just the buckets without the bags.
There is not one right way. It’s just what works best for you and your needs. Maybe you are storing food to use only in an emergency situation. In this case, you would probably do better to store your items in bigger bulks. Maybe you like to use your food storage in rotation with your usual meals. This also makes sense for some people. You can store your foods in smaller amounts to incorporate into your daily meal needs ensuring that your stored food items are constantly being rotated and replaced with fresh bought items. This too makes good sense, however, if you are like me, you can’t afford to go out and buy these bulk foods often. We bought ours for storage only in case of ER and will leave the items stored until they are needed.
One of the good things about storing in the MYLAR bags is that the bags can always be resealed. If I were to open this bag of beans for instance, I would cut as close to the top of bag as possible in a small opening, pour out what i will be using and “reseal” the bag. (this is provided I have electricity to use my hand held clothes iron to reseal the bag with). It’s not reasonable to think I would eat the entire contents of this bag of beans all at once or ONLY the beans until they are gone. So being able to reseal is something to think about. You don’t want to puncture the middle of your mylar bag or tear it open in such a way that you are unable to reseal it if you need to. Just something to think about.
#10 CANS from your local CANNERY
Depending on where you live, you may or may not know about canneries. Actually it’s probably more true to say, ‘unless you are MORMON /LDS’, you probably have never even heard of a food CANNERY. The MORMON/LDS community is taught to be prepared through food storage. It is expected that a Mormon/ LDS family will be starting first with storing a 3 month supply and then from there growing their storage to meet an end goal of at least a year supply for each member of the family. This community definitely has the right idea! LDS churches will have what is called a CANNERY.
For the record, I am NOT affiliated with this church. My wife and I had been wanting to go to the local cannery for well over a year. The cannery, from our prior experience, required you to be a member to use their facilities. We even tried going through a Mormon friend of ours to get in, but trying to pin someone down to your schedule is often not easy. We were able to make an appointment with our local LDS cannery but this was after over a year of trying to get in. I even had my dad come down from out of state and see if he could get in. At the time he went, he was told that you had to be a member to can at the cannery. I went 2 different times myself and both times was told the same.
Through some work on my wife’s part, she met a member of the LDS church from UTAH. This member, after hearing how hard a time we were having with getting in, made a phone call to our local cannery and passed the contact info on to my wife. If you have never considered this as a means to build your food storage you should look into it.
The #10 cans are smaller than your 5 gal bucket so opening one of these cans and using it all is much more reasonable. You can simply put on one of the resealable plastic lids you get from the cannery after opening and use it until the contents are used up. Also, these cans are very convenient if you rotate your stored items with your regular meals. The cans fit 6 to a box. Boxes, which again, you get at the cannery. I would recommend if you are going to get at least 6 cans, to use the box to store them in. Stacking boxes on top of one another for storage is much easier than trying to stack cans atop each other without them falling.
Are #10 cans more cost effective than buying in bulk? Sometimes no. The LDS cannery sells to you at cost and makes no profit from your purchase. The cannery was set up to make sure it’s members were able to build food storage for AT COST prices. The church being able to buy in large quantities gets the better price and passes it on. Maybe for storage of lets say ‘rice’ that you plan only to use in an ER and not rotate into your daily meals, it is more cost effective to buy the 50lb bulk bag and store in buckets.
The main difference here is that you CANT find ALL the items they offer at bulk or discount prices. Is it more convenient to have the #10 cans on hand rather than lug around the 5 gal bucket each time you need some of the rice! I am not saying that canning at the cannery is the least expensive way to get your bulk food. What I am saying, is that some of these items can’t be bought in bulk like we can buy rice and beans. For an item like sugar, I believe, the convenience of the can out weighs the bulk of the bucket or original bulk packaging. Sugar tends to get pretty heavy, the bigger the bag!
I simply offer you the idea of going to the cannery if you never knew about it before. See what they have. Plan ahead for items you will want to can. Maybe you will be someone who loves the idea of neat, pre made, color coded labels to put on your storage boxes and cans. Maybe this will be your go-to source for your storage needs. Maybe you are happier with your buckets. Me, I have both. I found convenience in both and cost effectiveness depends on the items.
My experience at the cannery
The whole process is very smartly thought out. You enter at a small reception desk. At our local cannery , off to the side, there is a small stack of shelves with cans on it. If you didn’t know better you might dismiss the shelves thinking these cans are there for restocking in the back warehouse and of no concern to you. Now you do know better though.
These random cans are actually cans that the person canning before you canned up but did not intend to buy. These cans are there for purchase. Good idea to always check this shelf as it can save you valuable canning time. If your local cannery doesn’t have a visible shelf, just ask.
From here, you will get your trolley cart for your items. You will then wash your hands at the wash station and put on an apron, gloves, hair net, and if you need it a bread net. Once you are sterile, you head into the canning room. You will have to let the volunteer there know what you plan on canning. Rice, wheat, beans, sugar, all get rolled out on a trolley cart in big bulk bags. What if you don’t need the entire bag of sugar? Well be prepared that you do still have to can the whole bag up since it was opened for your needs. The cans you don’t use go out onto that shelf I just told you about. This is an important process to know ahead of time. We thought we were just canning what we wanted to buy. Not the case. So you need to plan for your time there. Bring extra friends along to help make the process go faster, they don’t mind and encourage you to bring your own help.
There is a chart on the wall that will tell you how many cans of sugar you can get from one of these big bags. You grab as many cans as your chart numbers and put these into a large tub on the canning table closest to the canning machine. This machine takes your cans and seals a lid to it. Just like cans you buy at grocery stores. On the right side, just opposite this bucket, will be another bucket that the contents of your bag will be dumped into. You scoop out amounts to fill all your cans up. They do have you weigh one can so you have an estimate of how much to put into each can of each product. Not all are the same. Once you fill the cans you put in an oxygen insert into your can (that they provide) and a lid and place the can on the canning machine. Everything you ‘can’ EXCEPT sugar will get an oxygen insert. With the press of a lever and some spinning and whirling your can is lidded! From here you have your pre-made color coded labels to place on each can you make. This is such a wonderful idea. Makes it very easy to recognize what you are looking for in your storage room. You slap on your DATED label, put 6 cans to a box, you are even able to use the stickers to label your boxes which is great because you may not have a box full of all the same item. You can put a sticker of each on the box.
With each item you get clean tubs to fill so you don’t mix up food products. Once you are finished with your order, wipe down your area. Clean up any spill mess. There is a sweep vacuum to make the floor cleanup easy. Push your trolley cart back to the front reception area, and checkout. All really easy and surprisingly fun to do. I can’t wait to be able to go do it again.
One thing we did learn is that they offer portable canning units to take home if you don’t want to can at the cannery. Get your local prepper friends together and can at home. Or get everyone to do there canning with you on the same day and each help the others at the cannery making the most of the canning time you have. Some church wards will all plan to go at the same time for this reason. This makes huge orders easier to fill with more people helping. All in all, it was a blast to do and the relief I felt knowing I am closer to my preparedness goals feels good.