Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
I want to start off by pointing out that you’re better off canning and/or dehydrating fruits, meats, and vegetables. Foods preserved at home are cheaper and healthier than store-bought canned foods.
Having said that, if you’re new to prepping and don’t know much about food preservation, or if you’re just looking to add more variety to your food stockpile, canned foods are an excellent option because they’re very easy to store and they have a very long shelf life, sometimes lasting for decades.
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But which canned foods should you store? Here’s our list of recommendations:
I was going to mention applesauce, but it doesn’t normally come in cans. Besides, it’s better to get canned apples because you can use them as they are, or you can just mash them into applesauce.
Sweet foods are far outnumbered by savory ones when you’re limited to canned products, so canned apples are a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth while also getting most of the nutrients offered by a fresh apple.
Yes, you read that correctly – bacon is available in a can!
If you are looking for a way to add delicious flavor to a wide variety of dishes while also increasing the amount of protein and calories that they provide, you can’t go wrong with canned bacon.
Best of all, canned bacon has a shelf life of over ten years, making it an excellent product to stock up on.
3. Baked Beans
What kind of prepper doesn’t have canned beans? Baked beans make for a great side dish, or they can be used as an addition to a number of recipes such as chilis, stews, and soups.
They’re also high in protein and fiber and are quite affordable as well.
4. Beef Stew
If you want to stock up on beef stew, you’ll have all kinds of options to choose from. There are many types of beef stew with most containing a number of vegetables as well.
The result is a filling meal high in protein and fiber that can also be added to rice and pasta to make for an easy dish.
Bread will likely be one of the most difficult food items to acquire in a survival scenario given that making it fresh requires a lot of different ingredients as well as some pretty serious baking skills.
Thankfully, B&M offers a product called canned brown bread which serves as a decent substitute. It’s not the best tasting bread and it isn’t exactly something you could use to make a sandwich, but it does go well with beans and other foods.
If you’re unable to raise your own chickens, storing cans of chunk chicken breast is the next best thing. Canned chunk chicken breast contains diced chicken breast that is pre-cooked and packed in water, meaning that it is ready to eat right out of the can.
You can use the chicken breast in any recipe that calls for diced chicken or add it to salads and sandwiches. You can also use the water that has soaked up the chicken flavor as chicken broth.
If you want a ready-to-eat meal right out of the can, canned chili is a great option. Canned chili comes in a wide variety of flavors with an equally wide variety of ingredients, and it can also be enjoyed as an addition to dishes such as pasta and rice.
Most importantly, chili is a high-calorie meal and a great source of fiber and protein.
Corn is one of the best foods you can stockpile. You can use it in countless recipes, or you can eat it by itself.
Plus, it’s high in calories, and pretty much everybody likes it. This is one instance where you’re definitely better off buying the canned version instead of buying it fresh and preserving it yourself.
9. Diced Tomatoes
So many recipes are tomato-based that canned tomatoes are an essential supply to stock up on.
If you buy diced tomatoes instead of tomato sauce or tomato paste, though, you can easily use a blender to turn them into any type of canned tomato product that you need.
10. Green Beans
Growing fresh vegetables in a survival garden is always an ideal solution. However, certain times of the year you may not have any fresh vegetables available, even if you are able to successfully grow a garden.
To supplement your garden veggies, stock up on canned vegetables such as canned green beans which are high in nutrients and can be eaten as a side dish or added to a number of soups and casseroles.
11. Pie Filling
If canned applesauce isn’t quite enough to satisfy your cravings for sweet foods, you can stock up on canned pie filling as well. Even if you don’t have the ingredients necessary to bake a pie, simply heating up the pie filling and eating it by itself can make for a tasty treat.
Pie filling might not be as nutritious as most of the foods in your stockpile, but it is high in calories and can serve as a guilty pleasure at a time when such pleasures may be few and far between.
Especially chicken noodle soup. There’s a reason why chicken noodle soup is a go-to favorite for people who are feeling under the weather. This soup is hearty, warming, and full of easy-to-digest energy to get you back up on your feet.
Add cans of chicken noodle soup to your survival stockpile to enjoy regardless of whether you’re feeling sickly or not.
