Recognizing when it’s time to change how you prep

Yesterday, my prepping evolved. I made a hard choice and packed up all my canning gear for donation.

Over fifteen years ago, I purchased all of it when I ramped up my preps. It was a natural choice to return to the lifestyle I knew so well. Canning was part of self-sufficiency.

The problem was I never used any of it. The canning gear sat in unopened boxes for the someday promise of a garden.

The canning supplies also sat in boxes because there was no room on my prep shelves for any of those lovely unfilled jars. That was because I had already stocked my shelves with store bought cans, regularly rotated and neatly stamped with expiry dates.

There was no way to carve out more room in my prep storage. The space just wasn’t there and yesterday, I finally accepted that fact.

I also accepted that jarred foods as preps don’t make sense for me anymore. My husband and I avoid high sugar foods and rarely eat jam. 

Arthritic hands mean an unpredictable grip. If I drop a jar, it breaks. If I drop a can, it dents.

If we ever had to bug out or set up an alternate location for bug out, it will be easier to load tin cans than glass jars.

I was also concerned about the sustain ability of long term canning without replenishment of canning supplies, like lids or even fuel to properly sterilize jars and keep the process clean under what might be adverse conditions.

The risk of a bad batch of canning had always bothered me in the back of my mind. My Mom was an expert canner, and yet, I remember a time when she culled a batch of canned beans because she didn’t like the look of them that winter.

A friend made us lunch one day and proudly brought out her jar of jam. There was mould under the paraffin seal. I expressed regret that her jam was spoiled. She didn’t believe that it was “spoiled” and scooped the upper layer of jam out of the jar. I refused to eat any of it. Mould on the surface is also below the surface and should never be consumed.

No matter how careful a person is, home canning does carry the risk of botulism. A pressure canner is safest for low acidic foods, but it always goes back to operator error as a possible source of food borne illness.

Food borne illness is not something anyone wants to encounter in the best of times and definitely not during a crisis where medical care may be unavailable. Spoiled and inedible food is not a prep.

The last factor in my choice to relinquish my canning gear and preserve food using different methods was because of what happened last summer.

My someday promise of a garden finally arrived. I promptly blanched and froze everything that I grew. The thought of canning in that heat never crossed my mind. Not once.

I realized that it was time to evolve again. 

The word evolution comes from the Latin “evolvere” meaning “unrolling.” One of it’s meanings is “gradual development” and that is exactly what prepping has been for me.

Prepping is not a static, “do it this way forever” practice. It is a part of a life that undergoes growth, change, and gradual development.

If anything prepping has taught me to face reality and find solutions.

So, it is out with the canning and hello freeze drying. I have my home sized freeze dryer picked out. Until the budget allows it, I will be deep freezing my produce instead. What I grow this year will also be harvest as part of daily meals and if there is surplus, it will go for donation to the food bank.

I believe the freeze dryer will be a good prepping investment. Freeze dried foods have a longer shelf life than dehydrated foods. I can seal the freeze dried food into mylar bags and put them into pails for storage. The pails work well on my storage shelves and I don’t have to worry about breakage.

These are the moments in prepping when we can practice courage by letting go of an idea of how to prep that no longer works for us.

I was holding onto the tradition of canning and the memories it held for me. Now, I am forging new methods that hold the promise of new lessons and more to learn.

I think sometimes in prepping, there is a tendency for people to embrace ideas or methods of survival, because that is what everyone else is doing. However, that doesn’t always make it right for you. No matter how you prep, do what works for you. Don’t be afraid to evolve.


  • Comments (34)

    • 3

      Adapt and you survive and thrive.

      Constant Evolution is one of the most vital of all prepping mentalities.

      Call me Paranoid if you wish but this is an incomplete list of global issues ongoing at this time, the world appears to be unravelling at this time, so i’m increasing my prep levels and stocking up (again).

      India issues with China, and Pakistan

      China issues with Philippines, US, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam

      Russia issues with EU, US and Ukraine

      US / UK / EU with Iran

      Civil unrest of various levels (Covid, drought, starvation,terrorism, race , religion, borders , economics, warfare etc)













      Northern Ireland













      Two of the “ Stan” states in border conflict

      Assorted US states


      Covid 19 Global

      Ebola DR Congo

      • 2

        I don’t think you’re being paranoid at all, Bill. I think you are informed and suitably cautious. You are responding, not reacting to the situation at hand. Reacting is what non-preppers do.

        Prepping, at it’s core, is about adaptation and evolution.

        Historically, people didn’t have the rapidity or convenience of knowledge about the various concerns or conflicts around the world.

