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Best Canned Food for Survival | 2023 Definitive Guide

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The best-canned food for survival situations is that which makes you the healthiest and, hopefully, tastes good, too. Read on to learn about the food canning process, how it affects the nutritional content of the foods getting canned, and which foods are best for stockpiling in your emergency food supply.

We shall make this an informative and tasty experience!

Ready?

Then let us begin!

What Are the Best Canned Foods for Survival?

A variety often works best. Mixed canned soups, beans, meats, fruits, and vegetables are all excellent survival items. Also, consider your everyday eating habits. What do you enjoy eating regularly? These food items usually make the best-canned foods for survival. That way – you can rotate your canned rations and never worry about can spoilage.

(Canned foods are usually good indefinitely if the can is undamaged. However, we still rotate our canned rations to keep our inventory fresh.)

There are also a ton of canned food nuances to contemplate when building your supply.

Consider the following.

food storage with jarred and canned beans rice pasta nuts and seeds
Canned fruit, corn, meat, carrots, soup, and veggies are some of the best-canned foods for survival. Just about any canned food will last for many years (arguably indefinitely) as long as the can is in good shape. Severely old canned foods may lose color or taste – but undamaged canned foods are almost always safe to eat. That’s good to know – because, in emergencies, we can’t afford to be picky eaters! That’s also why we advise against buying dented cans. Always double-check your cans to ensure they are in pristine condition! Food within dented, rusted, or swollen cans is unsafe to eat. (Remember that bulging and leaky cans can lead to botulism – your greatest danger when eating damaged canned foods. So if the can is damaged? Chuck it out!)

Commercially Canned Foods vs. Home Canned Foods

Foods canned in a factory differ from those you jar (or can) yourself at home. Foods canned in a factory often get prepared inside metal containers, at least in most cases, not in the glass Mason jars you use at home.

At least to me, that makes a difference – because I know that glass is an inert substance that adds nothing to my canned foods. Metal cans, not so much. To me, it makes more intuitive sense to use glass for canning.

Plus, canning your foods at home allows you to control the quality of the foods. Because, in many cases, you preserve what you grew in your backyard garden. So, of course, you’re sure whether harmful chemicals exist in your foods – like pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers.

But when you buy canned foods? All bets are off. They often get crammed with synthetic chemicals, preservatives, and bucketloads of salt. And sugar.

YUCK!

(We are not saying canned foods are bad. We still eat them and value the nutrients they provide. In many cases, they are fine. That said – we almost always prefer canning our supply ourselves.)

colorful canned veggies including peas corn and tomatoes
Food security is a big deal for us since recent times have been tough for homesteaders. The high cost of fresh produce is spiraling out of control in many parts of the world. Over the last few months, we’ve read about food insecurity in Great BritainNorth TexasWestern Massachusetts, and other locations. One shocking article even declares that one in four LA residents suffers from food insecurity. (Others propose food shortages will continue unless Congress acts.) That’s why we encourage our fellow homesteaders to have at least a three-month supply of canned foods and rotatable pantry items like fresh milk and grains. Canned foods are cheap. And they last for a long time. We’re not saying to stockpile food – or to panic about food shortages. But it feels good having a three-month emergency food supply for your family. Just in case!

Nutrition and Survival

Very importantly, canning your foods, whether you grow them in your organic garden, or buy them at the grocery store, allows you to control how hot the food gets during the canning process. And how long it remains at that hot temperature.

Fresh, raw foods should (generally) only get heated as little as possible and remain at that temp for as little time as possible. These temperature controls ensure that all pathogens get eliminated.

Heating the foods for longer than needed to kill the microbes that need destroying for safety unnecessarily diminishes the nutritional content of the food.

In other words – I’ll say it like this:

  • More Heat = Less Nutritional Value

Heat degrades nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients (plant nutrients).

Raw foods are at their peak nutritional levels. And, therefore, are the best survival food choices.

Add in the fact that your body and brain have different nutritional needs during emergencies than during periods of calm, and it’s clear that less cooking is better.

