A garage full of #10 cans

Heather O. continues her guest series with us.

I have a two car garage. A two car garage that hasn’t had two cars in it since my son’s 6 birthday party. He turned 7 two months ago. Thanks for asking.

Part of the problem is that my husband and I are both, at heart, kinda slobs, and having a clean garage isn’t all that high on our priority list. And part of it is the #10 cans.

In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, #10 cans are the big cans that you can buy at Costco that hold a thousand servings of green beans, or peaches, or potatoes, or, whatever. They also happen to be the size of can that The Church uses in the canneries all over the country, places you can go to can wheat, oats, and fruit drink (for good vitamin C measure).

(That stuff is nasty, though. Just had it for the first time this week. I felt like I was drinking a melted Otter Pop. Yuck.)

I wish I could say that my garage is full of #10 cans that are full of potato flakes, rice, and spaghetti. But alas, these cans lie empty, covered with the plastic wrap they came in, sitting on the palate the guy at the cannery let me take with me. They are left over from an order that was supposedly put in by sisters in my ward. An order that, as the emergency preparedness coordiator, I spent hours organizing, 4 hours filling, and paid for out of my pocket. Because I’m nice.

So what does a nice person do when people say that they could no longer afford the cans, or they don’t have time to use a sealer to seal the cans, or they were pregnant and about to give birth, or, my favorite, they didn’t know what they were actually signing up for and just put their name on the list to be nice? (Yes, nice. Everybody is nice. We’re a nice bunch, we Mormons.) I couldn’t just demand that they cough up the dough, so I swallowed it, smiled, and kept the cans. I reasoned that the whole thing was my fault because I didn’t manage the order well enough, so I took my lumps, took my cans, and decided to do better next time.

That was almost a year ago. Recently, we got another portable sealer for the ward for the month, and we put in another order for cans. I did do better this time, just like I said I would. I made everybody put their money up front. I didn’t send out a sign-up—just an email, so the only people who would respond would be people who were genuinely interested. This time, everybody paid, and when their own money is involved, people tend to show up. I was certain nary an extra can would find a home in our garage, and was encouraged when a sister even took some extra cans from the mountain, giddy at getting the opportunity to can some potato pearls.

(Yeah, people get excited about weird stuff when it comes to food storage. What can I say, Mormons are kinda freaky like that.)

I promised my husband that this time, I would put NO cans in the garage.

So I put the extra cans in the front hall closet.

What can I say, the sister who ordered them has a husband who just lost his job. It’s hard to be pushy about my front hall closet needs when she’s wondering how she’s going to make the mortgage payment next month.

So now my husband is making quips about how long it will be before our entire home is taken over by my #10 cans, and we have to throw out our furniture just to have room for them all.

Sometimes, in this church, it’s hard to be nice. Sometimes, people take advantage of that. And sometimes, that’s hard to swallow.

I don’t think it’s a uniquely Mormon thing, however. I’ve seen it happen it lots of big organizations where there are lots of moving parts. People flake out because they can, and the people in charge want the event/company/whatever to keep moving, so they give up more of their lives to make that happen. A ward is not the only place where 95% of the work is done by 10% of the people. And I suppose I would rather be numbered among the 10% as long as possible in case there is ever a time when I need to fall back into that 95%. I suppose we all have a season of service.

Mine, apparently, involves having a garage full of #10 cans.

Good thing I’m not the Relief Society President. Heaven knows what’s in her garage.

Bookmark A Garage Full of #10 Cans


  1. Time to go into business: Think of something (non-food) that you can can, print up some labels on your computer, and start peddling them at a price that covers your cans and time as well as the contents:

    Kids’-Party-in-a-can, Christmas/Halloween/Other-holiday-party-in-a-can (decorations, small themed paper plates and napkins, balloons, party favors)

    Beach-trip-in-a-can (tightly rolled-up towel, sunscreen, cheap sunglasses, even a baggie filled with sand)

    Back-to-school-in-a-can (school supplies)

    Babysitter-kit-in-a-can (small toys and games that can be doled out to kids by a babysitter)

    Scrapbooker (or other hobbyist)-kit-in-a-can (tools and supplies — great way to use the odds and ends you may already have on hand)

    Or print up labels that look like ribbons and wrapping paper, and offer to can people’s Christmas and birthday presents.

