With the ongoing food shortages, price increases, and uncertain times we’re living in, it’s important to stock up on foods that not only can last a long time on our shelves, but also provide the necessary nourishment.
In this article, we discuss how to pick the best canned foods for your emergency stockpile, and if it’s possible to survive entirely on a canned food diet.
How to choose the right canned food for long term storage
There are many different types of canned food available on the market, so it's important to choose the right ones for your needs. Here are some factors to consider when selecting the best canned food for survival:
- Shelf life: Canned foods with a longer shelf life are always better for survival situations. Choose products with a shelf life of at least 2 years.
- Nutritional value: Canned foods should be high in nutritional value, as you may not have access to other sources of food during a survival situation. Choose products that are rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
- Ease of preparation: Canned foods that can be eaten without cooking are always better for survival situations. Choose products that can be eaten straight from the can or that only require minimal preparation.
- Cost: Canned foods can be expensive, so it's important to choose products that fit your budget. However, don't sacrifice quality for cost - always choose the best canned food you can afford.
What food items to stockpile for emergencies
In an emergency situation, natural disaster, or food shortage crisis, it's important to have a good supply of non-perishable food on hand. This will help you weather the storm and keep your family fed until things return to normal.
We suggest stockpiling items like the following:
- Canned goods: soups, stews, chili, vegetables, fruits, etc.
- Freeze-dried meals
- Dried foods: rice, pasta, cereal, jerky, etc.
- High-protein foods: peanut butter, beans, canned tuna or chicken, etc.
- Dairy products (dried or canned versions): milk, cheese, etc.
- Snacks: granola bars, protein bars, nuts and seeds, dried fruit, etc.
- Water: at least 1 gallon per person per day
List of canned foods to stockpile
When it comes to food cans, there are a few that stand out as being particularly long-lasting.
1. Canned Beans
Canned beans are a great option for survival situations. They're high in protein and other nutrients that can help keep you healthy.
2. Canned Soup
Canned soup, like chicken noodle soup, is another excellent survival food. It's easy to prepare, usually requiring no more than heating, and can provide you with important nutrients.
3. Canned Fruit
Canned fruit, like pears, and peaches, provide important vitamins and minerals, as well as natural sugars that can give you a boost of energy when you need it most. I recommend getting the fruit that has "no added sugars" listed on the label.
4. Canned Vegetables
Canned vegetables, like carrots, green beans, and peas, are a great option for survival situations. They're healthy and can provide you with important nutrients.
5. Canned Meat
Canned meat products, like chicken, turkey, and ham, are a great option for survival situations. It's a great source of protein and other nutrients that can help keep you healthy.
6. Canned Milk
Canned milk, like coconut milk, is a good addition to your food storage since it can be added to other foods and provide additional calories and nutrients.
What canned foods stay good the longest
The actual shelf life of any canned food will depend on a number of factors, including the type of food, the canning method used, and how the cans are stored. Generally speaking, however, canned foods can stay good for years—even decades—when stored correctly.
Canned food has an average shelf life of two to five years from the date of production.
Canned meat and vegetables can last for 1-2 years, while canned fruits can last for 2-3 years. With proper storage, however, some canned foods can last even longer.
With proper storage, canned food can be a great way to have long-lasting emergency supplies.
How to store canned food properly (optimal storage conditions)
Canned foods are a great way to have access to a variety of fruits, vegetables, and proteins without having to worry about them going bad. However, if not stored properly, they can spoil quickly and become unsafe to eat.
Here are some tips on how to store canned food properly so that it remains fresh and safe to consume.
- Store canned food in a dry, cool place.
- Avoid storing canned food in direct sunlight or near heat sources. Ideally, the cans should be stored in a dark place. Heat and light can cause the cans to degrade, which can affect the flavor and nutrition of the food inside.
- Do not store canned food near chemicals or cleaners.
- Check the expiration date on canned food before purchasing and consuming it. While this isn't a guarantee of how long the food will stay good, it's a good indicator of how long the nutritional value will be retained.
- Inspect the can before opening it.
- If you notice any signs of spoilage (e.g., bulging cans, leaking contents, off-odors), do not consume the food and dispose of it properly.
- If there are any dents or signs of corrosion (rust), the food inside may not be safe to eat.
- Do not taste canned food that is spoiled or leaking, even if it smells fine.
- When opening canned food, be careful of sharp edges on the can lid and use a can opener that does not touch the food itself.
- Transfer canned food to a clean, covered container and refrigerate if you do not plan to consume it within that day.
- If you have any questions about the safety of canned food, contact your local health department or the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854).
- Check the label for a "use by" or "sell by" date. Canned food is generally safe to eat after the "use by" or "sell by" date, but it may not be at its best in terms of nutritional value and flavor.
- Rotate your stock so that you are using the oldest cans first.
- If you are unsure of the quality of your canned food, do not eat it.
Signs of spoilage and botulism poisoning
Canned food spoilage can occur when the canning process is not done correctly, allowing bacteria to enter the food. Botulism poisoning can occur when canned food is improperly canned or stored, and the bacteria Clostridium botulinum grows and produces a toxin.
There are several signs that canned food has spoiled, including:
- The can is dented, swollen, bulging lids, or leaking.
