Price Comparing – How Home Canning Food Stacks Up to Buying Pre-packaged Food

As I’ve shared before, over the past year or so, I’ve gotten into home canning. Last March I started out pressure canning simple things like red potatoes and homemade bone broth, but I wanted to learn more. My goal was to have whole meals on the shelf and be able to take advantage of meat sales so I didn’t have to worry about playing a game of Tetris in my freezer.

Last spring I bought The All New Ball Book of Canning to learn more and to get safe canning recipes for things like soups, sauces, and meat dishes. Over the past 12 months I have slowly worked my way through numerous recipes, but there were still a few I’d dog-eared, just waiting for the right time (like finding a certain cut of meat on sale) since most recipes call for using around three to four pounds of meat.

One of the recipes I’ve been meaning to try is the pulled pork in a jar recipe, which is, as it sounds, chunks of pork shoulder pressure canned in a homemade barbecue sauce. But, beyond the yum factor with some of these recipes I’ve been meaning to try, there’s another reason I wanted to put more heat and eat meals and shelf stable meats in my pantry is for convenience and time saving. 

I have big plans for my garden this year and I’ve been wanting to get some items put away so that this summer after I’ve spent hours in the sun and heat weeding and tending to my garden, if I need to get a meal together quickly we don’t have to go out or grab a pre-packaged meal at the grocery store. Planning ahead like this will not only save us money, but by canning whole meals myself, I know what’s in them so we’re not eating lots of preservatives, additives, and sodium.

So, being that I’ve had my eye on the pulled pork in a jar recipe from the Ball Canning book for a while, when I found pork shoulder on sale for around $1 per pound, I didn’t hesitate!

I canned the barbecue pork recipe, which yielded six pint jars, and each jar makes about three sandwiches of the size pictured above. It’s just as delicious as it looks and it’s made with about seven ingredients, including the sauce and meat. Knowing this was yummy and exactly what’s in it prompted me to do a price (and ingredient) comparison. I did the math, which is my LEAST favorite subject, and my cost for creating six pints of the pulled pork was $3 for the meat, and around $1 for the sauce. So, that means for about $4 we have enough pulled pork for 18 sandwiches, that’s so cheap it’s unreal! In comparison, I found “rotisserie style pulled pork” for $7 for a pound at my local Aldi. 

This isn’t the only ready to eat meal I’ve canned lately. I also canned a double batch of the beefy bolognese sauce so that I have a few quart jars and a few pint jars, because I like having options for different meals and serving sizes. As I write this post, I have a busy day and week ahead, so tonight I’m opening a pint of the bolognese, tossing it with some precooked macaroni noodles and serving a Caesar salad kit for a quick meal of goulash and salad. 

beefy bolognese sauce in Mason jar

This all sounds good in theory, right? But let’s address the elephant in the room, yes, it’s much cheaper to consume the home canned version of an item than the store bought version, but canning does take another investment beyond the jars and canning equipment, and that’s time. For both the bolognese and the pulled pork, it took me about two and a half hours from start to finish, but for me, putting time aside before life gets really hectic to have meals at the ready is worth it. 

I share this post to encourage, empower, and educate you. I know that food costs are rising so sharply and that impact is no doubt felt for most, including our household, but gardening and canning is one way I’m choosing to offset inflation. However, I also know what it’s like to feel daunted by the idea of tackling a new skill like canning, or even gardening. And in fact, a few years ago when we found our pressure canner at Goodwill, I bought it even though I didn’t know how to can, I just knew it was too good of a deal to pass up and it was something I wanted to learn.

As summer approaches, I’ll share more about my garden, yet another skill that three years ago I didn’t feel qualified to try, but this year I have jumped in with both feet and intend to try my hardest and know that my failures are an opportunity to learn so next year I’m more successful. Gardening goes hand in hand with canning since it’s one of the best ways to preserve an abundant harvest. And that’s why I’ll be here this year and beyond sharing more about these forgotten, but much needed skills to help you learn, to show you it’s possible to pick up these kinds of skills, and to show you the value in these skills. That last point I believe is something we need to find again, the value of being self-sufficient, working with our hands, and shortening our supply chain in whatever ways we can.