    You could get a real gimmick going, since it’s something that would be beyond most people’s ability to duplicate at home.

  2. Head over to your local gun store and start “ammo-in-a-can”. Just the thing for the zombie attack after a flood. Your ammo will be nice and dry . . don’t laugh, you’ll make a fortune.

  3. William H. says:

    I saw a company that was putting heirloom seeds in #10 cans and selling them for $70. Not bad for some seeds and a label.

  4. Zombie attack? Totally missed that one on the provident living website….

  5. 70 BUCKS for seeds? Wow, I’m really missing out there.

  6. And Ardis, I like the way you think ;)

  7. Are these cans still usable?
    Did you actually give the one family their money back? I would have offered to pass around a sign up sheet for who wanted to buy her stuff (and they could pay her).
    My husband was laid off. I didn’t make people pay me for stuff I couldn’t afford. I sent around an email for the useless bus pass we had and one person volunteered to buy it because he needed it. I didn’t force anyone else to buy it.
    Although, I secretly was slightly irritated that someone called to collect on the $20 lame coupon book I had bought for her kid’s fundraiser, and the only reason I had bought the book was for the restaurant we were going to for my son’s birthday that was in there, but when we got there they had a sign saying they didn’t accept it (they had not renewed the contract) so I had bought the book for nothing. I paid the $20 but I knew they’d probably feel bad once they found out my husband had been laid off.
    Things like this are hard to organize! But it sounds like you got it figured out pretty well (almost) for the second time around. Third times a charm?
    As for being the flaky 90%, the thing is we never know when we are being the flaky 90%. I am a responsible person, so I am always trying to be responsible. If I miss something it was never intentional, so I figure I probably miss things that I didn’t realize so I am probably the flaky 90% sometimes and I don’t even know it. Like what if I forgot that my VT were coming and I wasn’t home? What if I never remembered? So, I could be completely unaware that I had stood them up, unless they brought it up.

  8. Jessica says:

    I am the provident living coordinator for my ward. I will have the portable canner in my garage next week. I guess I’m not as diligent as you because I told them where they could go get their own cans!:) I just hate handling peoples orders and money!

  9. Julie King says:

    I had a family member do a huge food storage order for her ward that she paid for out of pocket. One lady gave her a check for around $1,000 and took her food. The check bounced and my aunt was out the money. Kind of hard to feel all warm and fuzzy about someone in sacrament when they do that. Another idea for all those cans…create emergency entertainment kits for your kids in case of emergency. Roll up coloring books, stick in some crayons and stickers as well as a travel game, deck of cards, blow-up beach ball, jump rope, cars, etc. People can think of it as food storage and stick it on a shelf to be used when desperate!

  10. who needs furniture?

    You have #10 cans to sit on

  11. mormonhermitmom says:

    I use the #10 cans that I empty to hold things, and to refill with the staples I commonly use (rice/flour). I like the idea of putting stuff in there and selling it off. Very clever

  12. Yes, the cans are still usable. And no, I didn’t refund the sister’s money, as she paid it directly to the cannery, and they will not take anything back once it’s been out of their control (makes sense, right?).

    Jessica, I’ve been tempted to tell people to get their own cans, but the cannery is an hour away, and is only open 2 days a week. It benefits more people when we coordinate, and lots of people who wouldn’t have the time to do it (like moms with little babies at home) can get in on the action. It is a lot of work, though, which is why I only do it once or twice a year, despite people in my ward asking for more opportunities. If they want to do it on their own, they are welcome to.

    We try to do the same thing when we actually fill orders at the cannery, although I have to say, I’ve had to put a limit on my niceness there. People were sending up huge orders to be filled by other people, and I felt it wasn’t fair to those of us who went to fill those large orders.

