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Canning Storage: How to Store Mason Jars in the Pantry

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If you’ve embraced home canning and have a pantry full of canned goods, you’re probably wondering about canning storage. How do you keep all of that home canned goodness for the most optimum shelf life?

Need some easy canning recipes to get started with home preservation? Try these

home canned jars of tomato sauce ready for storage

Prepare canning jars for long-term storage

What does this mean? There are some things to consider when putting your home canned goods into the pantry.

Clean canning jars before storage

First and foremost, when they come out of the canner and they’ve cooled, rinse the jars thoroughly. Sticky jars of jam in the pantry are no good.

Remove the rings

Though this may surprise you, you should store your sealed canning jars without the ringsThis means that if there’s a problem with the seal, it will be obvious right away. A loose lid means you should discard the contents immediately. If you keep the rings on, it’s harder to discern if the seal has been compromised.

jars of applesauce on a wooden table ready for canning storage

Store jars upright.

This means that the contents won’t touch the lid for an extended time. Some canned items — tomatoes, for instance — are corrosive.

Don’t stack jars

Obviously, stacked jars are more likely to fall and break. But the weight of one jar on another can — again — deceive you into thinking a jar is sealed when it’s not.

Choose a cool, dry place for canning storage

Why? Keeping jars cool will help retain the quality of the food you’ve preserved. Moisture in a canning storage space can cause the lids and rings to rust.

graph with canning storage system

Keep track

Knowing what’s in your pantry allows you to utilized what’s in your pantry. I use this system to keep track of our home canned foods.  Using this method with my canning storage helps me spread the various canned goods across the winter months, so we don’t end up with too much — or too little — of an item before winter ends.

Related: Home Preservation: Canning Equipment and Getting Started

glass canning jars with lids and rings

Earthquake food storage

This is an issue specifically for earthquake-prone regions: Safe canning storage when the ground shakes. My friend Toni asked the other day:

I am having a conundrum. Living in earthquake country as I do, I am nervous about having the bulk of my emergency supplies in glass jars. Earthquakes are not glass friendly. In the case of a large quake we are likely to lose power for some period of time. So counting on what’s in the freezer is not a great option either. So here is my question. Given the situation, does one of those Food Saver vacuum sealing bag things make sense? I have a dehydrator that I am fond of, but I need a long term storage situation for those dry items.

When I read this, I immediately thought of the Doomsday Preppers episode I happened across that featured a group concerned about the possibility of an epic earthquake. Fine and good to prepare for an earthquake, I say.

Related: Easy Canning Recipes for the Novice Home Canner

canning jars full of preserved food

Related: 10+ Food Preservations to Consider

But folks, if you’re going to have shipping containers full of food preserved in glass on shelf after shelf to survive an earthquake, open shelving with nothing holding those jars in place is probably not a good idea. Storage for canning jars full of your precious preserved foods needs to be more secure.

Toni is savvy enough to realize that things shake around – a lot – in an earthquake. But she’s aware of the conundrum:

See. I’ve been wrestling with myself over this for awhile. I could even throw pill bottles in the [Food Saver] bags and suck out the air and not have to worry about them getting damp out in the garage. But its a PLASTIC BAG!! I think you can reuse the “bag” after you cut it open, it just gets smaller with each use. But its a PLASTIC BAG. It does say they are BPA FREE. But…..

If you’ve been here long, you know I’m working to reduce plastic in my life. I’m not obsessive about it, but as Toni says, it IS plastic. So what can we do about safely storing food for earthquake emergencies? I totally get the fascination with the Food Saver – I know lots of people who love theirs – and honestly, if there’s an emergency that requires digging into emergency supplies, food stored in plastic will be the least of my concerns. Health implications be damned if I’m starving.

dry good storage in canning jars

But buying a Food Saver means obtaining a brand new piece of equipment with lots of plastic parts. That new piece of equipment likely comes with packaging – possibly Styrofoam – and plastic bags for sealing food. That’s a lot of plastic and I think it’s unlikely that a cool tool like a Food Saver would be used just for earthquake supplies. I can see it quickly turning into “oh, I’ll just use it to package these extra chicken legs!”

