What to Look for At Garage Sales if You’re Planning to Preserve Food!

Freezing and canning your fruits and vegetables for the winter saves a LOT of money…but getting started can COST a lot of money too. There are some supplies that you just have to have. Almost all of the supplies you need are “one time only” purchases, so if you have to pay full price, you will get your money back on it eventually if you continue to preserve food through the years.

But…if you plan on going to garage sales or auctions this summer…here are a few things to keep your eye out for so that you can try to get a better deal:

Jars. Jars…jars…and more jars. 

Ball® 16oz. Wide Mouth Jars with Lids

Jars are a must if you plan on doing any canning. Not a lot of people do much canning anymore, so they are ready to get rid of their jars. I’ve seen big boxes of them for super cheap at garage sales. I buy all I can get my hands on anytime I see them for a good price. I don’t even need anymore jars (I have over 300!), but I have friends who need them so I still grab them when I see them at a sale!

My favorites are the “wide mouth” jars, which tend to cost more at the store. I consider it to be a big score if I find wide mouth jars at a garage sale.  

And…here’s a little tip I learned from a friend of mine (who likes jars almost as much as I do):  If you see a box of jars at a garage sale…ask the owner if they have any more jars anywhere they’d like to get rid of. When my friend did this…the lady hosting the sale went down to her basement and brought up bunches of boxes of jars she was happy to part with! It NEVER hurts to ask!!!

Hot Water Bath Pot

Granite Ware 21-Quart Covered Preserving Canner with Rack

If you’re just going to be canning in small pint sized jars, you can use a big soup pot. (The water has to be high enough to cover your jars as you process them.)  But, if you’re canning in quart sized jars you’ll need a Hot Water Bath Pot. It’s just the right size to hold seven quart sized jars.

My dad found two of them for me at an auction once for about a dollar. At that time, I hadn’t even learned to can yet…but that was motivation for me to learn!!

Cherry Pitter 


Norpro Deluxe Cherry Stoner/Pitter

If you have a cherry tree or know someone who does…it saves a lot of time (and broken teeth) if you take out the pits with a cherry pitter. Mine is probably an antique, but it works great and saves me a lot of time!

Food Mill

Mirro 50024 2-quart FOLEY Food Mill, Stainless Steel

I usually make my applesauce in a blender, but if you prefer to leave your peelings on your apples…cook them down, then run them through a food mill like this one. I have one and while it takes quite a bit of muscle to get a big batch of applesauce made, it’s yummy!


Norpro Stainless Steel Wide-Mouth Funnel

In my opinion, a wide mouth funnel is a must-have for canning. I use mine ALL THE TIME. I paid full price for mine through Azure Standard and it was well worth it. But, I wouldn’t mind a second (or third) one, so I’m keeping my eye out for them at garage sales.

Ziplock bags

Ziploc® Double Zipper Plastic Freezer Bags, Gallon (94604ZIP) Category: Plastic Ziplock Bags

Okay, you probably won’t find these at garage sales, but while we’re on the subject of saving money while you preserve food, I recommend stocking up on quart and gallon sized freezer bags when they’re on sale and when you have coupons. Two tips:  Only use freezer bags for freezing produce. Regular storage bags won’t cut it. And…stick with name brand Ziplock bags for produce. I won’t tell you about the time I made real apple cider and froze it in generic freezer bags. Let’s just say everything in my freezer was sticky for six months and I lost a lot of my apple cider. :(

Have you found any great deals at garage sales and auctions for canning jars and etcetera? What else am I forgetting to mention that we should be looking out for at garage sales?

This post is linked to Frugal Fridays.


  1. says

    I just found a bunch of jars at a yard sale. I see them all the time. Thanks for all the tips, I’ve learned a lot about what I’ll need!


  2. Jenny says

    One thing that I have found I cannot live without for canning is a jar lifter. They are indispensable for lifting those heavy, boiling hot jars out of the canner. If any of you have never seen one, they are similar-looking to a large pair of tongs, except they have a wider mouth to grip those jars! An awesome piece of equipment!


