Buying Bulk Canning Supplies

Buying in bulk is the way that many people prefer to do their shopping, since it is a great way to save money, not to mention time spent shuttling back and forth between stores. 

Canning supplies are no exception to this rule — buying in bulk is a great way to keep the hobby affordable and make your life more convenient.  For people who are just getting started with canning and for people who typically only buy a small amount of canning supplies at a time, though, it can be hard to know where to find quality bulk supplies, or even which ones to look for in the first place.  Here's a brief guide to choosing the right bulk canning lids, jars, and other necessary supplies. 

Be Sure You're Buying the Right Jars

Before buying bulk canning lids and jars, it's important to know which canning jars best fit your needs.  Many people who are new to canning don't realize that the type of jar makes a difference beyond personal preference; even people who have been canning for years may not realize that they could make their task easier by purchasing a different variety of jar.  Many recipes specify the size of jar needed, which is fortunate, since available jar sizes include half gallon, quart, pint, half-pint, 12 ounce, 8 ounce, and 4 ounce.  If a size isn't specified, a good rule of thumb is that the smaller jelly jars and half pint jars are best for jellies, jams and preserves; pint jars are suitable for sauces and salsas; quart jars are better for fruits and vegetables; and half gallon jars are primarily appropriate for juices.  In addition to choosing the right size of jar, you'll also need to choose between wide mouth and small mouth jars. 

Wide mouth jars are best for larger or whole pieces of food, as well as bulk quantities of juice, salsa, or vegetable soup.  These jars are easier to pour food into, and they also make it easier to remove foods like pickles and peach quarters, which can't just be poured out of the jar but can be difficult to scoop through a narrow opening.  Regular mouth jars, meanwhile, are a little cheaper and will work perfectly for smaller fruits and vegetables, sliced foods, jellies, jams, mustards, and sauces.  These smaller jars are often used when people want to sell or gift their home canned goods, especially if a smaller quantity is being produced.  However, if you are canning primarily for yourself and planning on producing large amounts, wide mouth jars are often easier to work with and worth the slight price difference. 

Know Where to Look for Bulk Jars and Lids

Many people are surprised to find that bulk stores like Sam's Club or Costco do not sell large quantities of canning supplies.  The reality is that some grocery stores do not sell canning supplies at all, and those grocery and hobby stores that do usually only sell small quantities.  Whether you have a lot of food to can or you know that you will be making canning a regular annual ritual, the lack of cost-saving bulk packages can be frustrating.  Fortunately, it is easy to get around this problem by going online.  One website that sells bulk canning supplies is www.goodmans.net.  This supplier offers Ball and Kerr lids, caps, bands, and jars.  If you buy one of the larger packages of lids, you can get low rates of between 15 and 20 cents per lid.  You can also find a variety of bulk canning jar lids for a similar price range sold on www.Amazon.com, if you're less particular about brand and unconcerned about buying the exact same supplies in the future.  It's a little harder to find bulk canning jars on both of these websites, but you can buy multiple packs of 12 at affordable rates of less than $1 per jar. 

It's important to remember that canning jars can be used repeatedly, if you just clean them properly and take care not to break them, but lids should never be used more than once.  The reason is that, during the heating or pressurizing stage of the canning process, the lids actually deform to create an airtight seal against the can.  This is necessary to safely preserve whatever is being canned for a period of months or even years.  However, it means that, once the lid has been taken off, it shouldn't be used again.  Some people who have been canning for several years and know how to recognize signs of weakness in the seal or lid feel comfortable recycling suitable lids to be used more than once, but for most people, this is a very risky idea.  So, buying cans in bulk probably won't be a concern for many casual home canners, but buying bulk canning lids is a very smart idea. 

Don't Forget Other Essentials

Obviously, jars and lids are integral to canning, but there are other important supplies to buy as well.  Canning rings or rims help keep the lid sealed on, and like the jars, these can be used repeatedly, though some people refer to replace them after one use.  Other things that you will most likely need at some point while canning include a funnel, pickling salt, labels, and pectin for jams or jellies.  Buying all of these from one supplier — especially in large quantities — can save you a fair amount in shipping costs.  Purchasing the right equipment for canning is also essential.  If you use boiling as your canning method, you can use a large pot with a rack on the bottom, which is something that most people already own.  However, many people who are regular canners will invest in a pressurized canning device, which can safely be used to can a greater variety of foods. 

Buying bulk canning supplies — particularly bulk canning jar lids — is a great way to save money, provided that you buy the right lids from a quality supplier.  Even if you're just trying out canning and aren't sure if it's going to be a lasting hobby, buying a reduced quantity of bulk supplies is practically as cheap as buying full-priced supplies from a nearby store.  Besides, many people get hooked on canning after the first try and end up wishing that they had bought more rather than less when they were first starting out.  Considering how easy, affordable, and rewarding canning is, it's well worth buying extra supplies, because you're very likely to need them at some point in the future. 

Sources:

http://www.farmandfleet.com/ask-the-experts/best-canning-jars.aspx

http://cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/12391/ball-canning-jars-use-them-over-and-over

http://www.rosybluhandmade.com/2012/09/12/canning-equipment-101-the-tools-you-need-to-start-canning/

http://www.freshpreserving.com/tools/faqs.aspx