Top Tips for Extending Opened Food Storage

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?

27 thoughts on “Top Tips for Extending Opened Food Storage”

  • susan d frampton
    susan d frampton August 18, 2012 at 3:46 am

    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

  • Elaine

    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.

  • Dave

    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

    • The Ready Store

      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.

      • Laurie Hendrix

        If the canned food is in the case box in the hot garage, this is what I have done.
        First nothing is on the direct floor. Use a pallet to keep everything off the concrete.
        Second, lay a layer of cardboard down.
        Third place the boxes tightly onto the cardboard. And cover with a thick a movers blanket or padded mattress cover.
        Uncover only when needed.. have a list outside in a notebook and inside the top of each box for inventory and quick searches.

        If you experience a radical temperature, I have seen that using the 3 case box shipping cartons used. Placing each six can box in a large trash bag, slides each small box into the largest box. You then close up this three case shipping box, place upon the pallet , and cover.
        The cans stay cooler than the outside temperature and don't receive the changing severe temperatures, and your cans stay clean!

  • Jo

    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. :-)

  • alice

    keep in mind when vacuum sealing 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.

  • James

    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.

  • Gene

    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.

  • Ann

    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.

  • Don

    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

  • jill

    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.

  • Suzy

    I have not seen coffee or tea in a long term supply. Can I do my own in mylar bags? Has anyone tried this or know what to do? I don't want to lose the fresh flavor by leaving it in the packaging they already come in and they have a "use by" date that is not long term. Please help. Thanks

    • melisa

      My Patriot has long term instant coffee. Im drinking it right now :)

    • Col_Temp

      Suzy, Can't speak directly to experience yet as I haven't broken into my stored tea. But if you package them in Mylar bags and add an O2 eater. You have removed the oxygen which is usually the main culprit in degrading things.
      Otherwise storing the instant tea or coffee is probably the best route. Not sure about storing actual coffee beans as the oil in them makes them more susceptible to spoilage.

  • Ginny

    I purchased the diced ham last year and opened it to use in a soup; the remaining ham spoiled within a couple of months. I keep my stash in an empty bedroom. I'm now afraid to open and try any of the other meats for fear of spoilage.
    Maybe it went bad because I removed the oxygen absorber? I live in Florida and it does get humid.
    Next time I open a can I'll re-package the remaining food in vacuum or mylar bags.

  • Nina

    Thank you so much for the tips! I am going to make my own food storage this year, but I'm still in the "planning" stage, so every advice is welcome. Thanks again!

  • Betty

    Are you telling me that my flours I've put in Mylar bags, with absorbers will not be worth using? I've also vacuumed sealed in jars. Do I need to get rid of that? I had never seen 'not to store flour' in this fashion! Very confusion!

  • Nancy

    Wen have been cautioned for years not to use old mixes---cake, biscuit, pancake etc. because of a sickness caused from long term storage--- I also am confused-- whats with that??

  • Dave W

    I keep freezer grade Ziplock brand baggies for food I have to save after opening. And I also have a few dozen silica gel packs that I can add to a bag with dried product to keep it as moisture free as possible. And the gel packs can be "recharged" in a solar oven post-SHTF and reused over and I'll run out of clean ziplock bags before I run out of silica gel packs.

  • EW

    I have for 2 years opened the ground beef and used what I needed then put the remained in a zip lock bag and return it to the #10 can and have never had a problem with it going bad and store in my kitchen cabinet.

  • MBG

    I am very confused about the comments regarding flour. What type of bacteria are you talking about? All over YouTube you find directions on how to store flour, from mylar bags to canning jars. Ready Store, I really trust your judgement, would you report your findings or anyone else.

  • Diana

    As far as storing flour goes, molds that cause aflatoxin can grow in the presence of oxygen and minimal moisture--such at the humidity absorbed from the air. If you have flour in #10 cans packaged with desiccant and O2 absorber, that will store safely. (You can probably skip the desiccant if you package it somewhere the humidity is only about 10%.) Once you've opened the can, though, just vacuum sealing the remainder will leave enough oxygen in the package to allow mold to grow unless you freeze it. For immediate use, just put in a canister with a desiccant. As someone noted, the best way to store flour long term is to store grain and a grinder.

    For tea, you can buy some tea nitrogen packed in cans: 
    www dot troisgtea dot com
    Also, tea companies like Stash and Davidsons have loose tea and tea bags in nitrogen-flushed packaging. If you seal those in a jar or can with an O2 absorber (the company packaging is only semi-impervious to air), they will keep very well for maybe 5 years.

    The only way to store coffee for years is to buy green beans sealed in cans and roast and grind them when needed.
    There is one company packaging ground coffee specifically for storage, but I wouldn't expect it to last well more than 5 years, even under ideal conditions:
    www dot mypatriotsupply dot com
    Other than that, because of the way it's roasted, Vietnamese roast ground coffee in valve bags keeps for a couple of years on the shelf if you get a fresh supply. That's about the best you can do, and the only option besides roasting and grinding your own if you like dark versus American roast. Look for Trung Nguyen brand at vietnamese-coffee dot com.

    Last, instant teas/extracts and instant coffees keep several years if bought in glass jars or cans, probably only because they're already as low quality as they can get. ;)

    Remember, most of the food storage business was originally driven by Latter Day Saints, many of the customers are still LDS, and most of the companies are still owned by LDSs, so storage coffee and tea just doesn't find a place in the inventories. You need to look elsewhere for those.

  • Nan

    I live alone but buy large bags of beans, #10 cans etc... so when I open a #10 can I always repackage the contents in mason jars with a previously used (cleaned and dry) lid and use the vacuum sealer to suck the air out of the jar and always put it back in the can with the plastic lid because it keeps the light out.
    Just remember to put in either a coffee filter or paper towel tucked on top of the food in the jar if it has powdery substances so your machine doesn't get wrecked.
    Easy peasy.

  • Laurie B

    I've read that you should eat the food you're stockpiling to avoid digestive issues in the event of SHTF. Because it's just the two of us, opening a big #10 can of meat or veggies or fruit or whatever, I've been afraid it will go stale before we use it up. So I bought 1/2 gallon and quart Mason jars to store it. I fill the 1/2 gallon jar 1st then fill the quart jar with the rest ( sometimes 2 quart jars) then put an oxygen absorber in the 1/2 gallon jar. I then use my vacuum sealer jar sealing attachment on all 2-3 jars to suck out the extra air. As I use the quart jar(s) I reseal them with the jar sealer between uses. When they're empty I refill them with the contents of the 1/2 gallon jar.

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