- The food inside the can is discolored, has an off-odor, or there is foam on the top.
- The can feels excessively warm to the touch.
If you suspect that canned food has spoiled, do not open the can or taste the food.
Botulism poisoning can cause serious illnesses, including difficulty breathing, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, paralysis, and in extreme cases death. If you experience any of these symptoms after eating canned food, seek medical attention immediately.
To avoid the risk of spoilage or botulism poisoning, store your cans in the optimal conditions (as stated above) and inspect them before opening and eating. If you have canned food and are unsure if it has spoiled, contact your local health department for guidance.
Canned fruits, vegetables, and beans are all good options to have on hand during emergency situations since they’re great for meeting basic needs. Canned soups and stews can also be helpful, as they can provide a warm meal in a pinch.
In any case, single cans may not always be a good choice if that’s the only item type in your emergency food supply. If you're going to be storing food for more than a year or two, you might want to consider other food source options, such as dehydrated or freeze-dried meals.
These methods can help to preserve the food for even longer periods of time.
One of the other best options would be to grow your own fruits and vegetables at home.
What food never expires?
There are a variety of foods that never go bad and can be eaten indefinitely. These include honey, salt, and sugar. Other non-perishable foods include rice, beans, and certain dried fruits. Most of these foods can last for years without spoilage or loss of quality.
- Honey is a natural sweetener that has been used for centuries. It is made by bees from the nectar of flowers and has high sugar content. Honey can crystalize but never goes bad and can be stored indefinitely.
- Salt is another food that has a long shelf life. It is a necessary ingredient in many dishes and can be used to preserve food. Salt does not go bad, but it can lose its flavor over time.
- Sugar is a common ingredient in many foods and can be used to sweeten food. Sugar does not go bad, but it can harden and become crystallized over time.
- Rice is a staple food in many cultures and is very versatile. It can be cooked in many different ways and has a long shelf life. Neither white rice nor brown rice goes bad but still requires proper storage for retaining its consistency and proper nutritional value.
- Nuts are a healthy snack and can be used in many recipes. They have a long shelf-life but can become rancid over time.
- Dried fruits are a healthy snack and can be used in many recipes. Dried fruits do not go bad, but they can become hard and chewy if they are not stored properly.
- Dry beans and lentils provide a good source of protein, calories, and high nutritional content.
- Spices are a common ingredient in many recipes and can add flavor to food. Spices do not go bad, but they can lose their flavor over time.
- Vinegar is a common ingredient in many recipes and can add flavor to food. Vinegar can become less potent over time.
- Alcohol is a versatile ingredient. Alcohol does not go bad, but it can evaporate over time if improperly stored.
- Tea and coffee.
While some foods will never go bad, others will lose their potency over time. It is important to know how long food will last so you can make sure you are getting the most out of your emergency food supplies.
Frequently asked questions:
Can you survive off of canned food?
According to Medical News Today, “a person needs to consume all six types of essential nutrients to ensure the best possible health.
The six essential nutrients are vitamins, minerals, protein, fats, water, and carbohydrates. These nutrients support vital functions, including growth, the immune, the central nervous system, and preventing disease. Typically, a person who eats a healthful, balanced diet that includes lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, complex carbohydrates, and water will get the nutrients they need.”
While fresh foods are generally ideal, we know that during emergencies, natural disasters, and periods of recession, our food supply can be disrupted and/or limited. To prepare for such events, canned food may be the next best thing.
In dire circumstances, you could eat mostly canned food. However, it is important to remember this alone may not provide you with a nutritionally complete diet. You may need to supplement your meals with other foods in order to get all the nutrients your body needs.
In order to survive on canned food alone, you would need to eat an estimated 2,200 calories per day. This would require consuming around six to seven cans of food per day, depending on the size and calorie content of the cans. While this may be possible in the short term, it is not a sustainable or healthy long-term solution.
Canned foods contain chemical ingredients that are not healthy when consumed in excess or for prolonged periods of time. Some of these include calcium chloride, citric acid, sucralose, and soy.
A diet centered on canned goods with high sodium content, for instance, can result in heart disease, high blood pressure, calcium loss, and stroke. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the CDC recommends that “Americans consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day as part of a healthy eating pattern.”
Another thing to keep in mind is that canned goods are packaged in metal cans, generally steel or aluminum. According to Eat This, Not That, “food and drinks packaged in metal cans are known to contain traces of the dreaded bisphenol A, better known as BPA. This chemical compound is a known endocrine disruptor which has been linked to fetal abnormalities, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and even cancer in humans.”
In short, while canned goods might be a life-saver item during a crisis scenario, it’s not recommended that they be relied upon as the only source of food in the long term.
If you are stuck in a situation where you must rely on canned food, be sure to supplement your diet with other non-perishable items like nuts, seeds, and dried fruit to ensure you're getting all the nutrients your body needs.
What 3 foods can you survive on?
There are three foods that you can survive on if you had to: beans, rice, and lentils. These are all high in protein and will give you the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy.
If you can find a way to add some vegetables to these meals, it will make them even more nutritious, make the experience a much more pleasant one, and help you stay alive longer.
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