        Time has changed the face of the world and how it experiences conflict and problems that could carry larger and more complicated consequences.

        Diseases now exist that were unheard of previously.

        Simply put, there is a lot going on and it is prudent to be aware of it.

        For our household, I just topped up certain supplies, and made room for an increase in bulk food storage.

        Instead of canning, I am looking at drying, smoking and salting if needed. Our ancestors used to eat according to season, with root vegetables consumed in the winter from a root cellar.

        I am digging through my plans for root cellars to see is something can be constructed on the property as the basement won’t work.

        This contemporary version looks interesting:


      • 2

        Completely agree, Bill.

    • 5

      I too find blanching & freezing is so much easier than canning… and tastes better.  We have 2 chest freezers dedicated to freezing our garden veggies & some fruit.  Only canning we do now is water bath of all our fruits & berries.  We love jams & jellies.  Matter of fact today my wife is picking up 2 flats of strawberries for jam.  Most of this is used for gifts throughout the year…. but not all of it.

      However I do recognize canning would be the primary means of preserving foods during   grid down crisis.  Therefore I keep many cases of jars & lids in my storage room.  I have a big rocket stove that is actually perfectly designed to fit my All American canner.  I would think in a crisis most of our canning would switch to pressure canning of meats & veggies.  Jams & jellies require too much sugar.

      • 6

        I think nutrionally, blanching and freezing is better, also. I thought over what you said about canning during a grid down situation and became curious about how long we have canned and what we did prior to the advent of home canning. So, I did a bit of digging.

        The first link from the USDA is very interesting as it is factual with the original posters used to inform people. The last statistic is noteworthy. I was very surprised at the high percentage.


        From there, I thought about how people stored food prior to home canning. We used ancient methods of drying, smoking and salting our food, all of which would also work in grid down. I plan to buy up to date instructions/books that are safe procedures for these methods by today’s standards and bacterial issues. Here’s the link on the article regarding cooking in the 1800’s (thanks to the article, I realized I no longer had a mortar and pestle. I used to have several, so those are now on my shopping list.


        Lastly, I considered how people ate in season. In fall and winter, we ate root vegetables and feasted on summer’s bounty. People had root cellars. So, with that in mind, I am reconsidering the idea of a root cellar. It won’t work in my basement, however, I may be able to work it into our garage plans or possibly in the yard somehow.

        I wondered if anyone had made a modern day version of a root cellar that could be more stable or consistent and found this very interesting root cellar from The Netherlands. It is called a Groundfridge:


      • 4

        In a grid down situation, I don’t expect canning to be our primary means of storing food.  Far from it.  We are too warm in Mississippi for root cellars.  The upside of that is if you know what you are doing, we can have a very long growing season… actually growing some food year round.  I expect natural drying of food, as our ancestors & native Americans did, to be the primary food storage method.  The three sisters garden is designed around that concept.  Both the field corn & the beans can easily be dried to store thru the winter.  The winter squash also can be stored to do so.

        So I expect to eat much like the native Americans did.  Why reinvent the wheel?  It worked back then & will work today.  However I feel having the means to can will still be of use & value.  So I’ll hold onto my stockpile of supplies.  Luckily for me, storage space is not an issue.

      • 3

        Working with the climate is a sensible approach as is looking to Indigenous methods of survival and food production/storage.

        You are very lucky to have a long growing season. Until I communicated with you, I really had no idea that Mississippi had the climate it has. For some reason, I thought California had the super growing climate. But your area is more balanced for growing without the wildfire risks they face.

        I’m doing three sisters planting this year and as soon as the freezing lows stop, I can plant. I am very excited to try this type of gardening.

        If storage hadn’t been a consideration, I might have tried to hold onto the canning gear a bit longer. But sometimes, we have to make the tough calls. There wasn’t any more space and the garage isn’t built yet.

      • 4

        Mississippi’s climate varies depending which part of the state you are in.  The northern part, where I live is totally different than the gulf coast region to the south.  Up north, we are in zone 7 which is just a really nice zone for crops.  Actually, most years I’d say we are a zone 8.  We have a long growing season & still have a winter… just not a horrible winter like you.  However we got to around zero for a week this winter, which is unusual… especially in the last few decades.  We get plenty of rain, especially in the spring and our summers are long, hot & humid.  We have a long fall which is great for all the cool weather crops.  Lots of storms & rains this week, especially now.

        zone map

      • 2

        Those are really good growing conditions. Northern Mississippi’s climate sounds very much like parts of BC or the Okanagan Valley where I lived in BC. The coastal climate is changing there with more cold and snow, and very heavy rainfalls.