Spam may have somewhat of a poor reputation, but you may be surprised to learn that it’s actually made of a lot higher quality meat than other processed meats such as hot dogs. Rather than being made from meat by-products, spam is produced using ham and chopped pork shoulder.
Spam is also high in protein, calories, and fats, and it can be used as a substitution for other meat in most dishes such as stews, pastas, and chilis.
Tuna makes for an excellent source of fatty acids and protein and is especially high in nutrients if you get tuna that is packed in oil rather than water (as an important bonus, tuna packed in oil keeps for a longer period of time as well).
Canned tuna can be used in a wide number of recipes such as soups and pastas, added to salads and sandwiches, or eaten straight out of the can.
15. Vegetable Medley
Speaking of supplementing fresh vegetables with canned vegetables, stocking up on cans of vegetable medley will allow you to enjoy a variety of vegetables such as corn, carrots, green beans, lima beans, and others all in a single product.
It makes for a great side dish that offers a range of nutrients given all of the different vegetables that it contains.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Canned Foods
Knowing which foods to buy is only the first step. The next step is figuring out how to properly store your food. Most canned foods have a great shelf-life. However, you can extend the shelf-life even further by storing them in a cool, dark location.
Even if you store your cans in an ideal location, it’s still important to watch out for signs of spoilage. When canned foods do spoil, the results are nothing to mess around with. Botulism – one common form of canned food spoilage – can actually lead to death. Suffice it to say that one bad can could easily ruin your entire survival plan, causing a few miserable days at best and costing you your life at worst.
To further prevent spoilage, get in the habit of rotating your food storage. For example, if a can has a shelf-life of five years and you’ve been storing it for four years, take it out and eat it now and then replace it with a fresh can. That way, you’re always keeping your stockpile fresh for when disaster strikes.
How you label your canned food is another important consideration. While the canned food you buy will likely be labeled well-enough the day it’s bought, the food inside the may very well outlast the label on the outside.
Over time, labels can fade or peel off, making it impossible to distinguish what’s inside that blank aluminum. As a backup plan, you may want to add a strip of masking tape to the top of each can and write down what’s inside it on the tape using a permanent marker, along with the date.
Lastly, be sure to add plenty of can openers to your stockpile as well. Can openers do break or stop working sometimes, so it’s a good idea to have plenty of them around. While opening a can with a knife is possible, it’s not nearly as easy as they make it out to be in the movies. If a knife is all that you have available, you’ll likely end up cutting yourself, making a big mess, or both, so do yourself a favor and keep some extra can openers tucked away.
Living off of canned foods alone is not ideal and not particularly good for your health (due to all the sodium). However, it is something you could do temporarily if necessary and it’s not nearly as unenjoyable as it might sound. While you’ll still want to supplement your canned food with fresh food every chance you get, having a stockpile of canned food to rely on can certainly keep you from going hungry.
Audrey Denecke says
Here’s a couple of items I don’t recall being listed:
* Powdered Milk
* Cocoa Powder
* Protein Powder (vegetable based w. no added sugar)
NOTE … the 3 above can be mixed into your own healthier/carnation mix … add in a little sugar for taste if urging children to drink.
NOTE … when I run out of cow’s milk or almond milk … I mix/then blend water, powdered milk, protein powder with frozen fruit banana’s and blueberries are great and healthy plus fresh spinach … and walnuts into a very energzing smoothie.
* buying powdered butter and/or eggs (in case supplied get tight)
* Oatmeal is always filling … add your favorite extras.
* Why not make quick breads … baking powder bisquits … if baking bread loaves are too daunting.
* I missed seeing lentils and other dried beans and brown rice as well.
Happee Puppee says
Old post but adding to it to help people out.
Canned tomatoes are a NO GO unless you can get them in glass jars with well sealed lids. Nothing goes bad faster in a can than tomatoes; I speak from experience. The acids in the tomato will eat away at the cans (yes, even lined ones) and your canned tomatoes will eventually swell up because they are contaminated, and you will need to throw them away (carefully).
In line with the above, any food that is acidy is going to cause similar problems. The second-worst product I’ve encountered for some reason is canned peaches. I believe they add something to help preserve the color etc.; but in any event, these cans swell up and fail nearly as often as canned tomato products do.
