Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Economics of Canning

I was talking to a friend this week and telling her that this year I'm doing a jar by jar analysis of what my home canned food costs. So far I haven't canned anything that I could have bought cheaper, matching quality for quality (and that's an important distinction.) I wrote this article four years ago for Farming Magazine and put it on my old blog, here it is again still as relevant as it was then.


It Pays To Can!

This is my most recent Farming Magazine artice, it will be in the Fall issue, enjoy!

Home Canning Saves Money
I was sharing our food philosophy recently when a man piped up and dogmatically stated that home canning is a nice hobby but “you’re never going to save money doing it!” He went on to say that he bought his canned goods by the case load from Save-A-Lot and $.40 a can was cheaper than any home canned goods could ever be (needless to say, he isn’t a Farming magazine reader :-)). So, does home canning really save money? Let’s look at the facts. A typical 600 square foot garden will yield, on average, one pound of vegetables per square foot. Seeds, plants, fertilizer and tools cost approximately $60 amortized over 5 years, using these figures brings the cost of raising vegetables to 10¢ per pound. Obviously if you buy direct from growers or at pick-your-own farms the price is somewhat higher. Canning jars purchased new cost about $8 per dozen, amortized over 20 years brings their cost to 3¢ per jar per year, add the cost of lids (which shouldn’t be reused) and the cost for jar, band and lid is 20¢. Figuring 2 pounds of vegetable in each quart jar brings the grand total to 40¢ per jar, so indeed, canning does “pay”.
Home Canning Assures Quality
Home preservation of food also assures that my family is eating the quality of food that is important to me. Pork raised in China, fed on human waste, at bargain basement prices from my local mega-mart food chain might seem like a thrifty purchase until you factor in the real cost. Some people don’t mind, but I do. Likewise, we raise or buy locally our own vegetables; what goes into my canning jars is naturally grown, non GMO wholesomeness. It hasn’t gobbled up fossil fuels by flying 2000 miles across the country before hitting my plate, in all probability it was picked only hours before we ate it or put it into jars to enjoy this Winter.
What About The Value Of My Time?
Farm wives of a generation or 2 ago didn’t view home canning as a separate, optional activity apart from their regular duties. It was taken for granted that if you wanted to eat in the winter then you worked to preserve the harvest in the summer. The old farm families never accounted for their time or what it was worth. Only today, the modern woman, city dwellers or those new to the homesteading way of life do that. It’s part of the city mentality (and Marxist “labor theory of value”) that they cannot get past the fact that their time is worth money. Back to the 40¢ canned vegetables that my friend buys, why doesn’t he factor in the time he spends in the car and the store plus the gas money he spent to get there? The true cost of the 40¢ can is the number we should really be using for an honest comparison. From all angles home preservation is the healthiest, most economical, environmentally friendly way you can feed your family!
The 13 jars of strawberry jam that we canned yesterday. I do all of my jam in bail lid jars, I only wish I had more! I have never, ever had a seal failure with bail lids, but I've certainly had plenty with regular lids. The lids today are made so cheaply (like everything else) compared to lids 20 years ago and I think that's why they fail so often. I want to try these lids.
I am canning lemonade concentrate today, it's on sale locally and will be a nice treat this winter.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love reading your thoughts and appreciate them all. Thank you!