Well, the short answer is all of them. No, I am not exaggerating. When you are gardening to produce food for your family, chances are you would like to preserve some of that harvest for the rest of the year. While you can google recipes all day long, I am more interested in the nitty gritty deals that most people forget to tell you about. Like how many jars do you REALLY need. Yes, all of them.
Before We Jump In
I’ve written a couple posts on canning, so I don’t feel the need to sound like a broken record. But if you haven’t already, check out my post on gearing up for canning season, my homestead buying guide, and my shelving systems. Trust me, you will be glad you did…. at least for the shelves.
I also have a quick reference guide that you can download get in my members only section. Sign up below and you will be emailed the password.
Next, we need to ask some questions before we determine how many jars you actually need. If you are a beginning homesteader or canner, you really need to decide how much you are actually going to can.
Question one; are you looking to supply food for the entire year?
Question two; how many people are you feeding?
Question three; what is your skill level with canning?
Question four; where are you going to put the jars?
Question five; are you buying produce, or are you growing it?
Question six; how far away is your local store?
Now Let’s Answer Those Questions
Answer one; If you are looking to supply your family with an entire year of tomato sauce, you need to look very carefully at how much tomato sauce you currently buy or make. For us, we eat spaghetti about once a week. That means I need at a minimum 52 jars of tomato sauce. The next question is, is that enough? For us, 52 jars would be gone in about six months. Because we also make chili and other things with tomato sauce. Or we will double or triple recipes because we need left overs for work.
It’s the same way with green beans, corn, peas, pickles, etc. If I only can enough for what we use, we will be out in no time. That lesson was learned the hard way.
Answer two; We are a family of four. But we homeschool and work 24-48 hour shifts. That means that we need left overs. Also we have two growing boys and that means we are actually feeding I’m hungry, it’s not mine, and I didn’t do it. So when I am making my projection list for canning, I round WAY up.
Answer three; If you are a novice canner, you need to really consider if you are capable of canning more complex items like soups or stews. It’s not that it’s SO hard to do. It’s actually more of a do you understand the process of canning. For example; if your favorite soup has noodles, do you know that the noodles will turn to mush and become inedible. Same thing with rice, zucchini and other foods that are not as hardy. I’m a advanced but not pro level canner. I still make mistakes. So I know that I need to pay attention or all that hard work will be for not.
Answer four; I am extremely lucky that I have a full basement. I have sectioned off an entire food storage room. When it’s finished it will have walls, air vents, and a dehumidifier. Jared has also built me these fantastic shelves. BUT if you don’t have that, you really need to consider how much you can actually can. If you have a tiny pantry, no basement, or other place to put them, you need to get really creative with where stuff will go.
Answer five; We buy and produce a lot of our produce. Unfortunately, we can’t grow everything we need right now. That’s okay. It’s in the works to grow all the corn we need for a year. But it’s not here yet. If there are financial or garden space constraints, it’s better to identify them now.
Answer six; Our local Wal-Mart is about 25 minutes from us. So if I run out of jars, lids, or anything else, I can get to it pretty quickly. The downside is, when it’s canning season in a farming community, there are no jars. You would be lucky to find anything. Last year, I bought brand new cases of jars because Wal-Mart had no lids! The only way I could get them was to buy the entire set up. Which is fine! I needed more jars anyways.
So How Many Jars Do You Need?
I hate to break it to you, but there is no magic formula here. After you answer the questions above, you can get a much better idea for how many you need. BUT I’m not going to leave you hanging. If you are a beginning homesteader and you are trying to figure out a realistic number, I will tell you what I did.
I bought 2 cases per size, per person, per meal.
And yes, it is a TON of jars. But follow me here.
We are a family of 4. If I make a batch of corn. I will BUY 8 cases of quarts and 8 cases of pints. I may not use the full 16 cases. But having them on hand is better than not having enough. If I only use 8 cases total for the corn, that now leaves me with 8 cases for green beans or chili, or whatever else I need to can. Having that surplus allows us to give away a lot of food too.
At the end of the day, it’s really about what you can afford as well. If you can only afford two cases at a time, get them! Trust me, you will use them eventually. As you get more comfortable with canning, or you need to start making your own dog food, thanks Bear, you will appreciate having those extra cans.
Also please for the love of all that is good in this world, pick up lids every single time you see them! Come canning season, they have disappeared! Or you can buy reusable lids like Tattler. PS go to their website, they are a TON cheaper!