New York City is prone to dishing out those sort of days when everything feels much harder than it should. Feel free to disagree with me here, but I have two words for you: G train. I can do wild goose chases. As a gluten-free person in NYC, I expect to go to three different Whole Foods (Tribeca, Bowery, Union Square, in that order) before finding teff flour. I can give you directions to that grocery store on Canal Street where you can always get sweet rice flour, but finding canning jars for a reasonable price in NYC is a different beast altogether.
I had been stewing over getting jars for the upcoming season for a while. Then, last week on Facebook I posted something about trying to map out my 2011-12 canning jar needs. I got a bunch of great suggestions, which led to more stewing, more research, some damn good luck, and (finally!) an epiphany. In order of how loud you’ll shout “strawberry jam!” when you read them, I give you my suggestions for getting canning jars without spending way too much (or forking it over when you’re in a pinch) in New York City. (For those of you who don’t live in NYC and are wondering what all of the fuss is about, a flat of half-pint jars runs as much as $18 in the few places where you can find them.)
1) Ace Hardware: I’m leading with the epiphany here and trusting that you can handle it. In the past, the most affordable option has proved to be ordering online from mid-western superstore Meijer (thanks Kate!) and trying to be as strategic as possible, ie: doing a little planning and trying to place as few orders as possible to cut down on the sizable shipping costs. I found their prices on jars are reasonable, but if I didn’t consolidate orders as much as possible, I felt like I wasn’t being as frugal as I could.
Then everything changed. Last week, I learned that Ace Hardware Online offers free shipping to your local store. Basically, you place the order online and pay real-america prices for a flat of jars, and pick them up at an Ace Hardware of your choice. I’m lucky, there’s a great one right by my work in the West Village, but there’s quite a few around. Since there’s no shipping cost, I placed a small order, just for the jars that I needed most immediately and will probably place another one in a couple months. While you’re certainly not supporting the local Ace by ordering online, I’m totally going to look for wide-mouth jar lids while I’m picking up my order.
2) Asking Around: People are always moving. Being on a quest for cheap jars is a little like looking for an apartment. And if there’s anything New Yorkers are good at it’s being aggressive about real estate. Make sure people know you’re looking. Share your plight with others. I shared my woes on Facebook and within an hour a friend of mine who’s moving in a few months had offered to sell me all of her jars for next to nothing. Really.
3) Tribeca Whole Foods: I’m letting you in on my secret spot here, but during last season I got a flat of half-pint jars here for around $10. This is hands-down the cheapest I’ve seen them in any store in any borough. Again, feel free to call me out on this. The caveat is, last time I was there they were out, but I’m guessing that they’ll re-stock as the season gears up again.
4) Your neighborhood hardware store: I’ve been pleasantly surprised in the past by my local hardware store. By my old apartment in Astoria, the hardware store right around the corner always had lids (I can’t tell you how many times this came in handy) and catered to their tomato sauce demographic by stocking quart jars in the summer. Their prices were relatively reasonable and I’ve heard rumors that stores will even order jars for you, although I’ve never done this myself.
5) Your local specialty store: I’m talking to you, Brooklyn Kitchen. At first, it seems off-the-charts expensive, but I can’t fault them for charging what they do. You heard my spiel about planning, shipping costs, etc. After you factor in all this and the cost of convenience, their price is not unreasonable. Plus, you’re supporting someone local. When I really want jars fast, I throw down the cash at Brooklyn Kitchen and pay too much for something for a good reason. I’ll also admit to buying a single quart jar at Fish’s Eddy when I really wanted to make some kimchi and couldn’t bear to wait for an online jar order. These aren’t frugal options, but they are reliable.
I didn’t include Freecycle/Craigslist here because I haven’t personally had success getting jars from there, but please pipe up in the comments if you have. You should also check out this post from Marisa over at Food in Jars about where to buy jars for canning. It’s not NYC-centric, but could be useful if you’re traveling outside the city this summer and want to bring some cheap jars back with you (something I always try to do). Please do share in the comments about where you’ve had success getting jars.