    Also, after filling all the cannery orders, we unloaded our vans into the kitchen at the church. I called the sisters and told them they could pick up their food at the church. One sister’s response? “Oh, really? (sigh)” I asked her if she needed the food sooner than Sunday, and she said, “No, it’s just that it’s kind of a pain to pick stuff up on Sunday. I always forget.”

    Oh, well, sorry. Don’t want to inconvenience you.

  13. There was that Italian (?) artist in the 60’s who pooped in a bunch of cans, sealed them, and numbered them. They sell for quite a lot of money at auction nowadays. Of course, I do not know how the profit margins are going for new stuff.

  14. Bull Moose says:

    Heather, I think I must have missed something, but why didn’t you just use the mountain-o’-cans in your garage to fill the orders from the second go-round? And the third? And …

    I’m sure the bishop would approve of that given the situation you were put in the first time, and so long as you aren’t marking them the cost.

  15. Bull Moose says:

    “so long as you aren’t marking up the cost.”

  16. Like Bull Mosse, I am a little confused too. If the cans are usable, couldn’t you have used them for round two? And then if they all paid up front, why do you have extras from round two in your hall closet?
    Mere details, I know. If it is too complicated to explain that is fine. I’m an accountant at heart so I can’t help trying to make the numbers work out.

  17. Tiny G says:

    Oh, and for the “Ammo-in-a-can” mark them as “Turnips (.40)” , “Turnips (9mm)” etc. Then the kids won’t open them.

    And please send me $1000 for the idea . .thanks (or some .40 cal Turnips)

  18. I’d try and sell them on Craigs list. At least make up for whatever you had to shell out.

    And I too, dealt with a job loss and I certainly didn’t stiff anyone else in our situation.

  19. I guess I should clarify. The use of the cans is, at best, questionable. I did hand out some of them for round two, but I did it for free, in case they weren’t able to be sealed, if they were too bent or had some rust I couldn’t spot. I suppose the bottom line is that if they aren’t suitable for food, I need to just pitch them. But that means that I would have to go through every single one and examine it, which is just a bit beyond me right now. Although I like the idea of ammo-in-a-can….

    And I wasn’t stiffed for round two. The sister in question just never picked up her cans. Her husband lost her job, and they took off for a few weeks to I don’t know where. Thus, I am in the defacto position of holding them until she gets back. Which is an undetermined amount of time.

  20. Get your local College Democrats, or county Democratic Party, or whoever, to hire you sometime when they have a booth at a street fair or rally or something — they give you bumper stickers and t-shirts or whatever they have, and you sell them back your No. 10’s with the goodies sealed inside and a label that includes their logo and the slogan “Yes! We Can!” and they can stack ’em to decorate their booth and sell for donations.

  21. girlsmama says:

    You can tun them into stilts and sell them for $5 (or whatever your cost is) a pair at the park during the summer!

  22. Okay then you could try your local elementary school or freecycle. People will take anything on freecycle…if it’s free.

    *scratching head* I wonder if you could recycle them. Maybe recoop your money that way.

  23. Long distance string-telephones?

  24. I agree about that fruit drink mix. I didn’t pull it out until the job loss. It sucks. I fed it to my kids anyway. We’re still working on that first can. I think we’ll wait until society falls apart before we use cans 2-6.

  25. Scott B says:

    “… how long it will be before our entire home is taken over by my #10 cans, and we have to throw out our furniture just to have room for them all.”

    It’s nice to see that the words of Malachi are being fulfilled. This IS the true Church!

  26. Don’t, *Don’t*, DON’T put seeds into #10 cans (or buy them packaged that way)!

    Seeds are living things and need air to “breathe”.

    We tried ordering canned seeds years ago, and when we tried to get them to sprout, none of them did. We’ve had numerous customers tell us the same.

    Our seeds are packed in a Zip Locked bag (which allows air through) and will last for years. (Of course, you should be planting and gardening NOW–and harvesting seeds–so seed storage should not be an issue.) If you can’t plant this year, please see http://www.internet-grocer.net/sprouter.htm , scroll down the page, and read about the 9-year-old Sprouting Seeds we found in our unheated/uncooled Texas warehouse that sprouted just fine.