The plastic use in a household could actually increase.

canning jars filled and sealed with strawberry jam

 

Storing glass in earthquake country

 

I think there are a fair number of alternatives that could work for someone who really wanted to avoid plastic.

  • Slip each glass canning jar into an orphaned sock before storage. This serves two purposes. It protects the glass from damage, and if there is breakage, the glass won’t scatter. You’ll be able to just pick up the jar inside the sock and dispose of it.
  • Store glass containers only on shelves that have doors that latch securely. Shelves closest to the floor are best for this.
  • If you’re storing glass canning jars on open shelves, run a 1″ x 4″ board across the front of the shelves to prevent the jars from crashing to the floor in the event of a quake.
  • Instead of storing glass jars on shelves, reuse the boxes that those canning jars came in or pack them in boxes with a protective piece of cardboard between each jar. As long as they are down low and not situated below your bowling ball collection, the likelihood of breakage should be minimal, I would think. The space under a bed would be ideal for this.
  • I’ve spoken with several people who are recycling plastic drink bottles as emergency food storage. Thoroughly washed and dried, the bottles are filled with dry items like rice or beans and taped closed. The addition of an oxygen absorber helps to extend shelf life. This method does use plastic, but it’s recycled plastic and doesn’t involve a piece of equipment. Someone like Toni, who has dried fruit and such to store could probably use a similar plan, using wide mouthed bottles (Gatorade?) or even plastic peanut butter jars. Ask around – there are plenty of people who would be all too happy to save their containers for you.

Now, of course, all bets are off if we’re talking about a really intense earthquake. But for moderate quakes, taking precautions like this may be what you need to feel good about food storage in glass.

canning jars with red ingredients

Originally published March 2012; this post has been updated.

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

22 comments… add one
  • Linda Forsdick Mar 28, 2012, 4:23 pm

    No wonder the men in our lives can’t understand where their socks are going! lol

    • Jeffrey Jul 2, 2020, 4:03 am

      LOL

  • FrugalKiwi Mar 28, 2012, 4:40 pm

    GREAT post! I’ll be passing this on to my readers here in earthquake prone NZ.

  • Cali Girl Farms Mar 28, 2012, 8:17 pm

    One of my concerns as well, living in Southern California. Definitely some food storage ideas to consider — thanks.

  • SoniaR Mar 29, 2012, 7:33 am

    Kris, I too watched that one episode of the preppers and thought the same thing…glass jars/open shelving…duh!  This program is a bit too alarmist…or the preppers who are being featured are a bit too alarmist and over the top.  I have caught bits and pieces of 2-3 episodes and can’t stand to watch any more than that…I think we will continue with our own modest plan…

  • Sheri Cline Mar 29, 2012, 7:56 am

    I’ve been saving 5 gallon containers to store my full canning jars into. You can fill the air space with other bags of dried food, rice, beans, corn and so on…..then put the lids securely back on and stack them up and label & date the containers for rotation. I always pack Bay Leaves into my dried goods to stop hatch-out.

    • Attainable Sustainable Mar 30, 2012, 4:36 pm

       @Sheri Cline Jars within a bucket is a good idea, too!

    • Kathleen Jones Jul 2, 2020, 1:45 pm

      Hi Sheri Cline,
      Excellent idea!! That could even be used in non-earthquake area. Thanks for sharing it.
      Kathleen

  • Irene Mar 30, 2012, 5:41 am

    Love the sock idea! so creative….

  • MyKidsEatSquid Mar 30, 2012, 3:24 pm

    I use #10 aluminum cans. Some are lined, I’m not sure what exactly is in the lining, but once you use up what’s in the can they’re easy to reuse or recycle. Per box of 6 #10 cans there’s just one plastic lid to use once you open the can.

