How many cans and what size?

Hi! I am COMPLETELY new to pressure canning, gardening, everything! So I feel a bit overwhelmed. Next spring, my husband plans to plant a 200 square foot vegetable garden.We want to learn how to live off grid and are hoping to no longer depend on grocery shopping. We live in Washington state so probably can't grow food year round. So here's my question: How many cans (pint and quart size) should I buy to make it through the winter and spring? (One person suggested I buy 12 cases of each, so 288 jars total. Is that a good estimate?) I plan to can vegetables, beans, and meat, but no fruit.

And should I buy wide or regular size?

Thanks in advance for your help!


  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,640 admin

    Welcome to TGN's forum @sagelazar! You have found an excellent place to begin your off grid journey. You will get lots of help here.

    Depends on what part of Washington State you are from as to how self sufficient you can be. Coastal areas should be able to grow somethings year round; cabbage family, some herbs, greens if you have a cold frame, other things in a green house. If you post in the Introductions section there might be others who live in your general area and can make suggestions for your particular growing area.

    And there is our Front Porch Welcome to check out as well if you haven't already done so.

    A good place to start is in the Academy. There is the Weekend Project - Water Bath Canning and the Weekend Project - Pressure Canning. Both have excellent advice and step by step instructions.

    As to the number of jars and sizes. How many are you feeding? Just you and your husband? I like to have an assortment of sizes and mouth widths. Wide mouth jars are easier to pack pickles or long things in. Standard lids are often cheaper. Some of this will be explained in the courses.

    There are other courses in the Academy to help you with gardening and livestock. As an herbalist, my favourites are the herbal medicine courses. Off the grid requires taking care of oneself in more ways than just food production and preservation.

    But start out with one course at a time. Don't overwhelm yourself. You have all winter to get your teeth into some of this.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,519 admin

    Welcome here, @sagelazar! I freeze most of my produce, but need to can more. My main problem is having a suitable place for full jars in our small house!

    @torey has great advice. One thing that I will add is to take baby steps. Don't try everything all at once. Do realize that you will fail at some things too like we all do at times, but that's okay. It's all a part of learning & growing in our knowledge.

    For example, I had a garden many years ago that produced enormous amounts of food. It was absolutely spectacular! I tried the same plot last year after it had sat for a couple of years. It was an absolute...disaster! This year, we planted on a newly prepared plot, and with old seed. I expected another disaster because of the old seed, new plot & dry conditions, but it was actually not so bad! Hopefully next year is better yet! I'm glad the kids didn't let me give up and insisted that we do one. I was fully ready to give up.

    288 cans sounds like a lot, but it doesn't take long to fill them with tomatoes and other goodies. Our tomatoes were huge producers this year, which was surprising with how dry it was again. I can only imagine it on a normal rain year!

    Anyway, welcome again. Enjoy learning here with us and I hope you enjoy your journey of discovery. 😄

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Assuming you are at low elevation and not up in the mountains, you can probably grow food crops much of the year in Washington. The challenge in the coastal Pacific Northwest is that you get your rain in winter and your sunshine in summer, so for crops that need both you may need to irrigate.

    It's likely that you can grow many cool weather crops over the winter.

    If you are up in the higher mountains, the challenges will be different.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,537 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Great advice above!

    One way to decide how much to can is to evaluate what you use during a week on veggies. My family uses a lot of tomatoes and sauce so we do a lot of that. Some things I like canned and some frozen.

    One important thing to take in to account is not to do to much. Your first year is a learning event and canning more than you want cost money and time. Some with the garden, only gorw what you need or can trade with neighbors for something else.

    I have canned since I was a child and watched my grandmother and mother. I took the TGN canning class and learned a lot and just had a refresher so I hope you take advantage of that.

    As for cans, I use wide mouth cans for whole tomatoes and pickles. The rest go in regular canning jars. I also use pint more than quarts any more, except for pickles that disappear in my family as soon as they are opened.

    And welcome to TGN!!!~~~

  • sagelazar
    sagelazar Posts: 2 ✭✭✭

    I just want to thank everyone who took the time to answer my question. You all sound so warm and welcoming! You all had great advice which I will incorporate into my plan. All the best to all of you!

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,519 admin

    @sagelazar We are happy to help anytime you need an answer or some advice, or even if you just need a safe & friendly place to chat.

    Together through TGN, we have built a beautiful and knowledgeable worldwide community. We pride ourselves in sharing that knowledge, with respect, with anyone who want to know more. We enjoy helping each other grow in our skills & love to pass it all on to others.

    It's a great place to be!