I can still remember the very first #10 can I ever bought. It was in 2008, and I was learning how to dehydrate food. My new-to-me dehydrator was just waiting to be used, and I thought that a batch of fruit leather would be a good first project.
My pantry is now overflowing with #10 cans, holding everything from dehydrated carrots to Chicken Teriyaki to freeze dried raspberries. Over the years I’ve also purchased a number of small pouches of freeze-dried entrees. Both sizes make sense when it comes to stocking up and being prepared.
The ubiquitous #10 can
These large cans are popular with food storage customers because they hold roughly a gallon of food and are easier to manage and inventory than dozens of smaller cans. They are usually packed with oxygen absorbers, which helps to increase the food’s shelf life. Once sealed, they also protect food from humidity and light.
Very often I’m asked about the shelf life of a #10 can once it’s been opened. There is no one, pat answer because storage conditions affect the shelf life of every food, whether the container has been opened or not. Food should always be stored in cool temperatures (50 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal but few of us can manage that year-round). It should always be stored in a dry, dark location and be protected from rodents and insects.
Generally, though, an opened #10 can of either freeze-dried or dehydrated food will still be good for several months, although certain brands of freeze-dried chicken and meat may only be good for a few weeks. Be sure to check the product information on the label.
If you’re storing food for just one or two people and are concerned about having too much food sitting in an opened #10 can, remember that food can always be re-packaged! Once the can is opened, scoop out smaller portions into containers, such as small mylar or Food Saver bags. You can also use canning jars, just be sure to use the jar attachment accessory that can be used with Food Saver vacuum packing systems. Date these smaller containers and remember to rotate through them, using the oldest containers first.
There’s another very handy size of can you’ll find at some food storage sites, such as Thrive Life, my own personal favorite brand. This can is the #2.5 size and holds about a fourth of a #10 can. When I first started stocking up and buying freeze dried and dehydrated foods, I automatically purchased the larger #10 cans, but over the years, I’ve come to prefer the #2.5. In this article, I discuss at length which size can is best and for which foods.
The food storage pouch
Not all food meant for long-term storage comes in #10 cans. You will also be able to purchase freeze dried meals in pouches. Usually, these pouches double as a cooking container. You only need to open the pouch, remove the oxygen absorber, and then add boiling water.
Depending on how these pouches are packed, their shelf life can range from just a year or so up to 20 years. Before plunking down a lot of money on these “just add water” meals, however, do some research. Not all companies package their food in the same manner, with the same long-term results. Mountain House is one brand that I trust when it comes to having an effective method of packaging food for the longest possible shelf life.
Another word of caution. Before stocking up on any variety of these pouch meals, make sure you actually like the taste and texture of the food! All too often customers are lured into buying enormous quantities of these meals without sampling everything. This could be disastrous if a member of the family is sensitive or allergic to one of the ingredients or the meal just doesn’t taste good! So before buying, taste the product and read the ingredients.
For a balanced food storage pantry, I recommend, perhaps, only around 20% of your food being these just-add-hot-water meals. I know that many “survival food” companies push these types of meals, but I have some reservations when it comes to long term food storage and survival, and you can read my thoughts about that here.
The bottom line
One of the most important things to remember when it comes to storing food is that everyone’s pantry will be different based on budget, preferences, family size, and space. Both the #10 can and the meal pouch are useful sizes, depending on your family’s needs.
By the way, if you’re new to the idea of food storage, you may enjoy this article that shares dozens of tips from other preppers.
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