The modern grocery store is a wonder. You have all sorts of produce available all the year round – strawberries in December and lemons in July. If you look carefully, you will notice that all of the produce is uniform – everything of one type is pretty much the same size, shape, and colour as the rest. All the apples are about the same size, all the cucumbers are similar lengths and thicknesses, and so on.
There is a good reason for this uniformity – it allows the produce to stack nicely, and it is very visually appealing. The downside is that the produce tastes kind of like styrofoam. Watery styrofoam.
As a home canner you can take a different approach. You can shop at a farmer’s market and buy only what is in season, which means produce that is at the peak of freshness and nutritional value, as well as bursting with flavour. You can also sometimes get great bargains at the end of the day if you walk up, cash in hand: the farmers will often allow you to take the bruised fruit off their hands at a fraction of the store price. You get food which is ripe, tasty, and ready to can.
The other thing you can do is to go for the ugly produce. If you want tomatoes for canning, who cares if they fell out of the ugly tree? The ugliest ones are frequently stunningly cheap, too. As you’re going to chop, strain, and can them, no-one need ever know how hideous they were.
Go shop at your local farmer’s market and see what bargains you can get. Good luck!