How to decide which food storage can size is best for you: #10 or #2.5

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A lot of people ask me why they should buy food in #10 cans when they are storing food for only themselves or, perhaps, one or two other people. They ask about the food going bad in the opened cans if they don’t eat it quickly enough and what if they open a can of something and discover they don’t like it?

image by Angela Paskett
image by Angela Paskett

Well, in some cases, #10 cans are preferred. (They hold roughly one gallon, including both food and head space.) Some freeze-dried and dehydrated products only come in that size container, and since most foods will be good for at least several months once opened, you can normally eat the food at your leisure.

However, based on the 5 enemies of food storage, opened cans will eventually succumb to the negative effects of:

  • Oxygen
  • Light
  • Humidity
  • Heat
  • Pests

Unless you go through food pretty quickly, it’s best to portion out the food in the larger cans into smaller containers, such as canning jars, small mylar bags, and Food Saver bags. By adding an oxygen absorber and then keeping these smaller packages in a covered plastic bin or cardboard box to protect them from light, they should last a very long time.

However, there are plenty of foods that actually are better purchased in smaller quantities. (A #2.5 can holds roughly a fourth of the volume of a #10 can.)

  • Grains such as quinoa and millet that you will only be using in smaller amounts.
  • Dehydrated carrot dices. You wouldn’t believe how tiny these are when they’re dehydrated. A single #10 can must contain 50,000 carrots! Unless you are a carrot maniac, buy this in smaller containers.
  • Dehydrated onions and celery. Ditto. Dehydrated foods take much less space than their freeze-dried counterparts, so a #2.5 can is a better idea than a #10.
  • Dehydrated green onions. Ditto.
  • Any other vegetable that you want to store but don’t typically use frequently.
  • Bouillon and soup base. These are very susceptible to humidity. Once opened, they can quickly absorb moisture and you’ll have to chip away at the mass of bouillon with an ice pick. Better to either buy in smaller quantities or buy the #10 can and repackage.
  • Tomato powder. Ditto.
  • Many freeze-dried fruits, unless you eat a lot of fruit in your household. I’ve thrown away #10 cans of freeze-dried pineapple and grapes because the little humidity we have here in Phoenix was just enough for them to form a sticky, chewy glob. Oddly, this doesn’t happen with freeze-dried berries.
  • Freeze-dried yogurt bites. We love these but, please, a gallon of vanilla freeze-dried yogurt bites? That’s an awful lot of yogurt bites! I prefer buying them in smaller containers. These, too, are affected by humidity.
  • Sour cream powder. Again, the problem is humidity and the powder becoming a hard mass. Depending on where you live and the conditions in which you store your food, your experience might be different, but still, sour cream powder isn’t an ingredient typically used in large quantities, so buying it in #2.5 cans is a good idea regardless.
  • TVP, any flavor. When I make chicken noodle soup using chicken flavored TVP, I only use a half cup or so of the TVP. A little goes a long way, especially the taco and bacon flavored varieties.
  • Basic ingredients, such as baking powder, butter powder, salt, and cocoa. Unless you make brownies every night, which I think is a fabulous idea!, it takes a while to go through even a small container of cocoa.
  • Powdered eggs. A #10 can of powdered whole eggs is the equivalent to about 8 dozen eggs and an opened can has a limited shelf life. Better to buy the smaller version unless you’re cooking for a large number of people who love scrambled eggs for breakfast!

What foods should be purchased in #10 cans?

  • Any ingredients that you frequently use in cooking.
  • Foods that have multiple uses, such as baking soda.
  • Freeze-dried entrees that you enjoy eating, and you’re certain won’t go to waste once opened. Mountain House Mac-and-Cheese. Yumm!
  • Versatile grains, such as rice, wheat, and oats. I often buy these in 20-50 lb. bags and then repackage.

If rodents and/or insects are a problem, an open container of any food is the equivalent of posting a big Welcome! sign for them. What you don’t want to have is a couple dozen opened #10 cans of food waiting to be used. Trust me. The pests will find their way to your food before you do!

Angela over at Food Storage & Survival recently posted an excellent article about the use of #2.5 cans.

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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 9 years.

9 thoughts on “How to decide which food storage can size is best for you: #10 or #2.5”

  1. Great article. I deal with my storage in a little different way. If/when the SHTF I will be responsible for a lot of people so I buy the #10 can for that purpose, I will not use them unless its a dire situation. I buy in smaller cans and grocery store stock for those 3-4 without electricity. I have tried to make my storage work for both short and long term.

  2. Elaine Abernathy

    I have only recently began buying food in #10 cans. Your article answered many of the questions I had about the difference between the #10 cans and every day use size. I have had to put some thought into the items my family and I use everyday because we cook a lot from scratch. We also buy items from Sam’s that are not in #10 cans but are in big packaging. I believe I need to use my Food Saver more often now! Thanks once again for your website!

  3. Thanks for the info. I am ready to start my long term storage as I’ve got about 3 months worth of regular food stored. Keeping a record of what we go for the most has helped. I now know what sizes to store of items I know I will use and not use as frequently. Keep the great info coming.

  4. Transferring to mason jars and vacuum sealing is the ideal resolution for me. We live in an apartment and can only imagine the rodent infestation if garbage can’t be picked up and food spoiling. I’m weary of using mylar bags as rodents can eat through them. They would have to be placed into the 5 gal buckets that are heavier plastic – I wouldn’t put it past a right to try to eat his way through thinner plastic. There are several Youtube videos that demonstrate how to convert a bicycle pump using the FoodSaver mason jar attachment (available on Amazon for reg/wide mouth jars). I recently picked up the parts and will be putting it together this weekend. I will transfer smaller quantities as needed into small jars for everyday use and re-vacuum seal all the jars as needed. Since the lids are not being used for heat/pressure canning, thereby damaging the lid, the vacuum seal can be created over and over.

    Love this site!

  5. I would add to the #10 can list dried or dehydrated beans. For me and my family of four at least, but we eat alot and in an emergency would eat even more I’m sure. If you are very active you need more calories.

  6. Pingback: 8 Tips For Placing Your First Survival Food Order - Survival Bell

  7. I’m baffled by the things you are choosing to store. Bulky packs of drinks, freeze dried grapes & yoghurt bites, what a waste of storage space. You should be advising people to store calorie dense, nutritional foods and water that will keep their families fed and watered for much longer.

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