        We had a hard frost last night and after a cold morning, the windows are open again. I don’t know what’s happening with our climates. Things are changing, even in my part of the world. There are a lot of extremes now.

        Perhaps I wasn’t so far off as to consider a production greenhouse. Aeroponics are another possibility. They have used this type of growing in vacant building in Vancouver, BC and other places. Hydroponics carries risk of virus galloping through the crops.

        When I think of Mississippi, I remember Pearl, Mississippi. I was working in inside sales for a trucking company and had to turn one of our tractor/deck units out of Pearl and back up to Canada to return to where I was in BC.

        It was quite a journey for that driver. I built him a full load based on less than full load stops. He picked up shipments at different towns along the way and traveled all the way back to BC, running on a slight North West trajectory. He carried a full load at the end. He came see me in the office and said it wasn’t the nicest USA trip he had ever done. His wife happened to be with him and they had a lovely time.

      • 2

        Expensive, but I like that idea of the groundfridge. 

      • 3

        It is pricey, but I am hoping that the cost comes down. They are looking for an American manufacturer, so fingers crossed that it will be better priced for us in the USA and Canada.

        I really like how clean and bright it is inside.

      • 3

        Don’t know if you ever got the book about Buffalo Bird, but she made a storage cache very similar to this… all by herself.  And she lived rather close to you.  Her book says she & her mom would build one in less than 3 days using just a bone hoe & wooden bowls.  Building these caches was women’s work.  The book goes into detail how how she built and the materials used.


      • 2

        Her book is on the top of my next book order list. My garden supplies/planters and husband’s wood projects/tools have cut in line in front of book order. But I have a list ready to go. I can hardly wait to read her book.

        And look at this storage cache she built! The design is so similar to the Dutch one, I wonder if they read her work too? Amazing. It makes a person wonder how someone figured out how to do this? Was it new knowledge or was it ancient knowledge handed down over time?

        Thank you for posting the diagram. It really illustrates the intelligence of Indigenous people and how they understood to work with their environment.

    • 6

      Good for you on realizing that you weren’t using something, and moving towards better ways to do things. You are a smart prepper!

      • 2

        Thank you Liz. 

        You wouldn’t think I was too smart if you saw what I did on Saturday. I have the back story posted on the thread about Medical histories and tetanus shots.

    • 3

      Good post Ubique! Quick note/idea about canning jars & lids, particularly wide mouth pints, quarts and half gallons (depending upon the size of your family, note that larger jars are more fragile.) They’re awesome for freezing most anything that’s liquid or cut small enough to fit! Reusable for both jar and lid, and I’ve never had a case of freezer burn even 3-4 years in. Make sure to pack food in tightly, leave the top inch empty and DON’T crank lids tight. Works best in upright freezer in tray-like boxes such as fruit comes in at stores so they don’t fall out as you rummage around. Soups, spaghetti sauce, burger, fruit, etc…thaw in fridge for best results. Generally, pints are the most durable and useful for our family, plus the wide mouths have no shoulders so partially thawed contents can slip out into saucepan if you’re in a hurry. I love the fact that my jars & lids can be reused for decades as long as I’m careful with them, unlike other freezer packaging. Since the contents don’t contaminate the lids, they last perfectly too. I write contents & date on the glass sides with a Sharpie, which wipes off easily with a dash of baking soda when you wash jar. Anyone else do this?

      • 4

        Thanks CR. I never thought to put them in a freezer. I have a chest freezer, but for anyone with an upright, they would certainly work well.

        My canning gear found a good home with a local family after I made a few phone calls yesterday.

        I used to use canning jars for storing my dry working supply items in the kitchen pantry, but my hands are a little too clumsy some days. Now, I reuse peanut butter containers (kraft) 1kg and 2kg for dry items like baking supplies and ice cream pails for brown rice and oatmeal.

        My kitchen floor is very happy that I switched to plastic containers 🙂

      • 5

        Sounds like you made a good switch. My frequently bare feet are at risk with glass jars for sure. Am always careful, but if arthritis threatens my grip someday I’ll follow your lead. 

      • 5


        Here’s hoping for a cure and that you will never have to worry about it and can use glass for all your days.

        I loved glass jars. I had a bunch of colored glass bottles of different shapes and sizes that I had collected over the years. They were arranged in my old home on the kitchen window sills that faced South. They looked like a deconstructed stained glass.

        The sun used to shine through them and it was beautiful.