So, it’s important to think about each survival food’s content:

  • Complex carbohydrates
  • Vitamins and minerals
  • Biological protein
  • Healthy fats
  • Calories

Now, we should look at a few other variables affecting the nutritional quality of canned foods you might choose to stock away for a power outage, flood, earthquake, hurricane, or any emergency scenario in uncertain times.

crystal clear water pouring out of pipe tube well
You might have a year’s worth of canned foods for survival. But do you have enough water? Water is the first thing you’ll need during an emergency survival situation – and you’ll probably run out much faster than you think. The CDC recommends having at least one gallon per person per day. It’s easy to believe that’s too much water – but it goes fast! Consider you’ll need a fresh-water supply for hygiene and drinking. And if you have pets or farmyard animals? Then the demand is even higher! (We know that many tap water systems aren’t reliable in many parts of the world. That’s why we published an excellent guide teaching how to dechlorinate water. We also share a ton of tips on how to increase water security.)

Plastic-Lined Cans

Some canned food manufacturers use plastic-lined cans during production. The plastic lining helps to ensure an impressive shelf-life. Some of those plastic liners contain a dangerous chemical called Bisphenol A (BPA).

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), “Bisphenol A can leach into food from the protective internal epoxy resin coatings of canned foods and consumer products such as polycarbonate tableware, food storage containers, water bottles, and baby bottles.”

FYI, BPA links to various health challenges – including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, infertility, and obesity, just for starters.

Again, less is better. Nobody wants more harmful chemicals unless they’re insane!

So, be sure to look for canned foods without liners that contain dangerous chemicals like BPA.

Presto 23-Quart Induction Compatible Pressure Canner
$175.99 $137.72 ($137.72 / Count)

The Presto canner is perfect for home pressure canning with its extra-large 23-quart capacity. It has a deluxe pressure gauge that registers the complete range of processing pressures, which is especially important at higher altitudes.

This canner works on induction, gas, electric, and smooth-top ranges. I use mine on a gas stove, and it is brilliant! I can use it with or without power, which is a huge plus.

You can use it as a pressure canner and a boiling water canner for your jellies, pickles, and other water bath preserves.


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02/14/2024 02:03 pm GMT

Preservatives

The entire purpose of canning foods is to preserve them. When fresh foods get canned correctly, there should be no need for further preservation efforts.

However, many canned food products DO contain preservatives, colorants, artificial flavor enhancers, and other chemicals that you don’t want and shouldn’t need in your foods.

So, read ingredient lists before purchasing. Avoid foods with labeled ingredients like:

  • Lactic acid
  • Nitrates & nitrites
  • Sorbic acid & sodium sorbate
  • Sulfur dioxide & other sulfites
  • Benzoic acid & sodium benzoate

The good news is that there are numerous responsible canned food manufacturers. They care enough to avoid using these and other preserving chemicals. So, look for their products.

Canning is the only preservation that food should need. With proper canning, there should be no need for chemical preservatives. That’s the whole point!

Read More!

Organics

Nobody likes artificial ingredients. Consuming organic foods and beverages is vital to me. Non-selective herbicides like glyphosate, banned in many countries, are linked to adverse human health effects, including cancer.

No thanks!

I recommend canning organic plants and meats yourself. If you aren’t in that position yet, purchase organic foods for canning. To me, it’s a no-brainer that many more people should take more seriously than they currently do.

Let’s also jump into some of the healthiest and best food for your emergency survival stockpile.

DELICIOUS!

Best Canned Foods for Your Emergency Stockpile

The “best” factory-canned foods for your emergency stockpile, in my opinion, are the ones that will help you to sustain immunity, think clearer, maintain energy, and preserve your muscle mass.

And, far less importantly, they should be what “tastes good,” in your opinion.

In survival situations, we can’t be too concerned about enjoying the culinary exquisiteness of what we eat. We must, instead, consume what keeps us alive to survive another day.

Remember, the goal is to come out of a survival situation to thrive – not to forever remain in survival mode.

Therefore, picky eaters are not ideal partners in survival scenarios.

So, based on the above stipulations, I present my list of the best-canned foods for survival.

Here we go!

Tuna & Other Canned Seafood

yummy canned tuna fish fillet in olive oil
We love canned tuna fish, sardines, and salmon. We also confess – canned fish isn’t nearly as satiating and delicious as fresh, locally-caught fish. However, many health experts agree that canned fish is nearly nutritionally equivalent to fresh fish. Canned tuna contains boatloads of omega-3 fatty acids – which is healthy for the heart. It also has tons of protein, selenium, and Vitamin D. We also found a terrific tuna fish salad recipe we invite you to try. It contains lemon juice, Dijon mustard, chopped carrots, and finely chopped celery. It’s perfect for enhancing a healthy garden salad or making a yummy sandwich roll-up.

Seafood contains loads of healthy fats like Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins like B6 (pyridoxine) and B12 (cobalamin), and minerals including potassium, selenium, and zinc.