  • Jane Boursaw Mar 31, 2012, 3:27 pm

    We’ve been watching that Doomsday Preppers show, too, and it’s fascinating. I’m glad we don’t live in earthquake country, but you’ve got some great ideas for working with glass storage. 

  • Sheri Cline Mar 31, 2012, 11:44 pm

    @ Jane, The world mass is composed of shifting plates so I’m not sure there is a place that exist that is exempt from earthquake activity. Here’s a video that i just came upon.
    Mother Keeps her Child Calm During a Frightening Earthquake
     
    https://www.godvine.com/Mother-Keeps-her-Child-Calm-During-a-Frightening-Earthquake-1329.html
     

  • merr Apr 3, 2012, 5:00 am

    The idea about the glass jars in socks is clever. Have to consider that here in so Cal.

  • Dianna Jul 29, 2015, 10:57 am

    if you are storing dried food stuffs in plastic or storing water in plastic soda, water, peanut or other plastic bottles, be sure not to store these directly on concrete. It is corrosive and will 1. Change the taste of what you sure storing, especially water, 2. Cause the plastic to start to degrade faster. A piece of carpet, cardboard or a few layers of newspaper between the plastic and the concrete is sufficient.

  • Judi Mar 14, 2016, 1:29 am

    Have lived in a couple of humid areas where boxes sometimes deteriorate in the humidity. If you need to replace them and don’t want to spend money for moving boxes or storage boxes with dividers:

    A good source for boxes with sturdy dividers is a liquor store. Several in our town just pile the boxes up in the front as they unpack them and stock shelves. If you find out they days they get shipments and go late that evening or the following morning, you can grab some sturdy boxes for storing glass jars. 🙂 for smaller jars like jelly jars you can often stack 2-3 in one column in a liquor box. Just remember to put cut cardboard between each jar, too. Grab an extra box or two for this purpose. You are helping them recycle!

  • Exfilia Feb 27, 2017, 12:31 pm

    So, we have some great ideas on how to protect glass jars in a 7-ish earthquake.

    But how do we protect the seals? Jars full of spoiled food don’t help much, and we all know that the rubber seal on that metal lid is the most fragile part of the whole food-preservation equation.

    • Kris Bordessa Mar 2, 2017, 10:12 am

      The orphaned sock method could protect them some. At some point, though, there’s just going to be loss if the quake is strong enough.

  • Sam Oct 16, 2017, 2:49 am

    We live on a sailboat that has a wooden built-in wine cabinet. Sounds fancy but it isn’t! It’s an old boat and we’re a big family. Anyway, I can fit 1 pint and 1 quart jar in each wine bottle hole. And I can see the bottoms, so it is a gorgeous solution for at least some storage (the jars that are currently being used). I bet there are some storage systems designed for wine bottles that would work on land, too.

  • shirley Jan 12, 2019, 6:26 am

    i was wondering if there was a safe way to store you home canned goods in a storage shed?

    • Kris Bordessa Jan 13, 2019, 8:26 am

      Just as you would inside a house, I imagine. If there are no shelves, you can put the full, sealed jars back in their original box, or another box. Just make sure they’re not glass-to-glass.

  • Illini Warrior Jun 24, 2020, 3:30 am

    in regard to earthquake prep and canning >> shelves themselves need to sturdy enough to survive and more importantly fastened down to avoid the entire shelving unit going down …

    a big “retaining cleat” like a 1 X 4 across the shelf front will get the job done – but a much smaller one coupled with a bunge cord makes access eazier for everyday use >>> another restraint across the entire shelf unit is a piece of poly snow fence stretched tite …

  • Elaine Jun 30, 2020, 11:12 am

    I have discovered “jar boxes”. All jars are separated and there is a jar lid that fits over the glass jars. Two sizes are available- quart and pint.
    I’m hoping this will help with earthquake issues.

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