      • 4

        I’m a big proponent for glass cookware. No absorbed odors in between meals, the ability to look at the state of your food from underneath and the sides through the container, and being able to heat in the oven, microwave, place in freezer or fridge. 

        That being said, it does have it’s drawbacks. I just spent 40 minutes cleaning up powdered glass dust after dropping a glass water bottle in the kitchen last night. Powdered glass shards doesn’t feel the best in the hands by the way…

      • 4

        Good afternoon Isabel,

        Just about everything involves tradeoffs.

        For honey storage in my inventory here: definitely glass containers.

        For an evacuation, set up to use plastic.

        It’s a tradeoff governed by safety even prior to considering weight.

    • 3

      I’ve never done canning because of concerns around errors leading to spoiled food.  I know it can happen to food made by companies but it is more rare.  It’s the same reason I don’t reload.

      As a side note, I always thought it was strange to use the term canning for a process that uses jars.

      • 5


        Errors during a crisis was part of why I decided to opt out of canning.

        People sometimes reach back into history for methods to incorporate into their prepping. Historical methods like canning and reloading weren’t always safe nor always used. Salting, smoking, and drying were the main methods used, plus eating in season.

        I think some people are using their grandma’s canning recipes which can be really dangerous. I have a cookbook from another community where they actually put in recipes for oven canning fish! I have read pressure canning information where they tell you to forget about home canning fish because it takes so long and because of the associated risk.

        In the links on canning, there was a statistic from 2005 that stated 57% of home canners weren’t canning safely. We hear about the big groups of people who died from canning errors, but what about the 1 or 2 person statistic that doesn’t make the news?

        I try to cover a lot of scenarios when I prep, including bugging out. Throwing some flats of tin canned goods is much easier.

        The freeze drier will be the best and safest route for preservation so far. I am still checking into it as it is a more expensive item.

        Re side note: I have always thought it strange myself. Maybe canning was coined as a take on the commercial canneries?

      • 7

        That’s good sense Ubique! I have to say, having canned meticulously and successfully for many years, I am very leery of other’s efforts and often throw them out. Not nice I know, but when someone proudly hands me a jar that’s sticky, or has some other obvious flaw, NO THANKS! Of course I don’t say that, just quietly inter it after they leave. Maybe good fodder for one of those melon pits Josh Centers posted about! I also agree it would be a difficult process to properly home can in austere conditions. The level of cleanliness alone would use a lot of resources. Funny side note, last year I experimented with drying some of our fruit on racks in the attic. It worked beautifully, and I congratulated myself on its success as I stored it away in jars. Unfortunately, the toasty attic did not reach sufficient heat to destroy worm eggs apparently present in my organic produce, and when we went to eat it we discovered it had grown a lot of (yikes!) protein! Next time I will finish it off in the oven. Live & learn, right?

      • 4


        Good point on the fruit drying! Thank you for the reminder on the eggs that can be present in fruit. Absolutely a live and learn moment, but those are the ones we remember, which is  a good thing.

        Your story also reminded me of freezing pails of wheat for long term storage to kill any eggs that might be present in the grain. I learned this while researching a grain grinder and making my own flour and rolled oats. I grew up on a farm and wouldn’t have thought of that if it wasn’t for the person who mentioned it. So, now I can pass that info along, too.

    • 3

      Great post! 

      Over the years, I’ve learned how to  can and use a pressure canner and food dehydrator. It’s absolutely critical to stay up to date with canning techniques. I don’t know how much bad advice I’ve read over the years, canning butter and water bathing green beans for example, but I have to say that if I was having issues with arthritis then the first thing to go would be the canner. Once that sucker is filled with water it’s quite heavy! The dehydrator would definitely be a keeper and you’ll have to tell us how the freeze dryer works out.

      • 2

        Good afternoon Canuke One,

        Plus, you’ve made a great contribution to this subject.

        How many examples do we have of some young and middle age inexperience preppers loading up on, for example, canned foods to last 20 years.

        The aging process is a neglected timeline in many prepper’s planning and preparedness.

        Arthritus and the other infirmities must be factored in to planning.

        Forgot where I posted it but mentioned I always have an axe in the truck. It’s secured next to cargo bed wall and nominal space is used. My retired M.D. of ~ 40 years told me to change over to a hatchet.  I’m too old to do hefty swinging  to get the tree out of the road. If the hatchet and extra time won’t work, time for shortwave radio and just wait.

        Another ailment of aging, besides the other causes, is vision failure. 

        Planning required.

        Again, your contribution is important to this thread. I’ve got arthritus also.