Canned pineapple seems to hold up better (but some cans will fail); however the taste becomes contaminated from the dissolved can lining and metal pretty rapidly in storage.
Also, DO NOT attempt to rely on the pull-top, easy-open, type of cans for your food storage. Those also fail very easily. Be sure you go with old-school cans that require a can opener. Glass jars can be an excellent choice if you can secure them against breakage and the lids are secure; and they are easy to re-use.
Rick Palmer says
At this point , this post is 21/2 years old , so l don’t know how many will be knew readers. By experience lhave found the military P38 type can opener to be a vital tool . You are absolutely right when you point out that can openers wear out or break . The P38 takes very little practice to learn to use , is sturdy inspite of its looks and will easily fit a keychain , key ring , in your wallet or even on a string . It is easily resharppened with a rock , file or sand paper . Best point of all is they are cheap .
cheryl a Branco says
You can actually bake bread over a campfire in an old fashioned cast iron dutch oven.
Ok on the cheap i think just buy 3 or 4 times what you buy for Pantry. Long term only for the rich after pantry big ass bag of rice big ass bag of beans and well like i said just pantry. Tuna if you make tuna salads or canned chicken if you like chicken salad crackers etc. Bread easy if there is power not so easy if no electric! The whole fancy shmancy freeze dried long term food is only for the elite way over priced but if you work between the rice beans and lil canned met you can eek out a year on the cheap! look at it logical just use cans and lump of the other Throw in a few giant ass bags of Jerkey to cook into rice beans! this is on the cheap Multi Vitamins etc!
Elbert Jones says
If you look on the web; You can find out how to raw pack pressure can Bacon. The canned bacon has 18 strips to a can. A 16 oz. fruit jar will hold a pound of bacon.If it’s properly canned; it can be stored as long as a can of bacon(5-10 years).
I think you must mean “vegetable medley”, not “melody”, although veggies that can hum a tune would be most entertaining I’m sure.
DM Simms says
It takes only a little extra time to proof read our writing. I learned to proofread when editing our small college veterans paper back in the 60’s. If you’re not too rushed, do it. I’m not lecturing you, but these errors weaken your writing as well as your message.
This message is not weakened by a typo. This is a minority opinion.
Vegetable melody is better known as beans.
lois Fitzgerald says
I never knew flour went rancid. Guess I never had it that long
Charleyene Popp says
Make sure to freeze your flour first that will kill any weevils in the bag. At least a couple of days.
It can but that depends.
1st thing you do is deep freeze flour for 5 days to kill off any insects/eggs.
Then place the flour in an air tight container, cool dry, no sun place.
Cole H Wilson says
Why not canned ham or ensure?
I just figured protein was covered by the bacon, beef stew, and chicken, but if you like ham, go for it. As for ensure, I didn’t think of that. Good suggestion!
Actually Carnation Breakfast Essentials is better than Ensure. I’ve done research on it and it is healthier and a bit more cost efficient.
Biagio Lobianco says
Ensure is garbage. Look at the label. No one should be drinking this crap, especially the elderly.
Cry Havoc says
Read “To fight the wild” the survival story of Rod Ansell. All the canned food he was able to salvage after his boat capsized, got wet and lost their labels. Whenever he opened a can, he didn’t know if it was carrots or canned peaches. Thus, the advice given to mark all cans with a permanent marker is very good advice.
Gary rogers says
I have a lot of survival food.Glad to hear from this all those items will caned will last long .Herd that it would but was not shur. need to here it from someone else….
why not beef canned at home instead of spam? much better taste and better for you
I agree it’s better to can foods at home. But like I said at the start of the article, this list is for people who want to dive in and get some food stockpiled quickly.
I have a better question. . .why can’t you find canned beef au jus in 5 ounce cans like you can find canned Tuna & Chicken?B
Bemused Berserker says
Walmart (not my favorite place to shop) has their Great Value Canned Meats in Chicken, Ham and Roast Beef. A 12 oz can sells between $3 – $4 in my area. It tastes OK (I’ve had better and I’ve had worse), has plenty of broth in the can to use as Au Jus. I buy both the Beef and Chicken to make a two pot meal. I shread the meat and add it to either to beef or chicken gravy poured over a huge pile of mashed potatoes. The Grandkids love it. I haven’t tried the Ham, as I avoid Pork due to it triggering Gout flare ups if I eat it very often.
