I get asked a lot if I save a lot of money by canning or if I am paying more for my food once you figure in costs of the food, plus the jars and other equipment. I have been carefully tracking my food purchases this year so that I can see what my savings amount to. I will use this one example of the carrots above: my local grocery store had bags of baby carrots on sale for .88, normally the bags are about $1.49 and occasionally go on sale for $1.00. I don't know why I only bought six bags, since I love carrots so much, but six was what I grabbed. Those six bags of carrots made 13 jars of baby carrots. Since I already had the jars, I did not add that cost, but I did use new lids which cost about .15 each (or less if I bought them on sale), the liquid in the jars is water and I added a small amount of salt to each jar. So I figured that my pint jars of baby carrots cost me about .54 each. There is no where that I can get a can of carrots for that cost, especially the baby carrots.
That is just one example. It is a hard question to answer though and cost isn't my only reason for canning. I like knowing what is in the foods that I eat, I like that I can make things that are more tailored to our tastes and honestly, I really enjoy it. My goal in cutting costs is to buy as much as I can when the foods are at their peak, which often means they are at their cheapest. I try to buy enough to can to tie me over to the next season when it is at a lower cost.
I have only had a pressure canner for a little over a year, so I am canning more things like soups and meat products too. I look at the weekly sale papers and plan recipes based on what happens to be on sale that week. For instance, when beef stew meat went on sale, I made a couple of batches of beef stew which will last me for a while.
I have bought more jars in the last couple of years, but I also have jars that I have probably had for about 15 years. As long as they are intact, with no chips, you can continue to use the jars year after year. I look for jars at yard sales and thrift stores to add to my collection too.
Over the past year, I have noticed my grocery bill starting to slowly go down. Since I was able to do a lot more canning this year, I am hoping that trend continues. I have been buying a lot of produce this summer and canning as much as I can, so I think I will see my biggest savings as we go through winter and I have veggies and soups on hand, so that I am not buying those items in the stores.
Another huge cost saver is gardening. I don't grow enough to rely on that for my canning, but it does help save money. I do have time and some money invested in seeds and other gardening costs, but I do try and save seeds when I can and I make most of my own compost so that cuts down those costs as well. Playing in the dirt relaxes me so I don't mind the time involved. I am also lucky enough, usually to know people who often grow too much and are willing to share.
I think the fairest answer to the question "does canning save you money" varies, depending on what item we are talking about. Making and canning my own spaghetti sauce probably costs me more that buying a jar at the store, but it also tastes much better so I am willing to pay a little more. Canning vegetables when the are in season gives me a better product and saves me money.