Food storage sizes: the #10 can and the pouch

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.

image by USDAgov

image by USDAgov

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.

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.

The food storage pouch

mountain house pouchNot 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.

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.

There may be links in the post above that are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which does not affect the price you pay for the product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

© Copyright 2013 The Survival Mom, All rights Reserved. Written For: The Survival Mom
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I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 5 years. Come join me on my journey to becoming more prepared to handle everyday emergencies and worst case scenarios.

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  1. says

    I like to use the Pantry Can (MyChoice, or the 2.5, however it’s named) for things that are more expensive (cheese, F/D Meats) but want to slowly add them to my storage!

  2. April says

    Have you ever opened your #10 cans to prepare meals in mylar bags or in jars that way you know how many meals you actually have? I am wondering how is best to keep track of what I have and how others may do so.


  3. says

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    We just started a Kickstarter campaign for a survival cookbook. “Cooking with Fire: The Disaster Cookbook. How to cook when the lights go out.” If you are a fan of cooking or disasters, check it out. 😉 We have some really swell pledge rewards!

    Thanks and keep up the helpful work!

  4. says

    I store food in not only #10 cans but also in mylar bags. Freeze dried food is delicious and easy to prepare. I recommend having a variety of food in your emergency food storage. Whatever you do rotate your food and make sure your family is happy with the food you prepare.

  5. EFritz says

    For some reason, just recently, we have been finding a ton of freeze dried and nitrogen sealed food items at garage sales. We were able to get 10 boxes of the bagged food items for less than $5 a box with 20 meals in each one. We started using them in our weekly menus just to get a taste for them. pretty good so far. We also managed to get five 5-gallon buckets of nitrogen sealed grains. I am not sure why people are getting rid of these items but we were happy to snatch them up! Wonderful way to taste and try different foods.
    Go in with friends or family to get sampler boxes of some of the mountain house meals, you can switch and trade, try a bunch of them and then buy in bulk. They are also pretty good if you don’t know whats for dinner!

  6. Donna says

    I recently found a #10 can of Thrive Freeze Dried Chicken that has been opened. I had totally forgotten about it. The contents are a in regular ziploc bag with the air pressed out stored inside the can. I am guessing this has been stored this way for about 2 years. Is this still safe to eat? Better yet, would you feed this to YOUR family? I hate to throw it out without a second opinion because this stuff is expensive.

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