Around here, the growing season is just about to get off to a booming start. The threat of frost is typically gone by the beginning of May, and that’s around the same time the farmer’s markets start back up again, too. And you know what that means? It’s almost time to start canning, baby!
(Or you can dehydrate and freeze, too, but that’s another topic for another day.)
Remember the grasshoppers of the old ant and grasshopper fable? The ants worked hard all summer to store up food for the cold winter, while the grasshoppers played the day away. Guess who was hungry come the first winter storm? Yep, those lazy grasshoppers. I’m thinking those ants were on to something, so I’m gonna follow their example. After all, if I want local, nutritious produce throughout the winter months, it’s going to have to come from my pantry or freezer because around here, nothin’ but nothin’ grows mid-December to mid-March.
In the past, I’ve just kind of winged it (wung it?) come the growing season. I just picked up cans here and there, bought a few lids here and there, canned stuff as I had extras. This year, however, I’m going to be much more intentional about the whole process. I actually have a plan. (Why, yes, the earth is trembling! Whoa, people, she has a plan!)
Part of my plan is having adequate supplies on hand for canning enough jam, apple butter, and pickles to last until next year at this time. I almost made it this year, so I know I can do it. I just need a few more jars. And guess what? I’m going to get them for free. Or at least for super cheap. Here’s my simple 3-step process for procuring free jars:
1. Search on Swagbucks
Swagbucks is a search engine that randomly awards you points for searching the internet. I don’t know about you, but I probably do at least – at the very least – 10 internet searches a day. If I get points for even a quarter of those searches, it adds up! And it adds up quickly! Plus, I can do other tasks, like watch short videos, answer surveys, or lots of other options, and earn points that way, too.
2. Buy Amazon.com Gift Cards
What does Swagbucks have to do with canning jars, you ask? This: once I’ve accrued 450 Swagbucks points (and this takes a couple weeks or less), I can redeem them for a $5 gift card to Amazon.com. I bet you can guess where this is leading.
3. Buy Canning Jars on Amazon.
With just 2 Amazon gift cards, I can purchase a case of 12 Jarden half-pint jelly jars. With 3 $5 gift cards, I can get a case of 12 Ball 16oz jars (and free shipping with Prime!). A case of 12 Ball 1-qt jars will set me back 4 $5 gift cards… but imagine all the pickles I could pack into one of those babies!
So there you have it… my cheapskate plan for acquiring all the necessary canning jars at little to no cost for me! I’ve actually already bought one set of half-pint jelly jars in this way, and I have a few gift cards lined up to purchase more. If you want to try your hand at canning, too, but can’t afford to buy all the supplies new, I have a few more suggestions on how to acquire them for nothing (or next to nothing).
Last year, my mother-in-law very kindly gave me a whole bunch of used jars that she didn’t need. You never know who might have a collection of jars waiting for a new home! A couple things to keep in mind:
- Only use jars designed for canning. Store-bought jars are not guaranteed to survive the pressures of canning, and it’s not safe to attempt to use them. You need actual canning jars (the most common companies are Ball, Mason, and Jarden).
- Canning jars can be re-used, but inspect them carefully for nicks, chips and cracks. Discard any jars that are disfigured in any way, as they are not safe for canning.
- Do not re-use seals (the flat part of the lid that seals to the jar). Those must always be discarded after one use. A box of new seals will only cost you one $5 Amazon.com gift card! You can use the bands (the part that screws onto the jar) over and over again, as long as they are not bent or misshapen, and as long as they are not rusted. Eventually, they will bend or rust, and then they’ll need to be retired from active canning service.
- Canning pots and canning utensils can be re-used indefinitely without any danger.
Beg, Borrow, but Don’t Steal
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