How to Find and Buy Used Canning Jars

Empty canning jars and rings

Should you buy used canning jars? Are used jars safe to use? Let's find out!

The local Facebook group ad read "Canning jars, $1 a dozen."  How could I resist?

The seller was even in my town. I grabbed one of our teenagers to go with me (this was before our children all "flew the nest") and we met her in a public place. While I passed on the mayonnaise jars, I bought twenty dozen canning jars, mostly pints and quarts, for just $20!

Why? Because preserving seasonal foods is a frugal, healthy way to fill your pantry, but getting started can be a big expense at one time. You know what I mean, right?

What to look for when you buy used canning jars - from Oak Hill Homestead

Water bath canner, pressure canner, jars, lids... these purchases can be a big drain on your budget when you begin. While I already had both a water bath and a pressure canner, I knew I'd never be able to buy such a large quantity of jars again at that price, so I jumped on it.

Buying used jars (or having them gifted to you) is a great way to save money. Where can you find them? Garage and yard sales, estate sales, and thrift stores are all good places to look.

Tell everyone you know that you are looking for canning jars, and you might be the recipient of someone's grandma's empty jars. Keep an eye on Craigslist and Freecycle lists too.

I bought a few half-gallon canning jars from our local thrift store. They didn't even charge me for the dead cricket in one of the jars. While the USDA and the National Center for Home Food Preservation recommend using half-gallon jars for very acidic fruit juices such as apple and grape juice only (see this link), those jars look great on my kitchen counter holding rice, macaroni and other dry staples.

Where to look for used canning jars - from Oak Hill Homestead

What to look for when you find used jars:
  • Check the rims of jars for chips and cracks; jars with chipped rims can still be used in craft projects and to store dry goods short-term but can't be used for canning.
  • Don't use glass mayonnaise jars for canning, although they can be vacuum-sealed to store dehydrated foods and dry goods. Genuine canning jars will have raised lettering; if the jar is completely smooth, it probably isn't a canning jar.
  • Look carefully for cracks in the "body" of the jar.

Where to find used canning jars - from Oak Hill Homestead

Half-pint jars are often used to can jams and jellies, or small-batch specialty foods. Pints and quarts are the most-often used sizes for canning. Half-gallon jars should only be used to can juice from highly-acidic fruits; apple and grape are the only juices recommended by the USDA.

Of course you'll want to wash your jars thoroughly when you get them home. I ran these through the dishwasher several times before packing them away. You never know how long they've been sitting in someone's basement or garage, perhaps with dead crickets inside.

Bands (the rings to canning jars) can be re-used but you should retire any rusty bands; they can crack the jar when you try to remove them. Canning lids (sometimes called "flats") should not be re-used. I buy canning lids in bulk from Lehman's.

How do you save money on canning supplies?

Where to look for used canning jars - from Oak Hill Homestead
This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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  1. For a long time I bought my lids in bulk from a catalog, but have found that if I catch them at the end of the season here and there, I can get them even cheaper.
    My current dilemma is that I have way too many quarts (which were great when there were six or seven of us living here) and not enough pints (which are great for gifts and I hardly ever get the jars back).
    Thanks for all the great thoughts. It's hard to come by a good conversation on canning these days. :-)

  2. It IS hard to find others who use Mason jars. :-) That's a good point about looking for special at the end of canning season, thank you for passing that along. I have the same predicament you do now: quarts are too big for just the two of us, and my pint jars disappear.

  3. Love all these ideas on where to find jars! I've picked up many at garage sales for cheap! Thanks for sharing at Encouraging Hearts and Home. You are featured on this week. Come visit and link up again!

  4. 20 dozen ?!? That's awesome! Luckily (sometimes unluckily) for me, my husband has some hoarding tendencies....and he loves auctions, freebies, and second-hand items. So we have a TON of canning jars. Until this year I've only used about a quarter of them. But this year we're digging them all out from the garage to can our huge garden harvest. Found this on the Homestead Blog Hop!

  5. I have found some jars at church sales. They were very popular in SC when we lived there. You had to grab them quick because it seemed everyone else was looking for them too!
    They are making smooth canning jars these days and you can find smooth ones at places that sell in bulk. Just check them carefully.
    Thanks for sharing with us at Farm Fresh Tuesdays !
    Melissa | Little Frugal Homestead

  6. Thanks for sharing this with us at the Homestead Blog Hop #294, it has been chosen as one of our features this week!

  7. Tim Tation2:07 PM

    Don’t forget the grocery store... I no longer buy anything in metal cans, they either have BPA or an identical substitute like BPS or any BPx (it’s a loophole that allows them to keep feeding us toxins). So I always look for glass for any “canned” products I buy. Many companies sell in real canning jars and they are easy to wash and reuse. Any that are not real canning jars make great drinking or travel glasses (if you washed the lids), or storage for dry goods or even hardware storage in the garage/shop. If you have a hobby like glass blowing, even the broken glass is welcome, if not glass is very very recyclable.

    1. Tim, yes - it's better to buy just about anything in a reusable container like glass. Unfortunately recycling glass isn't common here in Oklahoma but I too use jars for storing all sorts of things. You can even vacuum seal those reused jars if they have the right kind of lids: Vacuum Seal Almost Any Jar in Your Kitchen.


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