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April 3, 2011
Canning and preserving fruits and vegetables is a great way to bypass the seasonal cycle of the foods you enjoy and an economical way to fill your pantry. With a little forethought and planning, you can move from a "weekly produce" garden to a garden that yields enough food to eat in season, plus enough to get you through the winter.
Is Canning Worth the Cost?
Growing and canning your own food is an investment in time, garden space, and money. Canned food from a grocery store is relatively cheap and convenient, so from a strictly financial point-of-view, canning your own fruits and vegetables may not always seem worth the effort. That said, growing and preserving your own food will always have its place because of all of the benefits it offers:
- Food from your garden, even if canned, always tastes better.
- It's healthier because you don't put any additives and chemicals into the food when you're canning at home.
- Canning allows you to control the ingredients in things like jellies, jams, soups, stews, pickles, salsa, etc.
- It gives you the satisfaction of being self-sufficient.
Canning and preserving food requires a certain amount of specialized equipment. It's basically a one-time investment (other than occasionally replacing damaged jars and lids) and it doesn't have to be expensive. One way to reduce costs is to look for used equipment and supplies at yard sales and thrift stores. Buying jars and lids in bulk will also help reduce the cost (always buy a few more than you need). Another option is to split the costs among friends and family members. Start a tradition where all parties get together for "canning day" and have everyone agree ahead of time to bring a different recipe to share.
Learning the "How To" of Canning and Preserving Food
There's an art and science to canning and preserving food. It isn't difficult to learn, but it does need to be done correctly, using updated methods and well-tested recipes, to be considered safe. For gardeners new to canning, check out The National Center for Home Food Preservation's free publication, "The Complete Guide to Home Canning":