        Watching against heart attacks, arthritus and vision deteration are, overall, good news  –  compared to the alternative: VA Cemetery Quantico.

        Another again: Thank you for ending a bit of my existential lonelyness in re the aging process. My day is made !

    • 5

      My late life creative outlet has become prepping, primarily food preserving and preparation, but then, my responsibility in the family unit is feeding us.

      I am finding that an assortment of ways to preserve food is really useful, not just relying on one method.  It’s really important to learn how to USE the preserved foods.  I would rather eat chili con carne instead of just eating canned hamburger out of a jar. I can make righteous chili in ten minutes with home canned hamburger, canned beans and a “kit” of dehydrated tomatoes, onions and spices.

      I find that some foods lend themselves better to canning rather than dehydrating and vice versa.  My most important goal is to reduce our dependence on freezers. So having a variety of preservation methods available has become a real asset.

      I am a canner, and I believe a healthy fear of the consequences of carelessness or using outdated methods keeps one from poisoning one’s family. I LIKE canning, so I’m motivated to do it. I’m sure the USDA has many idiot-proofing margins built into their canning pressure and temperature guides, and that illness is produced by people who are using outdated or untested methods, such as using paraffin to seal jellies.  Or turning jars upside down to “scald the lids” when they come out of the canner. I have a friend who does stupid things, but she hasn’t gotten sick, but I’ve also read some downright appalling things that were done by people who DID get sick.

      So anyway, one of the evolutions of my prepping has been a concerted effort to blend different preserving methods to produce that kind of food that we preppers are supposed to strive for – making meals that we like to eat every day.

      I started by concentrating on dehydrated food.  I’ve compiled a list of fresh-to-dehydrated food weights and use that to convert conventional recipes to preserved food recipes.  Overall I find that most veggies work out to one pound fresh = one ounce dehydrated. But I can now use preserved ingredients to make most dishes we like.  I even dehydrate things like canned chilis and sliced olives.

      Now I’m working on creating meal “kits”.  For instance, this is a complete beef-veggie-barley soup kit, consisting of store-bought shelf stable broth (which is delicious), canned beef cubes, and dehydrated veggies and spices.  Throw in pot, cook 20 minutes, four servings of delicious home made soup.  I’m trying more and more to not have “random” foods in storage, but to have these multi-preserved foods blended and stored together.  Freeze dried meat could replace canned, but we don’t like freeze dried meat, so canned it is.

      Of course I’m not to the stage of having years worth of stored food, I’m still working on having maybe a 3 month supply, but eventually striving for a year, which is a reasonable length of time for most shelf-stable goods.  At our age, we’re not thinking 20-30 years down the road.Soup

      • 2

        Prepping for my family is what motivates me and keeps me going in my 60s,  Every day instead of working for a company I’m averaging 6 hours a day on prepping. I’m normally planning for scenarios or improving our own logistics and tactics. and very often developing bespoke prepping plans for other individuals and families .  I think prepping is keeping me motivated and young.

      • 1

        The Prepared recently released an article about ways to preserve food, and there really are so many ways, each with their own pros and cons. Like you said, it’s great to have a variety of methods under your sleeves.

    • 1

      I have a question for everyone, I recently looked at a can of ground beef that may or may not be bulging. When I press in on the ends it flexes to make it seem like air has gotten in. I don’t see any rust, dents, or areas of weakness but I am afraid of getting botulism. It’s hard to tell in the pictures, but does anyone have any thoughts? It still is within the best by date, so I probably will just return it to the store and buy another one.



      • 2

        Jay Valencia, I personally was wary of buying keystone because I read so many reviews that said their cans were bulging way before the expiration dates. However I recently read 2 separate statements from keystone answering reviews & they said their cans do that & it’s safe to eat. I’m not sure how to take that because how would we know if it is safe & just a canning “thing” or if it’s actually dangerous to eat? I did go ahead & purchase some & all of my cans seem fine so far. I know I’m not really answering your question but I find it interesting that this seems to be very common with keystone canned meats. 

      • 1

        Thank you so much for your response! I would have tossed or returned this so it’s good to know that it probably is still safe to eat. Like I said, there are no signs of damage anywhere, so that makes sense it is part of their manufacturing process. 

        I will keep it thanks to your comment. Before I eat it, I will give it the ol’ smell test and look for any signs inside the can of failure.

    • 3

      This is beautiful: Prepping is not a static, “do it this way forever” practice. It is a part of a life that undergoes growth, change, and gradual development.  

      Thank you for writing and sharing.