So it’s a quiet evening, the zombies have been stopped at the bridge you and your buddies blew earlier, the looters are all swinging gently in the breeze, the invading horde of UN troops are off looting Disneyland, those annoying neighbors have been Raptured away, the space aliens are busy stealing the entire planets water supply, and now it’s time for dinner. No problem…even though the power went out a month ago, you’ve got plenty of food stored. Tonight, it’s just you for dinner..the rest of your group are off doing their own thing.
You pull a #10 can of food off the shelf, pull the P38 can opener off the lanyard around your neck, and crack open a can of fruit cocktail. Glad you planned ahead right? But…you can only eat about 1/4 of the contents of the can and now, without refrigeration, you’ve got some leftovers on your hands. In the heat this stuff won’t keep long. If it were five for dinner it wouldn’t be a problem, no leftovers…but tonight it’s just you.
And this is where you realize that while stocking up in quantity was a good idea, when you were pushing that shopping cart through CostCo two years ago, maybe saving a few bucks and buying everything in #10 cans may not have been as good an idea as buying the more expensive, but smaller serving, cans.
This crossed my mind the other day as I was making dinner for the wife. Before I go any further, let’s get some terms and definitions going so we can talk intelligently. A “#10 can” is not a “ten-pound can”. (If it we’re, it would be a 10# can, not #10.) “#10″ is an identifier of the size/type of can. Those big cans you see at CostCo? Those are #10 cans…usually used for things like coffee and restaurant-sized portions. The 15~ oz. cans that you and I are familiar with from our usual grocery shopping are, usually, #300 or #303 sized. Here’s a chart listing common various sizes and their identifying nomenclature.
So, as I said, I was cooking dinner for the wife. Two things you should know about her. First, like a hummingbird, she eats small portions but eats often. Second, she’s not a big fan of eating the same thing twice in a row…like it offends the gods or something. As a result, leftovers tend to wind up just sitting in the fridge longer than they should. Now, to be fair, she’s gotten better about eating leftovers but when I cook or prepare food for her I often have to consider these things. As a result, I usually err on the side of preparing slightly less than I think she might want.
So..the other night….pork chops, instant potatoes, some canned corn with butter. Simple and fast meal. Here’s where it starts getting relevant…I have two different size’s of canned corn tucked away. Same brand, same style, just different sizes and packaging. First is the usual #303 can with about 15 oz., the other was a 8.75 oz. in a pull-top can. The smaller can, though more expensive, winds up being the perfect size and results in no leftovers. The larger can, though cheaper, would result in leftovers which, in a situation where one is without refrigeration or other means of food preservation, means that unless they are consumed shortly after opening will wind up being wasted.
Other than price there is another drawback in the example I’m using. The pull-top cans have the lids pre-scored to make them easy to open. It’s another point of failure that is not present in more traditionally sealed cans that require a can opener. Ever have a can of pop or beer that got dinged just the right way and wound up having the prescored area open up? I have…it hasn’t happened often, but it has happened. On the other hand, in cases like this, the worst case scenario is you lose the contents of that one small can which is still less than what you’d lose from a #10 can that you could only eat half of.
So, the point I’m trying to make is that when buying the canned goods it’s important to keep in mind that a #10 can of vanilla pudding is great for when you’ve got six people over for dinner, but a lousy waste of food when it’s just you, a power failure, and eighty degree summer weather. While I do stockpile #10 cans of some things, I tend to stick to mostly the 15 oz. and smaller cans. (Although I do keep some 28 oz. cans for things like tomatoes.)
I’m sure someone will comment and say “No problem, take the left overs and can them in glass jars. You’ve got lids, bands, and jars, right?” Well..yes. But lets examine this. Where is the advantage of a #10 can over an equivalent amount of food in smaller cans? Mostly in price, right? The #10 can is cheaper than a half dozen cans that hold the same amount. What is the actual savings? Depending on the product, about three or four bucks. So, assume that I would need to can half the contents of a #10 can to keep them from going bad. That means I’d need about three or four pint jars, bands, and lids…which is going to wind up being about the same or more expensive than the price difference between the #10 can and the smaller can. (And that doesn’t include time and fuel costs for the canning process.)
I actually came across these tiny cans at WalMart a few months back and although they were more expensive per oz. than the larger cans, the compact size and ‘single serving’ nature of them made me figure I’d try some out. As it turns out, they seem to fit pretty well into my plans. I’d gotten so wrapped up in the notion of bulk sizes and cost/ounce criteria that I had overlooked the ‘convenience’ aspect of not having to deal with leftovers in a crisis. Does this mean Im phasing out all the other sizes of cans? Absolutely not. It just means that this is yet another variable and possibility in putting together a comprehensive food storage stockpile.
Tagged under “food” because…duh!
Tagged under “logistics” because..well…this is what logistics is about.