  3. says

    I found some wide mouth jars at the grocery store the other day in with the damaged goods. The only thing wrong with them is that they were no longer in the case and they were marked down to 35 cents each! Also saw a bunch at the thrift store, but they were 99 cents, so I passed :)


  4. says

    I would agree heartily with the jar lifter comment! I also want, but do not yet have a lid lifter. It sounds easy enough to make if you can’t find one cheap. It is a magnet on the end of a dowel that lifts the lids out of the simmering water. No more burnt fingers and no more scratching around with a fork! Also, a metal ladle. I don’t have one yet, but want one just like my mom has.

    I found a canning colander (what I use instead of a food mill). Actually I found 2 of them in one week! I had been asking and asking for a couple months and am so happy!!!! Applesauce and tomato juice here I come.


    I’ve written a lot about my canning adventure this summer and its not even harvest time yet. I canned with my mom as a child, but haven’t in years. It has been wonderful to get back into it!



  5. Kika says

    Will you be sharing more about the process of canning applesauce and making cider? I really want to learn what to do with the apples from my backyard trees. I’m allergic to them raw but can eat them cooked/heated.


    Laura Reply:

    I will try to share about making cider…if I’m able to get some made this fall. I have a post about making applesauce here:


    or you can find more information about it in my Gardening and Preserving Ebook:



  6. Michelle says

    I’m a huge fan of the whole buying canning supplies at garage sales idea. People often just want to get rid of their jars, and sell them for super-cheap, or even put them in the ‘free’ pile.

    One thing I did buy at a store is a steam-canner…works the same as boiling the jars in a big heavy pot of boiling water, but there’s only a few inches of boiling water to create the steam. It did cost a fair bit (I think $50 on sale?), but I’m a klutz and was forever scalding myself by sloshing boiling water everywhere. Plus it cuts the canning time in half as I don’t have to wait for gallons of water to come to a boil. It’s been a life-saver for me.


  7. says

    I do have multiple canning funnels and I use them all the time, not just during canning. I keep one with my bulk grains for filling jars with the grains I use less of, rather than the 1 gallon pails I keep more common grains in. I would love to have stainless steel but the two plastic ones from Walmart work just fine.

    Definitely, everyone who even thinks about canning needs a jar lifter! I tried without for one batch of salsa and that was the last time. Whew! It was awful.

    I have a cherry pitter but I seldom use it. My husband and I picked a lot of pie cherries at my FIL’s house last week and we actually left the seeds on the tree. Just squeeze the cherry as you pull it away from the seed; it helps to hold onto the stem as you pull. The fruit should come away without the seed. Another way, less messy, is to pull the cherry WITH its stem from the tree and use the same method to remove the stem and seed together from the cherry, in the house. That eliminates cherry juice running down your arms while you pick :D

    I wish I could find more canning jars at yard sales but I just haven’t. The thrift stores in my area want 50 cents EACH for quart jars and they’re nearly always small mouth. When I pay 67 cents each at the most for new jars, that is just not a bargain to me. Someone must think it is though because they always move fast. Weird.

    Oh, a current Ball Blue book is very important too. Every 3-5 years I think you should get a new one. Mine is way overdue since it was a Christmas present in 2000. Yikes. Thankfully I haven’t used it in the last year or two, preferring a few tried and true recipes and some new ones from the Pomona pectin box.


  8. FunMomma says

    Hi, thanks for all the information!! I’m hot on the trail of canning this summer. I just found 35 jars someone is selling for $12 but am not sure if that’s a good deal. What would you say is a good price for jars? a cheap price?

    Thanks again!


    Laura Reply:

    I’m assuming you’re talking about quart jars, which you can buy new at the store for about 65 cents each. So, your 35 jars for $12 is about half that…I’d say go for it. In general, you should be able to find them even cheaper at yard sales…but yes, the deal you found sounds pretty great!


  9. says

    I would love to do some canning, in addition to freezing a few things. I may just hit up a few yard sales. I have often seen them during a Saturday morning run.


  10. Lyndsay says

    I know this is an old post, but I thought of it this morning when I found a garage sale on craigslist that has canning supplies, including jars. You would have thought they were advertising free gold! I was that excited! My husband just shook his head and smiled, I think he will smile even more this winter when he can eat all the yummy stuff from our garden!


  11. Carrie Gay says

    i live in an area where these items actually will sometimes sell for almost what they are new at the store or they will ask MORE–and no haggling :( New 12 ct case of ball wide mouth jars with lids and rings at a local store=$7.99 neighbors yardsale price=$10 (with no lids or rings) arrrrg


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