I also recommend buying the Pioneer brand Gravy mixes. At a $1 a pack for 2 cups of gravy, instead of the 1 cup in McCormick or store brands at nearly the same price. Sure Homemade Gravy is better tasting, but I look for things that are easy and fast to fix when it comes to prepping supplies.
It would be nice to see a smaller can, but I haven’t ran into any so far. Hope that helps.
Careful: some Walmart Great Value items come from Wuhan China! I bought fruit cocktail
without checking the label. Disappointed, i threw it out. Don’t trust!
I’m single. How does the single person get balanced meals from canned food without spoilage? I simply cannot sit down and eat a can of corn or spinach or broccoli as a meal.
To that list I would add many fruits and especially high Vitamin C fruits like oranges, grapefruit, etc.
While not necessarily the most nutritious, Chili Mac, Beefaroni, Beef Ravioli and the like make good, one-can meals which don’t even require heating.
Bread: Learn to make Bannock. If you store Wheat Berries and have a grain grinder plus a few other ingredients, you can have bread any time you wish and adding nuts and seeds can really up the nutritional value. Pan Bread and Fry Bread are other options. YouTube is your friend.
Miss Kitty says
Prsmith I would suggest looking into so called single serving cans of veggies, pasta etc. Higher initial expense, but no waste either. That being said, if in a shtf situation, you’ll be burning calories like crazy so you’ll probably be able to finish the larger “standard” size cans no problem;). I used to get Celebrity brand canned bacon at my local Kmart, but haven’t seen it in some time, but it was excellent. If you see it do give it a try.
My solution to vitamin c and a scurvy prevention is a product called true lemon. It comes in lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit. Crystalized fruit juice. Each packet = 1 wedge. I use in water for flavor and cooking.
Or you can just learn to make bread now. Its not hard. Makeshift ovens are easy to make
Like they said, storage for the ingredients can be difficult. If any moisture at all gets into wheat or sugar, it will go bad. Plus, likely you won’t have access to electricity, and depending on the type of SHTF or location, you may not have access to, or for safety reasons be ABLE to start a fire (a requirement for any kind of cooking). Canned foods, however, can be choked down without heating requirements. These are also good ideas of foods to keep in a 72 hour kit, which is a good idea to have on hand for emergency evacuations.
I think if you ever had to actually use your stockpiled canned food you be surprised to find you can eat a can of corn or beef, even family size with no problems
Bemused Berserker says
There are single serving cans of the more common vegetables, but they’re not as cost effective as the larger cans. If you have the freezer space, put the leftovers in ziplock type bags for a second or third meal. A minute or two in the microwave and they’re ready to eat.
Have you considered making Bannock with Oat or Barley flour? That was what the Auld Scots that gave us the easy bread used. Wheat was a value crop, whereas Oats and Barley were destined for animal feed most of the time. Scots being thrifty, found recipes and ways to make use of the cheap feed. I grind my pinhead Oats and Barley in a small food processor. Pinhead or Steel Cut Oats have a much more robust flavor than Rolled Oats, as they contain the Oat germ, which is mostly lost in the rolling process. You can either mix with Wheat flour or completely replace the Wheat. I started by mixing, but now just replace the Wheat altogether as I prefer the flavor. The earliest Bannock recipes didn’t have but the flour and water. When baking powder and soda became available in the 1840’s,they were added to the recipes. Yeast cultures were difficult to keep alive in the Highlands, so flatbreads and griddle cakes were the norm for centuries.
Happee Puppee says
You can’t store even whole grains for very long; the oils in them go rancid, and very prone to infestation, vermin, fungal damage, etc. as they also do have moisture. Best approach for that is to try something like crackers or other “hard tack” that is vacuum sealed in cans. Historically, corn meal was heavily relied upon and you can store the hard corn (pre-ground) for quite a long time. Canned brown bread also keeps indefinitely because it is made with things like molasses (preservatives). The Scandanavian type breads also will last a shockingly long time; I’ve found them to last 10 years even without any special storage at all (just in their original cellophane wrappings; this is the rye and pumpernickel flat types). They also have traditional bread recipes that will keep a long time without hassles that you can make yourself.