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How to Streamline Your Canning

How to Streamline Your Canning -

Have you ever bought a ton of produce on impulse at the farmer’s market with the full intension of canning it up, only to find it days later rotting in your refrigerator?

Or have you ever been gifted a huge bag of fruit from a neighbor’s tree?

But there it sits…slowly turning brown as you scramble to find time to do something with it.

It’s a common problem given our super busy lives.

And the guilt that comes from that waste only adds to the burden.

The truth is that sometimes it’s really hard to carve out enough time for preserving the harvest.

But there is one thing we can do NOW that will help us LATER in the season.

And that is to streamline certain aspects of the canning process so that it doesn’t become such a time suck when we honestly have no time to spare.

It’s NOT About Time Management:

It’s about managing our tasks.

There are several factors at play when we find ourselves strapped for time.

But one of the biggest wastes of time when it comes to any project we tackle (canning, making a recipe, building or crafting something) is context switching.

What is Context Switching?

Context switching is a term most commonly associated with work productivity. But it directly relates to how we get anything done…or don’t get done.

In fact, the problem of context switching vs. productivity is a problem in all aspects of our home lives and work lives.

It is about how our brains need time when shifting gears between one focused task and the next.

And studies have shown that it is one of the biggest time sucks we encounter.

You’ve heard of multi-tasking?

Well multi-tasking actually slows us down because of the time it takes our brain to switch gears – or switch context.

It turns out that the more sequences a person has to go through to get something done, the more they lose time (20% and more per shift).

Streamline Your Canning -

Here’s An Example:

If you are trying to prep for a recipe but have to stop and go search for a measuring cup, you are not only wasting the physical time in searching for the cup.

It turns out that when you come back to the recipe, it takes your brain 20% longer in time to reacquaint yourself with where you left off.

Imagine when you have to do this multiple times!

Each time you stop and go search for something, it slows you down more than you realize.

You lose 20% of your time with EACH interruption.

So it doesn’t matter if the recipe you are making is simple or fast.

If you keep stopping to gather what you need, you are wasting the search time PLUS your context switching time.

It adds up fast.

The Solution:

Instead, we need to have everything at our fingertips when we are ready.

It not only saves us the actual time of searching. It also saves us brainpower time, which can add up much faster.

This translates to us needing less time to follow a canning recipe. And that means we are more likely to get it done.

I know this may sound like it is too simple of a solution.

But trust me, for the last year I have applied this idea of limiting my context switching in my work life and have come to realize it really applies to all life.

So I have been spending a lot of time lately organizing my kitchen, garage and everything else I can so that it will save me time later.

I have become more productive in the process which gives me more time to do the things I love.

Streamline Your Canning -

Organize Now for Preserving Later:

So how do we limit the time suck of context switching?

All we have to do is streamline the canning process.

And we can do that with these four simple tips.

The Four Steps to Streamlining:

1. Gather:

Ideally, everything related to canning should have a home and be stored together.

But this may not be practical for everyone.

So the next best thing is to keep your supplies together in groups (some in the kitchen, garage, attic, etc.).

The point is to know where everything is. It all should have a home.

Start by gathering together all of your tools, equipment, jars, lids, pectin, funnel, etc.

By having all your equipment together, you eliminate the search time later.

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2. Sort & Organize

Once you have pulled all your tools and equipment together, organize it by putting like items together.

Sort your jars so you can see what sizes you have or don’t have. (This prevents over-buying the next time you see jars on sale.)

You don’t have to go over the top and label the heck out of everything with a label maker. {OK, don’t judge me, but I do that. Eeek!}

But just know that it is all together in one place (or several specific places) in your home.

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3. Choose Your Storage:

I have to touch on storage containers. This is something I struggled with for many years.

Storing Canning Jars - LivingHomegrown.comIn the past, I would just use the cardboard boxes the jars came in to store all my empty canning jars.

This worked. But after a few years, the cardboard started to attract silver fish.

Before long, I had a serious silver fish problem in my garage and they started to migrate into my house.

Rather than spray my house with pesticide, I got rid of the cardboard and switched to plastic.

I know there are pros and cons to plastic, but it is what worked best for me because it allowed me to easily stack all my different sized jars in the garage.

They stay clean, are easily labeled and I can see what is in each box.

There are canning jar stackers available out there, but they are expensive and not cost effective for me given the amount of jars I have.

The jars in these photos are only a fraction of my total number my jars. And I have twice as many at our farmstead where we are put up produce on a larger scale from the heirloom orchard.

The plastic bins just worked best for me.

Storing Canning Lids -

Note on Lids:

I have several ways of storing my lids. Some are in boxes; others are in cute storage jars in my kitchen.

But when my lids are wet from washing or canning, I do not put them away immediately or they will rust.

Instead, I use either a piece of wire, an open coat hanger or a large power cord twist tie to hang them up to dry. Once dry, they can be put away.

4) Buy Yourself Time – Freeze it

Freezing Food -

Even if you are organized as heck, there will be times this summer when you find yourself with an abundance of produce and no time to can it.

When that happens, buy yourself time.

Freeze it.

I freeze most of my berries in 2 cups measurements and just pull them out later when I have the time to make jam. Here are some tips (and video) for how to freeze produce for later.

So Tell Me…

I know it is not very sexy to sort and organize canning jars and equipment.

But if you can do some organizing now, it will save you time with any recipe you make in the future.

Does the idea of sorting jars make you crazy?

Or do you have any other storage or time saving tips to share?

Tell me in the comments!

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About the Author:

Theresa Loe is the founder of Living Homegrown® and the Canning Academy®. For 9 years, Theresa was the Co-Executive Producer & Canning Expert on the national PBS gardening series, Growing A Greener World®. Theresa homesteads on just 1/10th of an acre in Los Angeles with her husband, two sons and several disorderly but totally adorable chickens. Learn more about Living Homegrown here and about the Canning Academy here.