Acquiring mason jars as a beginning canner can cost a small fortune. I have shopped around for mason jars locally and on the internet and the cheapest I found was $7 / dozen for pint jars and $8 / dozen for quart jars. On average, you can expect to pay $10 / dozen for jars.
If you are looking to can enough fruits and vegetables to get you through the winter without purchasing much in the way of commercially canned fruits or vegetables, you will need a lot of mason jars. On a small scale, I would say a hundred jars, on a large scale two or three hundred. 200 - 300!!! The cost of canning has just gotten very expensive very quickly.
Or has it?
There are many ways you can obtain mason jars for free.
- Talk to your friends and family. Inevitably, they have received a gift in a mason jar somewhere along the way and, while they didn't have a use for it, did not want to throw it out. Many people are more than happy to pass along their handful of mason jars to someone who will put them to good use.
- Check out your local dump. Some communities have an area where people drop off things, like mason jars, that other people can reuse. I have heard of some people having great success with this.
- Review the free section of Craigslist. I have found many listings in the past where people have jars they no long use, but really want them to go to someone who will put them to good use.
- Check Freecycle. People have been successful finding free mason jars on Freecycle. If you don't see any listing for them, why not post a request that you are looking for some. You never know what type of response you might get!
Is Re-purposing an Option?
As the world looks for greener solutions, there is a lot of discussion about how to re-purpose things we don't want anymore, or reuse things we would normally put into the trash/recycle bin. So, it makes sense that there has been a lot of chatter in the home canning community about whether it is safe to reuse commercially manufactured jars for canning.
Some glass containers that commercially produced food comes in happens to fit the lid and rings used by your Ball or Kerr mason jars. So the debate is whether or not it is safe to use these jars for canning.
Throughout the community, there are people who swear by using Classico spaghetti sauce jars for home canning. There are people who use other types of jars as well (although Classico was the only company whose name came up consistently). There are also many people who state that it is unsafe and should not be used.
Per Classico, the jars they use for their spaghetti sauce are one-time use only. "A coating is applied [to the glass] to reduce scratching and scuffing. If scratched, the jar becomes weaker at this point and can more easily break. This would increase the risk of the jar breaking when used for canning."
You Have Options
The decision to reuse your commercially manufactured jars for canning is up to you. However, I would look into the options above for obtaining free mason jars. Also, look in charity and thrift stores, at garage and estate sales, at flea markets and in classified ads for people looking to sell their mason jars. In many cases, you can get a large quantity for a fraction of the cost.
Obtaining enough mason jars to preserve fruits and vegetables to get through the winter is economically desirable to many. While initial start up costs can be high, once the investment is made you will reap the benefits in delicious food and budget savings for many years to come.
Have you come across any mason jars for free / cheap in the past? Please share your story here.
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