Top Tips for Extending Opened Food Storage

Written by Jonathan Dick

You’ve spent the time, money, and effort in building up your food storage. You’ve done the research into what food storage is best, how long the shelf-life is, the nutrients, etc. But once you open your food storage, what happens after you open it? How long will it last? Will it still last 10-20 years?

This is a common concern. However, you may have been misinformed in the past. There is a lot of bad information out there that is probably making you worry more than you should.

Here are a number of tips and tricks that will help you extend the shelf-life of opened food storage.

1. Keep in a cool and dry location. The same bit of good advice for un-opened cans goes for containers that have been opened. You’ll want to place the food in a location is that away from sun light and isn’t moist or humid.

2. Use the plastic lid. The plastic cap on your number #10 can doesn’t come with your order for fashion’s sake! Once the top has been popped, place the plastic lid back on the can to keep air away from the food.

3. Reseal the food in Ziploc or metalized (Mylar) bag. Many people have seen great success taking the food out of the can and putting it in airtight re-sealable baggies. Push the air out as much as possible and put the bags back in the can for exterior puncture proofing.

4. Vacuum bags. The popular vacuum seal bags that you see on infomercials aren’t just for packing away tons of clothes. These “As Seen on TV” products also can do a great job taking the air out of food pouches which can in turn be placed back into the #10 can.

5. Refrigerate if possible. Like we mentioned before, a cool location is great for extending the length of your opened can of food storage and a fridge is a great place for it. While not everyone has fridge space for a large number of opened cans you could put the trickier items like freeze-dried fruits and veggies and leave the can of instant oats in the pantry.

6. Ignore some manufacturer recommendations. You might be scratching your head on this one but yes, you read that correctly.

Some food brands tell you that the food must be eaten as short as a week after opening. That simply isn’t the case with all of the food products we sell. For years, our company break room has been loaded to the ceiling with dented cans that that are free game for the employees to eat. From our experience it is good for up to 6-12 months depending on the food item – not a week or two.

These are just a couple of the more popular methods to extend opened can shelf life, what do you and your family do to assure the food is in optimal shape?

Updated August 17, 2012

13 Comments

  1. susan d frampton wrote:

    What about the freezer? I have a large chest freezer. Keep my seed bank in it for future use to extend life. Thanks for the info

    August 18th, 2012 at 9:46 am
  2. Elaine wrote:

    My husband has been talking about opening the cans and making smaller portions with the vacuum sealer. I have convinced him to wait until we actually open one, then make the serving sizes out of what is left from each open can. Great to know it will work!!
    We are planning a family gathering and making a few dishes for it out of our food stash. We are hoping this will encourage more friends and family to build there own emergency storage.
    Thanks!

    August 18th, 2012 at 10:52 am
  3. Dave wrote:

    I know we should be storing our food supplies in a “COOL” dry place, but I don’t have the room.. so I’m forced to store it in our garage..and it’s hot out there.. How bad is this for the shelf life of it? Dave

    August 18th, 2012 at 1:48 pm
  4. Jo wrote:

    Dave, the garage is TOO HOT. That will definitely shorten the shelf life of your food.

    I use cheese blend in #10 cans regularly. It’s really quite good, but still it takes my husband and I about 12 months to finish off a #10 can. It does last that long, opened and sealed with the plastic lid, but it’s inside the house, in an extra bedroom. I think it would really spoil at the higher temperatures. I also have an opened can of sliced celery that I know is about 3 years old and it’s still good. :-)

    August 18th, 2012 at 2:56 pm
  5. alice wrote:

    keep in mind when vacuum sealing foods…do not vacuum seal products with flour in them….when flour is compressed in vacuum sealed bags it is susceptible to growing a particularly dangerous mold. Other items are fine to vacuum seal.

    August 19th, 2012 at 7:43 pm
  6. James wrote:

    Well I buy 6 gallon buckets of some items because of pricing is a lot better. However I live by myself and how long it would take me finish it may spoil. However in the past I bought 100 1 gallon Mylar bags and enough oxygen absorbers for it for around $40. If open a bucket up I could repacked into 1 gallon Mylar bags and put them back into the bucket.

    August 20th, 2012 at 12:23 am
  7. Gene wrote:

    James, the smaller mylar bags and absorbers are a smart way to go. Get the savings and shelf life from buying in a can but then get the flexibility of pouches once you are ready to eat it over a span of time.

    August 20th, 2012 at 8:36 am
  8. The Ready Store wrote:

    Susan,
    Indeed. A freezer would work! You can place open cans in your freezer to keep them longer.

    August 20th, 2012 at 8:53 am
  9. The Ready Store wrote:

    Elaine, That’s a great idea. You’re right. It’s probably best to wait until after you open the cans to put them in Mylar bags! Great idea.

    August 20th, 2012 at 8:54 am
  10. The Ready Store wrote:

    Hey Dave, the garage can be a good place to keep your food. But if you’re saying that the garage gets really hot, then it’s probably not the best. The other problem with the garage is that the temperature can change so drastically throughout the seasons. While the garage might be the coolest place that you can find at the moment, also try and find a place that has a constant temperature throughout the year – that will help extend your shelf-life.

    August 20th, 2012 at 8:56 am
  11. Ann wrote:

    Dave,
    We also have had to be creative with placing our storage. We have taken things we normally, store inside, under beds and in closets, and put them in the garage. We then put our food storage under the beds and closets. It can be a little inconvienient, when I want something that is normally on hand, (now far away in the garage), but worth it , to have food storage available to us.

    January 6th, 2013 at 10:26 am
  12. Don wrote:

    We opened a #10 of hash browns for a breakfast meal – then I had to go into surgery for a brain tumor. Kept the lid on the can and in the refrigerator. Now, six months later, I find no difference inthe taste and consistency of the hash browns

    September 18th, 2013 at 11:23 am
  13. jill wrote:

    just have a question, new to this, but trying to be reasonably intelligent. If our generator goes out, we lose our freezers, fridges, whatever, fine in winter but bad in summer, how do we preserve something that has been opened? Basement is cool even in hot summer, maybe 60 ever max…we are getting up in years and can’t be digging root cellars or anything like that, but at the coolest corner of the basement, how long would things like opened dehydrated butter, fruits, veggies, whatever, don’t need specifics for each thing, but a year, more, less. Far north basement corner is probably constant in the hottest summer at 55 or so, ever. How long do we have and know proper storage in buckets or mylar will help, but agree as well some things like flours should not be sealed. Just looking for some specifics, sure I could find this if I really searched, but you guys all seem to know the proper techniques. Thanks, by the way we are in rural Maine and therefore never really “tropical” but for a few days a year. Also, the basement far corners never, ever freeze, even at -30 for a week or more.

    November 4th, 2013 at 6:27 pm

What Do You Think of That?