I don’t eat genetically modified (GMO) seafood, or any other foods, at least not if I have a choice. Always look for natural seafood, not something raised on fish farms.

Consider options like wild-caught:

All of these types of seafood are available canned. And if you visit an Oriental market, you can easily find even more healthy and tasty choices!

Canned Meat Products for Survival

open cans of colorful canned corn peas and meat
Canned meat is another excellent shelf-stable protein – and not only for emergencies! We eat canned spam and corned beef hash for breakfast alongside some farm-fresh or backyard chicken eggs. Serve with fresh fruits and whole wheat toast and butter. It’s a hearty way to start the day. Also – did you know that Napoleon Bonaparte played a significant role in discovering how to can meat? He put a bounty of 12,000 French Francs to anyone who could devise a suitable food preservation method. (A French chef named Nicolas Appert answered Bonaparte’s calling. Nicolas is famous for his meat and poultry preservation methods. He invented an early canning technique using corked glass bottles – which he used to preserve fruits, veggies, dairy, marmalades, soups, and more.)

Canned fresh meat is a good source of protein. Protein matters as it preserves muscle mass and provides tons of energy. And, importantly, it offers most of us a solid sense of satiation, which can be very comforting during a real-life survival situation.

Commercially-canned bacon, roast beef, chunk chicken breast, deviled ham, turkey, and even SPAM are excellent additions to your emergency food stockpile.

Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, and Yams

rinsed potatoes from the can ready to cook and eat
Here’s a yummy way to upgrade your canned chicken. Add a small dash of mashed potatoes! Potatoes are near the top of our list of the best-canned foods for emergencies. Sweet potatoes and yams provide vitamins, minerals, and energy. And they’re easy to prepare. We don’t think canned potatoes taste nearly as good as fresh potatoes. But – we found a mouth-watering potato and corn skillet stirfry recipe that’s perfect for a satisfying dinner – as long as you have reliable heat sources for cooking. Potatoes are also an affordable source of Vitamin C, fiber, and potassium. (Vitamin C helps prevent scurvy – something all homesteaders should try avoiding!)

Regular potatoes rule. But there’s nothing quite like the sweet deliciousness of yams and sweet potatoes! WebMD reports that sweet potatoes are an excellent source of fiber and are packed full of nutrients like:

  • Vitamin C
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Zinc

In clinical trials, the nutrient content in sweet potatoes and yams are healthy foods associated with vitality-enhancing benefits concerning cancer, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and macular degeneration, to name a few.

Canned Juices

bright red strawberry juice in a jar with ice
Many sources cite that you need at least one daily gallon of water per person for survival. But we found a reliable source that advises you need even more – up to two and a half gallons of water per person! (They include dishwashing and teeth brushing in their calculation – which will increase the water quantities required.) Regardless, fruit juices are an excellent way to make your daily water requirements far more stimulating – and delicious. On the downside, fruit juices are tremendously acidic. The high acid content leads to an increased rate of can corrosion, decreased flavor, and degraded nutrients.

When fresh-squeezed juice gets preserved by canning at the peak of ripeness, it’s an excellent, easily assimilable source of nutrition. Apple, beet, carrot, strawberry, cherry, cranberry, grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange, pineapple, pomegranate, prune, and tomato juice make great additions to your emergency food storage.

Canned Fruits

colorful fruit cocktail from the can resting on burlap cloth
Everyone loves fresh fruits. But we may have to settle for canned fruits in our survival kit. Not ideal – but we find that canned fruit is surprisingly tasty – especially during an emergency when yummy food sources are likely scarce. Canning fresh fruit you grow in your backyard is relatively straightforward. But if you buy canned fruits from the store – watch the label! Lots of commercially canned fruit get crammed with sugar-laden syrups and excess salts. Look for store-bought canned fruit with natural juice, reduced sodium, and no-sodium-added.

Fruits aren’t just for drinking! You can find whole citrus fruits and other fruit varieties available in cans. Just be sure to look for non-GMO, organic fruits in non-BPA-lined cans. (And, try to find some with less sugar. Canned fruits tend to have loads of syrup and sugar. They might taste heavenly – but are not the best for you.)

