It’s the ultimate emergency food quandary: what to do with those #10 cans you’ve opened but haven’t finished? That precious shelf life—sometimes as much as 30 years—has now been cut to just a few months!
Unfortunately, there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle when it comes to opened emergency food. However, after nearly 35 years of making the stuff, there is one trick we’ve learned that’s pretty darned effective at preserving your food.
It’s as simple as can be, costs almost nothing, and can add about a year of shelf life.
The Bag-It Method
To help illustrate, we’ll walk you through an example—with pictures! This little technique isn’t rocket science, but since we do it all the time, we figured we might as well photo-document the process to help make it as clear as possible.
At least once a month, our team at Emergency Essentials does a company-wide taste test here at the office. Our most recent test subject was this can of freeze-dried cinnamon apple slices. YUM!
Freeze-dried and dehydrated foods in #10 cans can last up to 30 years. But what about after you open them?
However, we only used about half of the can for our test. This happens almost every time. The problem is, it may be a very long time before we need these apples again, and they probably won’t last more than a few months out in the open. What’s a prepper to do?
An opened, unfinished can of freeze-dried apples. As is, these won't stay fresh as long as we'd like.
Here at Emergency Essentials, we’re firm believers in the old adage “waste not, want not,” so of course we’re going to do everything we can to squeeze extra life out of these apples. Here’s how we go about it.
START WITH THE RIGHT BAG
It starts with a one-gallon ziplock bag.
We like to use the double-sealed variety. If you can find one with a slider, even better. It helps ensure a complete seal.
Start with a quality ziplock bag. Double seals and sliders are helpful.
TRANSFER THE FOOD
At this point, we’re going to pour the apples from the can into the bag.
Pour the contents of the can into the bag.
DON’T FORGET THE OXYGEN ABSORBERS
Next comes the oxygen absorber.
If you’ve done much prepping, you’ll know that most emergency foods in #10 cans should come with an oxygen absorber. All of ours do.
One thing to pay attention to is the size of the absorber. As a rule, our #10 cans come with two 200 cc packets—more than they technically need, but we’re SUPER fastidious about shelf life. For more on the oxygen content of emergency food, check out this article.
Some emergency supply companies will actually go cheap and package food without an oxygen absorber. It’s true! Others, to cut costs, will insert 50 cc or 100 cc absorbers—too small to achieve the stated shelf life in most #10 cans.
This is all to say: keep an eye out for your oxygen absorber. Make sure it’s there, for starters, and make sure it’s large enough.
KNOW YOUR ABSORBERS
As long as you’re using oxygen absorbers, it’s important to know about the different types available. Each has its unique perks…
- Iron-based Oxygen Absorbers - These bad boys are the most popular choice for preserving dry foods like grains, nuts, and dried fruits. They have iron powder inside that reacts with oxygen, forming iron oxide and removing oxygen from the package. The best part? They're super effective and budget-friendly!
- Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) Oxygen Absorbers - Vitamin C isn't just good for your immune system; it's also a fantastic oxygen absorber for food preservation. Ascorbic acid reacts with oxygen, reducing its presence in the packaging. These are especially great for fresh fruits and veggies that have a higher moisture content.
- Activated Carbon Oxygen Absorbers - If you're dealing with foods that are sensitive to both oxygen and moisture, activated carbon absorbers might be your new best friend. Activated carbon, or activated charcoal, is a highly porous material that can adsorb gases, including oxygen. Its moisture-absorbing properties make it an excellent choice for preserving a variety of food items.
Once you’ve got a properly sized absorber, place it in the ziplock bag. For this demonstration, that’s easy. We just take the two 200 cc absorbers already in the pouch and drop them into the now-full ziplock.
Drop the oxygen absorbers into the ziplock bag.
But wait, we’re not done yet!
Next, we’re going to squeeze out any lingering air in the bag. This is not a scientific maneuver by any means (and vacuum sealing it isn’t), but we find that it helps. Once that’s done, go ahead and seal the bag.
Squeeze the air out and seal the bag.
SAFE AND SECURE, BACK IN THE CAN
With your bag all prepped, you’ll want to place it into the #10 can and close the lid. This provides much better protection against a few of the key elements that spoil food: water, sunlight, and pests.
Place the squeezed, sealed bag back into the #10 can.
Just one step left, and that’s deciding where to store your can for maximized shelf life.
At the very least, keep it in a cool, dry place that’s doesn’t get much hotter than 70° Fahrenheit. If you’re able to fit it into a refrigeration unit, that can help as well. If not, don’t get too worried. By taking the steps above, your food should keep its taste, texture, and nutrition for up to another year.
SOUND OFF BELOW!
So there it is! Simple, yet surprisingly effective. Has anyone tried this method before? How did it work for you? What kind of extra life did you get out of your food? Sound off in the comments and let us know!