A few days ago I canned several jars of apple jelly. They didn’t set, so I technically canned several jars of apple jelly syrup. It is actually okay, since the main reason I wanted apple jelly was to use for a sauce for pork chops. Being a sauce it is more in a liquid form than jelly, so the fact that the “apple jelly” isn’t a jelly won’t change things much. Also, this means I could use it as a syrup on top of pancakes or mixed in to oatmeal.
Getting jars out for canning the apple jelly gave me an opportunity to reassess my jar supply. My jars are kept in totes so they are out of sight unless I open them to add or remove jars. This keeps them cleaner and less likely to be knocked over, but also means that I have been surprised in the past when I open a tote to get a jar out.
Last Saturday I was able to add a few second hand jars to my supply. I found them at a thrift store that was having a 50% off sale. Today I came across a few more while at an estate sale. This is a good way to get canning jars at a discounted price. By planning ahead you will not find yourself wanting when canning season is in full swing.
There have been a few times that I’ve been disappointed with jars once I get home. Every time it is because I did not take the time to look the jars over before purchasing them. They are still in good shape and would be great for other gifts, perhaps mixes in jars or candles, or to store dry good in. They would not work for canning.
Why not? Well there are several reasons, but here are the top 3:
- chips along the lip of the jars
- they are old mayo/spaghetti/etc. jars
- they are not really canning jars, but ones made to look like they are. This can mean openings not to a size that would fit flats and rings.
I have learned that the main reason, chips along the lip, can be avoided easily by quickly running my finger around the jar’s top edge. If I feel or see any nicks or chips then I automatically pass. That is, unless I need them for something besides canning.
A quick glance through the box of jars will quickly tell you if the “canning jars” are actually old jars from condiments. Some people are okay using these. I prefer to avoid the potential for jars breaking while canning due to thinner glass. I can save money other ways.
Canning jars are not something that you can easily substitute something else for. Yes, you could freeze or dry the produce you have, but those are not always options. They also require space or specific equipment that you may or may not have. As canning jars do not go on sale very often, getting them second hand is a great way to save. Just a few years ago, when there was a boom in gardening and canning, it was almost impossible to find jars. New or used. Used jars were selling for the same price as new ones, and new ones couldn’t be found because the manufacturers hadn’t planned for the increase in demand. After that year, I decided I never wanted to be in that position again. I now keep a better tab on how many jars I have or will need.
One last thing I wanted to mention – note the price. Buying used will not save you money if they are asking the same or more for the jar than what you can get them new. To find the price of a new jar use this simple equation:
(price of box of new jars) / (number of jars in box) = price of 1 new jar
As long as the used jar is less than that amount, you will be saving money.