Canned Soups

bean and vegetable soup from the can
Homemade soups are our favorite way to use our fresh vegetables from the garden – even store-bought soups aren’t that bad. And did you know that frequent soup eaters usually have a healthier diet with less fat and more fiber? And that’s only one reason we think soup is one of the best-canned foods for survival. Soups are insanely easy to cook and prepare. It makes a great survival food. All you need is a heat source and a bowl – or cup. Soups also come in a massive variety of flavors – so you can satisfy even the pickiest eaters in your group. Tomato soup, cream of broccoli chicken noodle, New England clam chowder, and beef and broccoli are some of our favorites. When browsing soups at your favorite store – ensure they have low sodium. And remember – that the soup’s nutritional label often includes two servings – which can be a sneaky way of hiding salt and sugar content.

Some canned soups are ready to eat from the can – and some are condensed and require water. You can use purified water. Or even water mixed with powdered milk to prepare numerous canned soups. Again, look for options with natural organic ingredients. And no preservatives or other unnecessary additives. Everyone loves chicken noodle soup!

Canned Beans

colorful and plump beans in a black bowl
Canned beans are the perfect protein and fiber source during a survival situation. You can also upgrade canned baked beans with a few ingredients like bacon, onions, and chili peppers. Here’s an excellent better-baked beans recipe that shows how. (We usually rotate our canned beans every year or so. There are tons of good bean recipes, so eating them is easy. Here is another epic baked beans recipe – this one is vegetarian-friendly. It makes canned baked beans you buy in the store ten times tastier.) Also – a small dash of cheddar cheese and sour cream goes a long way to liven up this dish.

There are loads of high-fiber, essential protein-rich, low-or-no-fat content, nutrient-filled beans to consider adding to your emergency food stockpile, including:

  • Baked beans
  • Black beans
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • Cannellini beans
  • Great Northern beans
  • Green beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Lima beans
  • Navy beans
  • Pinto beans

And don’t forget about adzuki beans, fava beans, mung beans, and young soybeans called edamame. They’re all excellent protein and fiber sources. And they’re healthy, versatile, convenient, and delicious!

(We love them all!)

Tomatoes

open can of chopped tomatoes with garden tomatoes on the side
Our list of the best-canned foods for survival would be remiss without tomatoes. Canned tomatoes are perfect for homemade lasagna, salsa, and pizza. Tomatoes can also immediately improve nearly any rice-or-pasta-based dish. One of the only downsides is that canned tomatoes need a reliable heating source for the best taste. For our homesteading friends who do lots of DIY canning – the science of canning tomatoes at home is also slightly tricky. We found an excellent and recently-updated tomato home canning guide from the PennState Extension that demystifies the process.

Of course, tomatoes are some of the most versatile canned vegetables in the world. They’re the key ingredients of tomato sauces, salsa, pastes, soups, and vegetable medleys. It’s always wise to keep at least a few cans of organic, non-GMO tomatoes in your emergency food kit.

Smart Tips for Storing Canned Foods

Regardless of the type of food, the best place for proper storage of your emergency food supply will be:

  • Dry
  • Cool
  • Dark

Always use your canned foods according to the most proximal expiration dates first. The common term for this technique is FIFO (First In, First Out). It makes sense, right?

Our Favorite Canned Food for Survival – Top Picks

We’ve been researching our favorite canned food for survival. We recommend searching your local BJs, Costo, and grocery market for the best deals possible. We also searched Amazon for the best deals on canned foods. Here are some of our favorites.

  1. Matiz Sardines Variety Pack, Wild Caught Spanish Waters 10 Tins.
    $42.99 ($16.38 / lb)

    Here's the ultimate seafood bundle pack to kickstart your canned food supply. It contains a trove of healthy wild-caught GMO-free sardines in seasonings like olive oil, sweet piquillo pepper, spicy Piri Piri pepper, and lemon essence. We love Matiz because the seafood is 100% naturally caught in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean near Spain. Try snacking on them atop a cracker, in a fresh garden salad, or for an emergency survival snack.

    Get More Info

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    02/15/2024 10:08 am GMT
  2. Happy Belly Dark Red Kidney Beans | 15 Ounce | Amazon Brand
    $1.09 ($0.07 / Ounce)

    Dark red kidney beans are perfect for survival. Each serving from this canister crams an incredible seven grams of fiber and seven protein grams. Even more impressive is that each kidney bean canister contains three servings! (21 fiber grams and 21 protein grams total.) The cost is also tremendously low - and we believe it's one of the cheapest fiber and protein sources for long-term storage.

