Things that I have picked up in the last year or so:
-Hold onto your old lids, but mark them as old. You can use them for dry storage or if you loose a lid.
-Put a sticker with the date that you opened a jar on the lid. That way you know how old the jar is when it gets lost the back of your fridge. Masking tape works well (and then when you wash it you know not to put it in with your fresh lids).
-Your tongs are much more important than your jar lifter, but both will make your life that much easier.
-If you don’t want a canner because of space issues or want a multiuse pot, look for the largest stockpot you can find.
-Keep really good notes with what you’re doing. Part of my current Wordless Wednesday series is to track projects. I also use a Google Doc with what I’ve made, what changes I made, how many jars, the source of the recipe, and if I gave away any jars.
-Make little stickers (or have them made) asking for your jars back (put them on the lid). Most people are happy to give you your jars back when they’re done, it keeps the glass out of the landfill, and it keeps your canning costs down. See this post at Food in Jars on the etiquette of canning jars.
-Macerate your fruit before you jam it. Put half (or all, for a small batch) of the sugar a bowl with the fruit for several hours before cooking. It helps pull the juices out. I throw in the peppers when I’m doing a hot batch as well.
-Use your freezer to your advantage. Frozen fruit works well for jams, and saves time.
-If you have something that needs to set for a long period of time, it frees up a lot of my time to let it sit overnight and then cook it in the morning.
-I really do suggest learning how to make jam without pectin. It’s slightly longer and slightly more variable, but it uses much less sugar and you can adjust your batch to pretty much any size you want.
-When you’re actually canning, putting your tools in a long, low dish like a pyrex on a cookie sheet helps to make clean up that much faster.
-Keep track of what you’re using and how much of it at a time. It can be a mental list, but having an idea of the speed you go through things will keep you from canning pints of hot sauce when what you really need are quarter pints (not that I did that last summer or anything…)
-This is fairly trivial, but start a collection of jars that you really like and a collection of jars that you would be okay with never seeing again. That way, when you gift them you don’t have to worry about never seeing them again.