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How to Store Home Canned Food

photo of home canned tomatoes in mason jars

We are in the depths of canning food during June and July; in fact, I don’t even bother putting our canning stuff  and mason jars away during these two months. They just stay in a corner in the kitchen waiting to be used every couple of days. Then comes the task of storing all that home preserved goodness. Because we can in glass mason jars instead of tin cans storing home canned food takes a bit more consideration.

I’ve mentioned before that we live in a fairly small home (about 1400 sq ft) and I don’t have true pantry, just kitchen pantry cabinets. Therefore, I have to get creative when I store food. Some of the food goes in my kitchen cabinets – on those top shelves that are hard to get to – but not all of it will fit. I also store canned food in the mudroom and under some beds.

The key is that I have make notes of where I store what. I use some simple worksheets to keep track of what food I’ve preserved and where it’s stored. You can get a copy of the worksheets and a food preservation cheat sheet emailed to you. Just fill out the form below.

photo of home canned food in mason jars

Tips for storing home canned food

  • Label everything. Blueberry jam and dewberry jam look very similar in the jar. I cannot tell you how much time I have wasted because I didn’t take a moment to label the jar. If you’re using metal lids, you can use a sharpie and just write on the lid. If you are using a reusable canning lid, a piece of masking tape works just fine. If you want something nicer, there are many fun labels on the market these days, including shrink wrap sleeve labels.
  • Date the items. I know you think you’ll remember when you canned the stewed tomatoes but if you have any left over from last year when you start canning this year, they’ll look exactly alike. It’s hard to rotate your jars with first in, first out, if you don’t date them.
  • Remove the bands and check the seal. Home canned food should be stored without the band. There are several reasons for this. First, it’s hard to really check the seal if the band is still on. Secondly, if the seal is broken during storage there’s a small chance that the pressure from the band could cause the jar to reseal. Lastly, the metal band could trap water under it during canning process and corrode during storage.
photo of home canned pickles in mason jars
  • Clean the jars before storing. Jars don’t always come out of the canner sparkling clean. After removing the bands, wipe the jars with a damp rag before storing.
  • Store in a cool, dark place. Home canned food should be stored below 95°F and away from direct sunlight. Ideal temperatures are 50°F-70°F but don’t worry too much about the ideal temperature. If you can handle staying in the area for long time, the food will be fine. We keep our a/c set to 78°F during the summer and our home canned food stores just fine. A cabinet works great, but so does a closet or under a bed. Just make a note of where you put what jars so you don’t forget.
  • Store home canned food in a dry place. Dampness can cause the lids to corrode and possibly break the seals. We live in a humid area and our lids are just fine. But I certainly wouldn’t store canned goods in the bathroom closet. I’ve talked with several people with root cellars and the consensus is that a root cellar is not a good place for long term storage of home canned foods.
photo of home canned venison stew in mason jars
  • Be careful stacking jars. Stacked jars can easily tumble and bump into each other which risks breaking their seals. If you must stack jars consider putting a piece of cardboard between them to give them stability. 
  • Don’t throw away the boxes. The boxes that your jars came in are the perfect size for storing the finished jars and the empty jars once the food has been eaten. 
  • Use sturdy shelving. Jars of home canned food are heavy; too heavy for many shelves. This is another reason not to stack finished jars. If you’re using your kitchen cupboards to store you home canned food make sure to not overfill them or you risk damaging the cupboards. These are great shelves!

Canning food for you family is an act of love; an act that is time and labor intensive. Don’t let it go to waste by not storing the home canned foods properly.

image of The Ultimate Guide to Preserving Vegetables and jars of home preserved vegetables

The Ultimate Guide to Preserving Vegetables

If you you’re looking for more preserving inspiration, I know you’ll love The Ultimate Guide to Preserving Vegetables. In this book I share how to can, dehydrate, freeze and ferment almost every vegetable. I also share 100 favorite recipes for preserving the vegetables in fun way that will save you time and money later. Get your copy here. Get your copy here.

photo of canned tomatoes

Do you can your own food? If so, share your storage tips with us in the comments.

Thanks for sharing with your friends!


Wednesday 2nd of December 2020

I live in a small home without closets. I'm storing goods under the beds, coffee table and I'm running out of room. Do you think it'd be ok to store jars on their side under dressers? Thanks in advance!!

Angi Schneider

Wednesday 2nd of December 2020

Hi Bridget. Storing cans on their sides is not ideal as you run the risk of the lids being popped off. If you decide to try it anyway, I would only store low acid foods on their sides. The acid in pickles and tomatoes can corrode the lid over time and you don't want to open a jar of food and see rust all under the lid. If you can find space for a stand alone shelving unit that would be better.

Donna Vargas

Saturday 1st of August 2020

If you have a non-working frig it makes great storage for home canned food. We also have a hallway so we opened a inner wall and built shelves perfect size for canning jars.

Angi Schneider

Sunday 2nd of August 2020

Those are great ideas! Thanks for sharing Donna.


Friday 13th of July 2018

I live in California and have no a/c only fans. It gets very hot in the house. Can I store my canned goods in the refrigerator?

Angi Schneider

Friday 13th of July 2018

You can but I think they would be fine in the house, maybe under the bed or on the bottom of a closet. If the house isn't too hot for you to live in it's not too hot for your canned food. The USDA recommends not storing home canned food above 95F ( the food won's spoil but might lose quality. You might try using a thermometer and testing a few areas this summer to see when you can store your jars without it being above 95F for very long. There's nothing wrong with storing your jars in the refrigerator other than them taking up valuable refrigerator space.