5 Frugal Tips for Canning and Preserving Produce

With our increasing focus on better health, environmental sustainability and stretching our dollars, canning and preserving isn’t just for your grandmother anymore. While time consuming, the process of storing produce in airtight containers keeps bacteria out so you can safely enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor later.

Follow these tips to save and savor the best of each season’s bounty all year round.

Choose the Freshest Produce

Getting produce at its peak freshness is important in canning and preserving. For some of the freshest produce, consider subscribing to a community supported agriculture (CSA) program in your area or visiting your local farmers market.

Make It a Neighborhood Event

When planning your summer vegetable garden next spring, coordinate with neighbors and see who’s interested in swapping surplus produce. Or take it one step further and form a neighborhood canning and preserving group.

Buy in Bulk

If you belong to a wholesale club, canning and preserving is your answer to the question of who could ever eat 50 pounds of tomatoes.

Good produce isn’t necessarily pretty. Imperfect Produce delivers what it calls “ugly” produce — fruits and veggies that are fresh and nutritious but have been rejected for mass market sale because they’re misshapen. You can buy through the company at a huge discount from grocery store prices. And really, it doesn’t matter if your canned peaches weren’t perfectly round or your pickled carrots were short and squat.

There are other places to buy fresh produce in bulk for less, including local farms. Hobby Farms offers these seven tips for buying bulk foods for canning.

Do It Right

Canning and preserving can’t be rushed. The process may take several hours. It’s also produce-specific. To prevent the formation of dangerous bacteria, low-acid foods, including most vegetables, as well as any recipe containing poultry, meat or fish, must be preserved using the pressure canning method. High-acid foods like tomatoes, salsas, chutneys, fruit jams and jellies can be safely preserved using water bath canning.

Fresh Preserving offers recipes and step-by-step guides for various canning and preserving methods, including water bath canning, pressure canning and pickling, freezing and dehydrating. Hobby Farms has a list of supplies and equipment you’ll need.

Make It Your Own

To remember what’s inside and when it expires, attach labels to each jar, with the canning date and contents. You can use simple white envelope labels. Or have some fun with it and make personalized canning labels, such as the ones found on Evermine. Then, if you ever need a quick gift, simply grab a jar of your own “branded” produce.

And don’t forget that you can preserve whole recipes. Turn your fall crop of squash into a creamy soup and then can it. Heating and eating a can of your own squash soup makes a quick, satisfying meal on a cold winter’s day.

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