Canning Whole Meals: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Can Whole Meals – Step by Step

Meal prep has evolved beyond simply preparing weekly meals in advance. There are several methods of meal planning, including the option of canning whole meals. Canning whole meals involves preserving an entire meal in a jar, making it convenient and time-saving for busy people. In this article, we will provide a step-by-step guide to canning whole meals, discuss popular meal ideas, and explore the pros and cons of this method.

A guide to canning whole meals

Canning whole meals takes time and preparation. It involves prepping the ingredients, cooking the meal, and finally canning it. To get started, set aside a day or several days for the process. Canning whole meals is not necessarily difficult, but it does take time and effort.
When canning whole meals, you have the option of either separating the ingredients or combining the entire meal into one jar. This flexibility allows you to portion meals according to your preferences and your family’s needs. It also ensures that the meals are tailored to your specific taste preferences.
Having canned meals on hand simplifies the dinner preparation process. It provides a quick and convenient solution for those rushed meals or when unexpected guests arrive. In addition, canning whole meals allows you to use fresh ingredients from your garden and store them for future use.

Popular Whole Meals for Canning

There are many recipes for canning whole meals. Here are some popular ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  1. Beef & Veggies: This meal includes browned hamburger, seasoning, peas and chopped potatoes.
  2. Chicken Pot Pie Stuffing: Ingredients for this meal include chicken, carrots, peas, celery, onion and stuffing. The crust is added when the meal is prepared.
  3. Chili Con Carne: This meal consists of browned hamburger, tomatoes, jalapenos, onions and seasoning. The beans are added during cooking.
  4. Basic Meat & Veggie Combinations: You have the freedom to choose your favorite meat and vegetables for this meal.
  5. Pot Roast: This meal includes braised beef, broth, potatoes and carrots.
  6. Casseroles: Hold any pasta while the dish is being prepared.
  7. Stir Fry: This meal combines sliced onions, peppers, meat, and spices. Rice is prepared at serving time.
  8. Sloppy Joe Filling: This classic filling can be canned for quick meal options.

It’s important to note that while almost any meal can be made into a canned meal, there are certain ingredients that don’t do well when canned. It is recommended that you omit these ingredients and can the remaining components of the meal. Ingredients such as eggs, cucumbers, meringue desserts, fried foods, pasta, cooked rice, raw meats, refried beans, oats, wheat, flour, broccoli, squash, cabbage, lettuce, eggplant, avocados, bananas, hot dogs, and bread or bread crumbs should be avoided when canning.

Canning portions of meals

If certain parts of a meal cannot be canned, it is possible to prepare and can the remaining components. For example, if you are making spaghetti, you can can the cooked meat, seasonings, and sauce. The pasta can be cooked separately when you are ready to serve the meal. This saves time by canning the portion of the meal that requires the most preparation.
Canning even a basic portion of a meal can be a useful way to prepare ahead of time and use garden vegetables. The options for canning entire meals are extensive, providing flexibility and convenience for meal planning.

Pros and cons of canning whole meals

Canning whole meals offers several benefits, but there are also some considerations to keep in mind. Let’s explore the pros and cons of this method.

  • Significant reduction in cooking time.
  • Ability to prepare meals in advance and store them in the pantry.
  • Simple process using basic meats, vegetables and spices.
  • Versatility to create a wide variety of meals.
  • Extended shelf life of up to 2 years with proper storage.


  • Not all ingredients can be canned.
  • Some ingredients may need to be prepared at the time the meal is prepared.
  • Time-consuming process involving both preparation and preservation.
  • Canned foods are susceptible to botulism and require proper canning techniques.
  • Certain ingredients, especially those containing cream or dairy, require special canning instructions.

Canning whole meals works best with fresh ingredients, including meats and vegetables. It allows for efficient meal planning and is a convenient solution for busy people.

Whole meals in jars – no canning required

In addition to canning whole meals, there is an alternative method for storing dry goods in jars. These meals in jars do not require pressure canning or other preservation techniques. Instead, they consist of layers of dry ingredients that can be stored for an extended period of time. When you are ready to prepare the meal, simply add liquid and cook according to the instructions.
This method is especially popular for soups, stews, and other one-pot meals. By layering dry ingredients in a jar, you can create aesthetically pleasing gifts or convenient meal options for yourself. It is important to include instructions on how to prepare the meal, including liquid requirements and cooking time.

Bottom line

Canning whole meals provides a convenient and efficient solution to meal planning. It allows you to prepare and store complete meals in advance, saving time and effort on busy days. By following a step-by-step process, you can successfully can a variety of meals to suit your taste preferences and dietary needs.
While there are certain ingredients that do not take well to canning, the options for canning whole meals are extensive. From beef and vegetables to casseroles and stir-fries, you have the freedom to create a wide range of delicious meals that can be conveniently stored in jars.
It is important to note that proper canning techniques are essential to ensure the safety and longevity of canned meals. Following the recommended guidelines and avoiding ingredients that do not preserve well will help you achieve the best results.
Whether you want to simplify your meal preparation or use fresh ingredients from your garden, canning whole meals can be a valuable skill. With a little planning and preparation, you can enjoy the convenience and satisfaction of having homemade meals on hand whenever you need them.


What is whole meal canning?

Canning whole meals is the process of preserving an entire meal in a jar, making it convenient and time-saving for meal preparation.

What are the benefits of whole meal preservation?

Benefits include a significant reduction in cooking time, the ability to prepare meals in advance, and an extended shelf life of up to 2 years when stored properly.

Can I combine different ingredients in one jar when canning whole meals?

Yes, you have the flexibility to either separate the ingredients or combine the entire meal in one jar, allowing you to portion the meals according to your preferences.

Are there any ingredients that cannot be canned?

Yes, certain ingredients such as eggs, cucumbers, meringue desserts, fried foods, and raw meats do not do well in a jar and should be avoided.

Do I need special equipment to can whole meals?

Yes, you will need basic canning equipment, including jars, lids, and a pressure or water bath canner, depending on the acidity of the meal.

Are there any safety concerns with canning whole meals?

Yes, it is important to follow proper canning techniques to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. This includes using the correct processing times and ensuring that the jars are properly sealed.