Setup costs

An issue that holds people back from home canning is setup costs. I hope this article will reassure anyone in that position that the costs involved are quite reasonable and a worthwhile investment.

First, you need to decide what kind of canning you are going to do – hot water bath or pressure. Hot water bath canning is for high acid foods like jams, jellies, relishes, pickles, and the likes. It is far and away the cheapest method for canning and produces immediate results that will encourage you to continue.

Pressure canning is for low acid foods, like meat, vegetables, soups, stocks, beans, and the likes. It has a higher capital cost, but vastly increases what you can put up – see my red beans recipe for an example of what you can do with previously pressure canned food.


  • Hot Water Bath Canner: price varies, but I have seen a no-name HWB canner in Fred’s for between $18 and $20
  • Pressure Canner: On they usually come in around $80. This is the pressure canner I bought and I am very happy with its performance.
  • If you get a pressure canner you need to have the pressure gauge calibrated every year by your local county extension service, which is usually a free service. I use a weighted gauge to take the guesswork out and to eliminate the need for annual calibration.
  • Mason jars: depending on your preference for brand names, a tray of 12 jars run from about $7 for no-name pint jars to $14 for branded quart jars. The no-name jars in Fred’s (Golden Harvest) consistently run $7 for pints and quarts, $8 for half pint “jelly jars”. For most people a couple of trays of half pint and pint jars will do nicely.
  • Accessories: there are LOTS of accessories for canners. It is very easy to get carried away! What you can get away with is a timer (most modern cookers have one built in, or you can use your cellphone); tongs to remove the jars from the hot water; a cookie cooling rack. The bespoke canning packs are very nice, but not necessary till you know how much canning you will be doing. I have found this kit very useful for my purposes but your mileage will no doubt vary.
  • Lids and rings: in most cases I am anti-brand – I would rather pay less for the same function. With canning lids I have found that the rate of failure to seal is significantly higher with no-name lids than with branded lids. As lids cost $2 to $3 for 12 of the Ball brand, I bite the bullet and accept that the brand *is* superior to the no-brand version on this occasion. I wouldn’t worry about picking up rings, as every new tray of jars come with rings and lids, and you remove the rings when you put the jars on the shelves. Rings are also *dirt* cheap and last for a very long time.
  • Books: every modern canning book takes its lead from the USDA guidelines. The entire USDA cookbook is available as a free PDF download from the University of Georgia Extension Service. If you download them onto your kindle, nook, or computer, it is entirely free. The recipes are consistently good and pleasing and are generally pretty easy to do.

To break down the costs into the two types of canning:

Canner $20
Jars $30 (24 half pint and 24 pint)
Lids $6 for a couple of extra packs
Books $0
Total: $56

Canner $80
Jars $30
Lids $6
Books $0
Total: $116

Hot water Canner $20
Pressure Canner $80
Jars $30
Lids $6
Books $0
Total: $136

Once you have made these basic investments and made several batches of jams, stocks, beans, etc., you can then look into which accessory packs will make life easier for you. Don’t be in a rush to buy the accessory packs – I had been canning for about a year when I bought one, and it has been incredibly useful for me ever since.

I hope this will encourage more people to take the leap into home canning.

6 responses to “Setup costs”

  1. I saved some money by asking around on my church email list if anyone had leftover canning supplies. A family was cleaning out Grandma’s stuff and gave me a pressure cooker and several boxes of quart jars. Score! They were happy to pass on the items and even told me to get the pressure cooker calibrated at the Extension office.

  2. Inheriting stuff from family and neighbours is a great way to do it, too.

    I got a major score via Craigslist – a thrift store sold me over 9 dozen mason jars for $40!

    Yard sales can sometimes be goldmines as well 🙂

  3. Im new to this and looking for a gift for my wife, but Is there a reason that taking the lid off the pressure canner would work for a HWB?

  4. Brian, I am not sure I understand your question – are you asking if you can use a pressure canner lid for a hot water bath canner? If so, I am not sure that the other lid would give a proper seal.

    If you’re asking if a pressure canner could be used for hot water bath canning… I *think* that wouldn’t be a problem, but you might want to check with your county extension service or the USDA to be 100% sure.

  5. So glad I bumped into your blog by happenstance. What a great article! I look forward to staying connected.

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