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Canned Food Storage

Updated on April 28, 2011

The Store Cupboard

It is essential to store dry goods and canned foods correctly, as these items often remain unconsumed for several months, if not longer. Correct storage is necessary both for safety and also for economy, if you shop in bulk or wish to take advantage of low prices and special offers.


Constant Cool Temperature

Most canned and dry goods should be kept at a constant temperature which is cool and dry, rather than hot or humid. Few modern houses have a large old-fashioned larder, which supplies the ideal conditions. The garage may or may not be suitable, but the airing cupboard is not.

Non-perishable foods are usually kept in kitchen cupboards or shelves. These should be as far as possible away from the oven and nowhere near a direct source of heat, such as central heating and hot water pipes.

Suitable Containers

Dry goods such as flour, biscuits and coffee should be kept in suitable containers.


If you are lucky enough to keep a large store of canned goods, it is wise to mark the date and year of purchase on each with an indelible pencil. This enables you to check when you bought them and use the oldest first.


Never buy dented cans as the tin lining may be ruptured and rusting could set in. Avoid storing cans where they are likely to become dented, for example in the bottom of a cupboard used for tools."

Never buy cans that show any visible signs of rust, or stains which indicate that the contents are leaking. A 'blown' can is one in which the contents have already started to deteriorate. The sign of this is that either the top or the bottom of, the can, or both, are not flat but curve slightly outwards.

Special Considerations

Be particularly careful when storing canned hams. The pasteurized type weighing less than 1 kg (around 2 pounds) can be stored for up to six months, as can a small sterilized canned ham. A sterilized canned ham over 1 kg should always be stored in a refrigerator and for no longer than six weeks, therefore making it unsuitable as a long-term buy. Before buying a canned ham, therefore, check to see if it is sterilized or pasteurized and buy according to your needs. They will all have the weight on the label.

Recommended Storage Times

Try not to keep cans for longer than their recommended storage times (see chart), bearing in mind that they will already have spent some time sitting on a shop shelf. It is, however, unlikely that the contents of a can which has been kept longer than the recommended time will poison you. What does happen is that flavor and texture gradually become less satisfactory.

Baby food
2 years
Fish in oil (eg tuna, sardines)
5 years
Fish in tomato sauce
1 year
Fruit (except prunes and rhubarb)
1 year
Fruit juice
1 year
Meat (steak pieces, corned beef)
5 years
Milk (not evaporated or condensed)
1 year
Condensed Milk
4-6 months
Evaporated Milk
6-8 months
Milk puddings
1 year
Pasta in sauce (eg spaghetti hoops, ravioli)
2 years
Pet food
2 years
Prunes and rhubarb
9 months
2 years
2 years
Whole meals containing meat and vegetables
2 years


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    • profile image

      carol 6 years ago

      Thanks for the heads up, Some girl down where I use to help out was throwing it away .

    • Destrier profile image

      Destrier 6 years ago from Rural Australia

      The types of foods they're canning now is unbelievable. Not quite gourmet quality food, but still edible as a quick and convenient snack.

    • rebekahELLE profile image

      rebekahELLE 6 years ago from Tampa Bay

      Thanks for the tips. I didn't know about keeping them stored away from any heat sources, but it makes sense. I don't buy a lot of canned goods, but at times will take advantage of a sale. I've definitely had to throw away old cans, way past date! I think more people are now stocking up on canned goods. This is helpful information.

    • Destrier profile image

      Destrier 6 years ago from Rural Australia

      Good to hear that Laurel!

    • laurels passions profile image

      laurels passions 6 years ago from Belmont, NH

      Very informative! Great to know the true shelf life of certain items. I am starting to stock up on cans due to the rising food prices, so I will be certain to rotate! Thanks!