Canning CAN Be Cheap!

A few months back I wrote here about canning tomatoes. Tomatoes are, I think, one of the easiest items to can and a great starter project for anyone who is curious about trying a canning project on their own. Apparently my excitement for canning was contagious, as I have received many emails over the last few months from Prairie EcoThrifter readers asking for information on canning equipment. Many of you have specifically asked where to find used equipment. Well, you know the saying… ask and ye shall receive!

Below is a list of equipment and tools you will need to can, along with my suggestions for finding these items at a great discount.

Canning Jars

When you can, it is imperative that you use jars that are specially made for canning.  Proper canning jars are made so that the lids fully seal.  Never try to use non-canning jars to preserve your food – doing so could lead to dangerous (invisible) bacteria growing in your food.

Glass canning jars and the corresponding rings are one of those items that are really only useful to those who “can.”  As a result, when people stop canning they have a lot of inventory to contend with.  If treated kindly, a canning jar will last for decades.  In fact, I have canning jars that belonged to my Grandma, and I suspect many of those were passed down to her from other relatives over the years!

I have found that garage sales, flea markets, estate sales or Mom/Grandma’s basement are the best places to score a great deal on used canning jars.  (NOTE: Always check the jars for cracks or chips prior to using them. If the jar is damaged, do not use it.)


There are two types of canners: boiling water canners and pressure canners.  Before doing any type of canning, it is important to understand the difference between these two types of canners, and know when it is safe to use each kind.

Boiling water canners are the simplest kind of canner to use, and also the cheapest to find.  Basically, they are just a large pot.  I use my regular stock pot with a rack at the bottom to keep the jars from touching the bottom of the pot.  Boiling water canning is suitable for high acid foods, such as tomatoes, jams, or pickles.

Pressure canners are a bit more expensive to buy and complicated to use.  They are required if you intend to can any low acid foods such as meat or most vegetables.  The only safe way to can low acid foods is with a pressure Canner.  Please do not put your health or the health of your family at risk by not processing your food using the appropriate equipment.

Canners are readily available for sale at a great discount through online sellers at eBay and Craigslist.  You might even luck out and find one listed on Freecycle or in your local paper’s classified ad section. If purchasing a used pressure canner, be sure to inspect its seal (located around the lid) for nicks, cracks, or other damage. Replacement seals are widely available and low in cost.


Having canning jars and the canner are not the only tools you need to get started in canning.  You will also need a jar lifter for inserting and removing the jars from the canner, a magnetic lid lifter for removing canning lids from hot water, a wide-mouth funnel for filling the canning jars with the food you are preserving, and a rack for the bottom of your canner (assuming the canner you purchase doesn’t already have one included).

The best place to find used canning accessories cheaply is eBay, although sometimes you can get lucky and spot some items at garage sales, too. Another tip is to check your local shops in the off-season, as now and then you will come across a good sale when a store is needing to clear out existing inventory to make room for new product.

You may have noticed that no where in this list did I mention buying used canning lids.  That is because you should never reuse canning lids.  Doing so can cause the jar to not to properly seal, resulting in the formation of dangerous bacteria in your food.  Canning lids are extremely cheap and well worth the investment to purchase new.  Please don’t take chances with your health just to save mere pennies!

As you can see, there is a lot of equipment and accessories that are needed for canning. But, acquiring these items need not break the bank if you know where to look. Buying these items used not only saves you money, it will also save the environment keeping items out of our landfills and eliminating the need to re-produce these reusable items.  Your best odds of finding used equipment are now – during the canning “off season” – so get looking!  Good luck!

Do you can? Where have you found good deals on canning equipment?

This article was written by Denise.


Canning CAN Be Cheap! — 9 Comments

  1. Like most things, the cost of canning goes down the longer you do it. The first year you will definitely not save more money canning than purchasing canned food at the grocery store because of all the start up costs (unless you get hand-me-downs or something). Every subsequent year that you continue canning though the ‘cost per can’ goes down as you can reuse all of the tools and the jars. Also- you can probably borrow some canning supplies from friends/ family or can together and share the cost. My canning supplies are currently at a friends’ house because she borrowed them to make some jam. Makes no difference to me as I wasn’t using it anyways.

    • Thanks for your comment, Marianne. You bring up a great point about borrowing supplies. Another great tip is to have a ‘canning party’ and can with friends or family. You can share resources and have a lot of fun in the process!

  2. Nice. I want to can, but first we need enough produce to make it worthwhile. We rent, and there’s not that much yard that we have the freedom to garden in. I know my sister and her husband have done some canning and done pretty well with it.

  3. I’ve never tried caning, but after reading this article, I am inspired to do so. I’m a big eBay fan, so your advice will help me find accessories needed on eBay.

  4. That’s something I’ve always been interested in trying. We’re avid gardeners and often find we have more than we need (and we give away a lot of produce!). Every year I tell myself that I should try canning next year, but I have yet to try it.

  5. I’ve never canned, but I watched my mother and my step-grandmother can years ago. It’s something I think I would enjoy if I had the room for a big garden. Maybe someday!

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