Canning Jars for Dry Storage by R. Ann Parris
If we’re leaning hard on canning produce for long-term emergencies, the number of jars required is pretty painful. If we want 2-3 cups of fruits and veggies and another 2-3 cups of meats or canned beans per person per day for the full course of a year, we’re looking at ~200-250 quarts of fruits/veggies and another 200-250 quarts of meats and beans per person.
400-500 quarts per person per year is a massive pile of half-pint, pint, and quart jars.
Then there are our extras (jams, jellies, syrups, broths, juices, herbs), surplus jars set back for breakage, and if we’re smart, extra jars set aside so we can preserve more than our bare-minimum goals.
Even if we already extensively preserve foods, from gardens and orchards to meats we’ve hunted or raised, most of us are not canning that much right now.
(Hat’s off if you are — wowser.)
That means most of us would just have some portion of those jars sitting somewhere. That’s a LOT of jars holding only air, a lot of wasted space.
It doesn’t have to be, though.
Canning jar lids can be vacuum sealed with hand pumps, electric pumps, and oxygen-absorbers to store almost anything.
I suppose you could pump enough or put in enough O2 eaters to deform a lid, but I’ve yet to do it. So you retain your lid for canning uses (we need “fresh” lids for all that canning, too … and then another round of fresh lids for each consecutive use — that’s a mighty pile, too).
Once they’re vac sealed, those jars are water tight, just like when they’ve been processed in a canner. They also provide an insect/mouse barrier. Some things only need that tougher, moisture-resistant package for long-term storage. Some of them can even live outdoors in sheds once they have that barrier.
âž¢ Blister packs of medicine
âž¢ Boxed sanitation gloves
âž¢ Cotton balls, Q-tips
âž¢ Dental floss, toothbrushes
âž¢ Baby power
âž¢ Small cloth items (pads, hankies, bandanas, socks, gloves)
âž¢ Lamp/candle wicks
âž¢ Matches, lighters, strikers
âž¢ Fire starters, tinder for vehicle kits/bags
âž¢ Sewing thread, garden twine, 550 cord
âž¢ Seeds (pump seal only, don’t use oxygen absorbers)
âž¢ Regular-mouth lids (in wide-mouth jars)
âž¢ Cooking grains/beans (oatmeal, wheat, dent corn, rice)
âž¢ Noodles & Pasta (break spaghetti in half for pint jar storage)
âž¢ Dehydrated produce (which saves a ton of space, but requires a reliable water source)
âž¢ Packets of baking mixes (muffins, pancake, Jiffy cornbread, cupcakes, cakes, brownies)
âž¢ Bulk dry spices
âž¢ Spice & sauce blend packets (gravy, taco, chili, alfredo, pesto, salad dressings)
âž¢ Dry/powdered milk & eggs
âž¢ Dream Whip, gelatin & pudding mixes
âž¢ Baking “extras” (morsels, grated dry coconut, sprinkles, marshmallows)
âž¢ Delicate munchies (cookies, crackers, cold cereal, dehydrated sliced fruits/veggies)
âž¢ Super-dry doggy treats (milky bones, Alpo squares,
Salts can be affected by moisture, but rarely insects/mice. Stick them as-is in Ziploc-type bags and a tote/bucket/trash can.
Nuts can easily be stored in canning jars, but due to the oils, the shelf life isn’t appreciably extended by an oxygen-free or low-oxygen environment. It is, however, extended by keeping them in a freezer. My freezer is high-value real estate, so bags that compress to fit the remaining portion work better than jars.
(Soak nuts, pour off the oils, and dehydrate/re-dry to extend their shelf life, but remember that it reduces their calories and fats.)
Jars add protection against pests for fully sealed pre-packaged meat snacks, bacon bits, and candies, etc., but we don’t have to bother with the pump or oxygen absorbers. They won’t extend the life.
Batteries could be stored in jars for moisture protection, but if they explode, go ahead and mark that jar for non-food uses, just in case.
Also skip anything else that would potentially leave harmful residue, and things like nails that can scratch/gouge either the jar or the lid.
By using them for dry-goods storage now, we can easily stockpile the jars we’d need to preserve harvests without wasting the air space inside them. For max efficiency, we’d use our canning jars for long-storing consumables. That way, we’re emptying them as we go and they become available for food preservation but we’re not rotating constantly.