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    02/14/2024 01:48 pm GMT
  3. No Sugar Added Fruit Cocktail | 14.5 oz. | 12 Pack | DEL MONTE
    $31.08 ($0.18 / Ounce)

    Here's some yummy fruit cocktail from Del Monte with no extra sugar added. Fruits include pineapple, cherries, grapes, pears, and peaches. These are the best-canned foods in an emergency or during busy work nights because they're flavorful, easy to eat, and provide tons of energy. The fruit is also natural and non-GMO.

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    02/14/2024 01:42 pm GMT
  4. SPAM | 25% Less Sodium
    $33.87 $29.97 ($0.21 / Ounce)

    Spam is another canned meat staple perfect for survival. If you have a frying pan and a fire, you have breakfast. Add a few fried eggs into the mix for a powerful energy and protein-packed meal. We also love how spam cans have the famous pull tab - so you can open them in a pinch without a can opener. These cans are also low-sodium.

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    02/14/2024 01:42 pm GMT
  5. Beef Pot Roast With Country Vegetables Soup | 18.5 oz. | 12 Pack | Progresso
    $26.16 ($0.12 / Ounce)

    During an emergency, it's tough to beat canned soup for a quick and satisfying meal. These beef and pot roast soups with country vegetables from Progresso are some of our personal favorites. Progresso also has a ton of other tasty flavors - like beef barley vegetable, hearty chicken pot pie, creamy chicken with broccoli, Italian sausage with potato - plus a ton more.

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    02/14/2024 01:42 pm GMT
  6. Happy Belly Mixed Vegetables | 15 oz. | Amazon Brand

    Vegetable medleys can help upgrade any meal during an emergency. And these are some of the most trustworthy and affordable canned veggies we found. Each canister gets packed with carrots, corn, green beans, lima beans, and assorted peas. The reviews are mostly excellent - which is somewhat surprising considering the low cost.

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  7. Chicken & Dumplings Made with White & Dark Chicken Meat | 10.5 oz. | 12 Pack | Progresso
    $20.64 ($0.16 / Ounce)

    Here's one of the best-tasting canned foods on our list. Swanson chicken dumplings! The cans contain spaetzle, chicken stock, and white and dark-meat chicken. And you don't need extra water to prepare - you only need to add it to the stovetop and heat. We also love how each canister has 13 grams of protein - and the chicken meat has no antibiotics.

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    02/14/2024 01:48 pm GMT

Final Thoughts about the Best Canned Foods for Survival

Commercially canned survival food options are not my first choices. However, they’re convenient, cheap foods. And they’re generally safe and versatile. Plus, they have tremendously long shelf lives.

So, cans of food belong in your emergency supply of food.

However, in my experience, various other high-energy and healthy foods are equally or more valuable during a future emergency, including the following.

  • Packaged foods like brown rice & pasta
  • Non-perishable pasteurized milk
  • Canned coconut milk & olive oil
  • Corned beef hash & beef stew
  • Air-dried & freeze-dried foods
  • Cold & hot breakfast cereals
  • Powdered milk & eggs
  • Dried herbs & spices
  • Root vegetables
  • Dark chocolate
  • Pasta sauces
  • Peanut butter
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Frozen foods
  • Protein bars
  • Dry beans
  • Fruit bars
  • Trail mix
  • Cheese
  • Honey

So don’t only store canned foods for survival. Also, stock other pantry items. (And rotate your stock as best you can!)

And, of course, it’s wise to include comfort foods, like cookies and candies, in your emergency kit – because everyone needs a little comfort now and then, especially during a flood, fire, or even a zombie apocalypse!

And salt, pepper, and other condiments help to make your other emergency foods taste better. Of course, every canned food item on your emergency food list should get considered for size and weight, but condiments are always welcome.

Also – don’t forget eating utensils, cups and glasses, candles and candle warmers, trash bags, a couple of can openers (in case one gets damaged), and, critically, a hot plate, charcoal grill, or something else to cook on.

Also, an overstocked supply of purified water is integral to happy survival. I like to purify my water with a reverse osmosis (RO) unit. Then I store it in tightly sealed Mason jars or other glass containers. Remember that a gallon of water goes quickly, so stock many – and avoid bottled water, if possible!

It should go without saying that a good stock of coffee and your favorite teas are also crucial for enduring a survival scenario with at least some degree of comfort. Always keep some of both in your survival food stash.

And I’ll say it once again. A bottle of high-quality vodka, gin, whiskey, or other hard liquor is worth more than gold for any survival stockpile. You might think I’m kidding, but you’ll think of me later!

Thanks again for reading.

And have a great day!

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