Yes I can a lot of things. I grow a lot of things and save seeds as well. This all leads to a more frugal lifestyle. Not only does it mean I save money (caution....don't go into canning the first year or two thinking you will save money) but I also lessen our "carbon footprint" as a family. I will tell you which things I believe are essential, some that are still on my wish list, and great add-ons for when you come into some money, or Great-Aunt Betsy gives you a big check and tells you to buy something for yourself!
Water bath Canner. You can use a big pot, the oven, or something similar but the best and safest method in our home is the good old canner. Doing the other methods have often resulted in broken jars and wasted time.... ALL OF WHICH causes more frustration than you can shake a stick at.
If you are canning in the dead of summer when the veggies are coming on fast and furious, this can lead to nothing but heartache. I would make sure to invest in a fan to cool your kitchen....
For Mother's Day, your birthday, or just because, ask for a canner. If all else fails, buy one yourself. Its a MUST have. I even water bath can my jam and jelly, though technically you wouldn't have to. My grandmother rarely did, she used paraffin to seal the jars, glasses, etc, but I prefer a longer term storage solution for those gorgeous jars I just loving cared for.
Home Canning Kit.... This will save you more time and heartache. Otherwise you may find you need "mommy juice" by the bucket while canning. I have burned myself more than once not having a jar lifter and this kit has one of those, the needed funnel --yes a funnel for the jar is a MUST because few of us are careful-- and something I still want to get, a magnetic jar lid lifter. The jar lid lifter is not a MUST, but I think it could quickly become a real strong want. It will be on my list this year. It has been a wish for the past couple years and I just haven't broke down and bought one yet. Buy the kit, it's cheaper and frankly, a well spent $12.
Jars.... You can't can without them. I have begged, borrowed, and bought brand spanking new jars, as well as jars at used stores..... Unless you can get your jars for free or really cheap, buy new. As much as I abhor nearly all things Wal-Mart, you can get a decent box of jars there generally under $10 a dozen (pints). Lets say someone at a garage sale has some and they are charging 25 cents a jar, unless your lucky and it includes the rings, you are only getting part of what's needed. You need rings and lids. These can run you around $4 a dozen. When you buy rings/lids make sure it includes both rings and lids.
For used jars you might end up paying about $7-8 dollars a dozen. This price break down is based on pint sized jars. Used jars might have nicks in the top of the jar so check that out before buying. The true cost savings is in inheriting Aunt B's canning jars, or in saving your jars for the next year. Its really just preference, used verses new I guess. Some of my jars are a decade or more old and wonderful! If you happened upon an estate sale and could score several dozen canning jars for a few dollars, go for it. If you are just canning a handful of things, maybe buy new jars. My used jar search continues every year.... I almost always buy new because you can only search so long, and I seem to always need pints or jam jars.
(A note to local friends and family: If you return jars and rings to me, I am more than happy to refill them for you when I can again! Sometimes I might even have that yummy jam already waiting for you. Please be kind and return canning jars!)
Blue Book... If there is such a thing as a canning bible, this is it. Its my go to canning book. I have other favorites but if I need to make sure something is the right time or pressure, this book will tell me. I have one from a few years ago and should probably update it soon but I would be slacking if I didn't recommend every home canner having one.
WANTS! And boy howdy, does my wish list get big..... even a few things I would like to add this year....
- Canning Bubble Popper and Measurer--I have been using a butter knife *grin*
- Canning Lid Rack (I had so I know how missed this can be! Though it isn't essential)
- Food Press
- Magnetic Lid Wand
- Dissolvable Labels for the jars.
- A portable propane stove for canning. Of course a summer kitchen would be AWESOME! A dream of any home food preparer.
The biggest benefit and why I consider canning frugal living are the intangible things. Things that can't be quantified with dollars and cents. Healthier food for my family; the satisfaction felt when looking at my shelves full of homemade food; better for the earth that God gave us; independence and self sufficiency felt; and a sense of accomplishment, a job well done. I wont even go into all the rich learning experiences that are provided when you produce your own food. Let's just say that its ripe with experiences that money can't buy. This is frugal living.
Of course later I will discuss making other products for your family that don't involve canning. Even what I learned while trying to learn extreme couponing..... and I will discuss the need for a well stocked pantry of foods your family will eat, this is different than a well stocked pantry of MRE's and dehydrated foods prepared for the Zombie invasion.