Is it cheaper to dry-pack at home?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011
This is a really good question. And the answer is: it depends. It mostly depends on how much you are able to purchase your "product" (the stuff you are goind to can) for. Sometimes it is cheaper to buy your own and can at home, and sometimes it is cheaper to go directly through the cannery.

The Home Storage Center generally is able to get very good prices on their bulk items, and is usually cheaper than just picking up the same equivalent at a grocery store. When you go to one of the dry-pack centers, the items are already there for you to can, along with all the supplies. The tables are set up specifically for canning, and the can sealer machines are more automated and faster to use than the portable home units. Clean-up is fast, and you can do a lot of canning in not much time. Generally, all things being equal, I prefer to can AT the dry-pack canneries rather than at home.

So then, why would you want or need the dry-pack canner at home?

Well, there are a few reasons.

Reason 1: You want to can an item that isn't available through the cannery.

The home storage centers carry a pretty good variety of your basic long-term storage items, but they cannot accomodate all wants/needs, so they must limit the number of items they can offer. Because of health regulations and other considerations, you cannot bring in any outside food to can at the cannery. You may find that you want to store an item in your long-term storage that the cannery does not carry, and thus you would need to rent the dry-pack canner to use at home.

For example, I store quick and regular rolled oats in my food storage, but have found that my family prefers steel-cut oats for actually eating in oatmeal. It can be rather expensive to buy in small packages or in commercially canned #10s from food storage suppliers. I was able to find a source for bulk steel-cut oats, and wanted to add some to my food storage. Because it was not a normal cannery item, I had to can it at home.

I also have quite a few cans of the regular white flour available from the cannery, but have found that I like the Lehi Mills Turkey Flour brand a lot better when baking. So I wanted some of the "good stuff" in my food storage. In this case, it was more expensive than the other flour available directly from the cannery, but that was a conscious decision on my part to go with the more expensive product.

I also did Calrose rice this last weekend, which is not available through the cannery. (After spending two years living in Japan, my husband has definite preferences for specific types of rice.) The Calrose rice came from Costco. It's not cheaper than than the stuff from the cannery, but we prefer it over the extra-long-grain stuff sometimes, so we wanted to have some of that in our storage.

Reason 2: You are able to get some really good deals on your food items somewhere other than the cannery.

Here is Utah we are lucky to have case-lot sales (and even specific food storage sales) at some of the grocery stores, and occassionally they will put up product for a price that ends up being cheaper than what you can get at the cannery. Or if you use coupons, you can sometimes find great deals throughout the year. When this happens, it is often much cheaper to buy the product on a very good sale and then just can it at home (since you can't take it to the cannery).

For example, I was able to find 5lb bags of sugar on clearance at Target about 3 months ago for .98 each! The "canned by customer" sugar at the cannery is currently $6.00 per #10 can, and holds about 6lbs worth of sugar. Because I was able to get such a good deal on the sugar, I was able to can the equivalent for about $2.10 per can by purchasing outside the cannery and canning at home (that includes the $.90 for the can and lid).

And several times this summer Smith's had sales on dry pasta that coincided with some great coupons and made for FREE pasta! Much of it was kinds of pasta that are not available at the cannery, but even for the stuff that was the same as what you can get at the cannery (macaroni and spaghetti) it was cheaper for me to buy and can on my own. Since the pasta itself was free (except for sales tax), all I basically had to pay for was the can, lid and oxygen absorber, for a total of $1.00/can.

Reason 3: For any number of various reasons, it might be easier, faster, more convenient, etc., for you to can at home rather than at the dry-pack cannery itself.

Perhaps you'd like to do a Family Home Evening lesson on food storage, and your activity would be doing a couple cans of food to add to your storage, but you have younger children and don't want to drag them all to the home storage center. (Most locations are closed on Mondays anyway, but you ARE allowed to bring young children with you as long as they are properly supervised. But sometimes it's just easier to control the chaos at home.) Or maybe you live quite far from a home storage center, but your stake or ward has a portable machine available for use in your local area. Or maybe you are able to find a really good deal on a bulk order purchase by going in with a large group order. Or perhaps there are physical considerations that might make it difficult to work at the dry-pack center and it would be more comfortable to be able to do it in your own home.

For the most part, the stuff I have in my long-term storage all comes directly from the cannery (and was canned at the cannery) with a few exceptions:
  • When I can buy a product for cheaper than what I can get it at the cannery, then I'll buy it and can it at home.
  • A few specialty items, like the Turkey flour, steel-cut oats, and dry pastas, that cannot be purchased or canned through the cannery.
  • My wheat - I prefer to store mine in the 45lb buckets and have found that when I pick them up during Macey's food storage sales or at Costco when they are available, I can usually get them for cheaper than the equivalent number of cans from the cannery. (It also takes up less room to store it in the buckets than in the equivalent number of #10 cans. Plus I can stack the buckets along the walls in my food storage "room", freeing up valuable shelf space for other items.)

For the current prices and weights on what is available through the home storage centers, check out the most recently updated Home Storage Center price sheet and item list. It is a great way to compare prices and see whether you're better off going through the cannery or going through your own source.

Also remember that when you are comparing, you have to take into account whether the item you are buying is in a long-term storage container or not. The stuff you can right at the cannery already includes the price of the can, lid and oxygen absorber, whereas most of the stuff you would acquire on your own does not, so you have to factor in the extra cost for the canning supplies.