    Keep the seeds with you in your house and they’ll be fine for years. You’ll just lose a little viability each year.

  27. Oh, be glad you are not the scoutmaster with all the camping/scouting gear in your garage/shed.

    If you have a large ward, pass on to the cub scout leaders two cans per scout. They make great puddle jumpers. My scouts loved them. (They also spent five minutes trying to pair up cans with the same labels.)

    You can make punched tin luminarias. Fill the cans with water; freeze; punch designs with nails (the ice gives you something solid to punch); thaw-drain-dry; put some sand and a candle in the bottom; line driveway for parties; sell at a lemonade stand. . . .

    In the winter you can use them to make snow blocks for building and ice sculptures.

    Our cannery is 3 hours away (in the summer with perfect weather/traffic). If there is not a member of the family physically present and working on the day of the order – you don’t get your food canned. You can order bulk and can it at your own convenience, but you don’t get to buy precanned items. I am lazy and can’t bear the thought of bringing home all that work. I just go twice a year and can my stuff there.

    Fruit drink tastes much better if you don’t use as much powder and add a little vanilla to it. Also, it’s not a long term storage item: it’s listed as a two year item. It should last longer if properly stored, but probably not for eons.

  28. JJ, you’re a genius. I love the luminiarie idea.

    And I forgot fruit drink isn’t a long term item. Hot chocolate isn’t either. I wonder why.

  29. You can put a roll of TP in it.
    Then label it: “A CAN within a CAN”.

  30. Here is a link with some ideas on how to turn #10 cans into Emergency Stoves and bunson burners. Maybe an idea for a Super Saturday?


  31. Water the “juice” mix down a lot, it’s a lot more drinkable then. My kids like to eat the stuff like lik-a-stik powdered candy, so I stopped getting it. It was a freaking mess!

    Take the extra cans to a recycling place. You have to find a place that takes steel ( I think they’re steel) and they’ll pay you some pathetic amount of money, but at least the steel gets back into use and out of your house.

    I was the cannery lady in our ward for a while and it was like being a collection agent and a recruiting officer all rolled up into one miserable calling. Glad to say good-bye to that one!

  32. Second the idea of talking to the cub scout leaders. The cub scouts are always looking for #10 cans. Especially right before Twilight camp in the summer. If the cubs in your stake don’t need them, ask around in other stakes. I’m pretty sure you’ll find a taker.

  33. Give the YW camp leader a call. We have the girls decorate #10 cans with scrapbook paper, cover them in Modge Podge (love the stuff!), put wire handles on them and then use them as secret sister buckets. The girls love them, they look cute at camp hung up together, and you’ll get rid of some more cans.

    We thought they could reuse them each year … but they want to redo them every summer.

  34. These are some great ideas!

  35. So what’s the secret on making the chocolate pudding taste better? I think it isn’t sweet enough. So far my best idea is to use it along with regular pudding from Jello.

  36. Aubrey says:

    You know, in our cannery the policy is that if you have an order you have to go can it yourself. I assume that is chruch wide. They want to avoid the problems that you are having. (That doesn’t mean that I don’t go and fill my friend’s and my own order while she is watching my kids, that’s my own arrangement, even though it is technically against the rules.)
    But our ward stake people do NOT fill the orders for the people in our ward and stake. They are responsible for taking the orders and getting it into the cannery, And going and helping there on our stake canning day, that’s it. If the people don’t come help can and get their stuff then the leftovers just roll over to the next stake’s order.

  37. Not Ophelia says:

    Um just get rid of them. Seriously

    1. Take them to RS and announce there are free leftover cans
    2. Freecycle FTW
    3. Goodwill or DI (though you might have to hide them under old clothes)
    4. Unusable ones go in the recycling.
    5. Put them on the curb with a ‘FREE’ sign. What doesn’t get picked up goes in the recycling.

    You get the idea; your sanity is more important than old cans.

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