Canning is such a great way to preserve the produce you worked so hard at growing. It is also great because you can have organic jars of produce made much cheaper than it would cost to them buy at the store. When starting your canning adventure it is good to know how much it will cost to start canning. As with anything else, you can try and be frugal or you can go all out and spend a ton of money.
The first item you will need is a canner. The type of food that you plan to can will affect which type of canner you will need. Water bath canners are able to process high acid foods such as jams, jellies, pickles, spreads, etc. A pressure canner is needed to process low acid foods such as meats and vegetables. Tomatoes are an example of one food that you can use either method. Many times if it is a food you can water bath can, then the recipe also gives processing times for pressure canning.
You are able to purchase an actual water bath canner, but in all actuality it is a large pot with a rack on the bottom. I personally just use a large pot that I already had and got a rack for the bottom. This was before I had a pressure canner. After I had the pressure canner, I realized that the rack from that would fit into the bottom of my big pot so I could use that rack for either canner. If you would like to buy a new water bath canner, you can find them for $20 and up. If you just need the rack, those can be purchased for around $10.
Pressure canning is different. You must have an actual pressure canner or pressure cooker canner. A new pressure canner will cost anywhere between $80 - $500 depending on the size and brand. They can also be found used. Replacement parts are easy to come by so buying a used pressure canner is a great way to save money. A new seal is around $9 and a new gauge is around $15, depending on what brand of canner you have. It is always a good idea to have used pressure canners tested, which can usually be done by the local county extension office for free. They will let you know if your gauge needs to be replaced. I'm the frugal type, so I got my mom's old canner for free, replaced the seal and gauge and was ready to can for about $20.
Jars are another essential part to canning. Since I was trying to save money, I looked for ways to get jars for cheap. I was surprised that when I started to mention to people that I was going to can, they said they had old jars they wanted to get rid of. The majority of my jars are ones that people gave me for free. You can also look for used jars on Craigslist, garage sales and second hand stores. Many times stores will have sales on their jars, so if you watch closely you may be able to hit a sale. One type of jar that I did not get from anyone was half pints. I purchased a 12 pack of half pint jars from Wal-Mart on sale for $6. If you start looking at larger jars like quart-sized, a 12 pack will be around $20.
Along with your jars you will need bands and lids. You will be able to reuse the bands from year to year, but you will need new lids each time as they are not reusable. A box of 12 lids is around $3, or a box of 12 lids with 12 bands is around $7. Most times if you have purchased new jars, the jars come with lids and bands.
There are canning tools that are helpful to have. A canning funnel, jar lifter, bubble remover/headspace tool and lid lifter. A package of all of these tools is around $ 10. While these tools are nice, they are not necessary. The two that help the most are the canning funnel because it is the perfect size to fit into the top of jars; and the jar lifter because it just makes getting hot jars out of the canner much easier. However, you can use a funnel you already have and tongs. I would highly recommend you get the jar lifter though. As for the bubble remover, you can just use the handle from a rubber spatula. Instead of a lid lifter, you can use tongs.
The beauty of canning is that you can reuse the canner and jars over and over. The initial investment will cost you some money, but then year after year you won't have to buy much. The only things you will have to buy new each time are lids. Remember, if you are concerned about the initial investment cost, ask around and see if anyone has a used canner or old jars they are looking to get rid of. It is very possible to start canning for very little money.
Like I said before, I got my pressure canner passed down to me from my mother. These helped a ton on the initial start-up costs for my canning adventure.
I also did a lot of research to figure out the difference between a pressure cooker canner and water bath canning. Articles like this one I made helped alot in the beginning.