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10 Best Canned Foods for Survival

Eating fresh foods is great, but unless you have a fully equipped and functional kitchen at your disposal, canned foods are a more convenient option. Due to their convenience, having canned foods for survival is a must.

Canned foods are an excellent supply of food if you’re camping, hiking, backpacking, or indulging in any other adventures. They are also crucial for emergency situations because they are amongst the best shelf-stable foods around.

A variety of canned meats, beans, vegetables, and fruits are some of the best canned foods for survival
A variety of canned meats, beans, vegetables, and fruits are some of the best canned foods for survival

Canned foods were developed as early as the late 18th century. The process ensured that soldiers had a supply of non-perishable foods as part of their emergency supplies, known as ‘Meals Ready to Eat’.

Though frozen foods are equally coveted, they have a shorter shelf life. Canned foods are an excellent source of quick and convenient nutrition, with longer shelf lives.

Canning involves three main steps:

  • Processing – this includes peeling, slicing, chopping, pitting, boning, and preparing the ingredients of common foods
  • Sealing – the food is sealed in cans once it is processed
  • Heating – the sealed cans are heated to kill bacteria and avoid the risk of spoilage

If you’re looking to stock up on emergency food supplies for a future emergency situation, canned foods are an affordable source of nutrition. Their high nutritional content is ideal for the average adult.

If you’re looking to depend on canned foods as your emergency food supply, here are the ten best canned foods for survival you should add to your food stash!

Best Canned Foods For Survival

Whether it’s preparation for a natural disaster (wherein you will need earthquake or hurricane food supply), an adventure expedition or you simply want to stock up the pantry of your mountain house, canned survival food is an excellent staple to have around. You never know when you might need it!

Canned foods have an impressive shelf life and are highly recommended for long-term storage.

The following canned food options are the perfect addition to your long-term food storage supply list for your survival kits.

Canned Soups

Chicken noodle soup in can
Chicken noodle soup in a can

Canned soups are extremely easy and convenient to make, and they taste delicious! From chicken noodle soup to vegetable soup – there are endless options to choose from when it comes to this versatile meal.

If you have condensed canned soup, you can add bottled water or any source of clean drinking water to cook it. For a creamier texture, you can also add fresh milk. This includes canned coconut milk or powdered milk.

Soup is a type of food you can indulge in wherever you are. Whether you just need a quick, low-effort snack for a boost of energy, or you need some warmth on a cold night, soup is one of the ideal comfort foods for all kinds of survival situations.

Though not the best fuel option for vigorous exertions such as hikes, canned soups are great to have in your pantry for emergencies or when you go camping.

Canned Vegetables

A common misconception is that fresh vegetables are better than canned vegetables in terms of flavor and nutrients. However, canned vegetables are often picked when they’re at their freshest. They can be just as beneficial as fresh vegetables because the method of food preservation used when canning retains a lot of nutrients.

This means that if you’re in a situation where fresh produce might be hard to come by, or you do not have access to refrigerated foods, canned vegetables can be viable options.

Canned tomatoes and diced tomatoes are extremely useful—you can make multiple dishes using just tomato sauce. They should definitely be a part of your canned food list.

Canned Meat and Meat Products

You may not always have access to fresh meat, and things like canned bacon can be excellent sources of protein in such a situation. Protein bars are good options too, but canned meat products are better as they are more filling and usually contain more grams of protein.

Canned meat is surprisingly versatile, and you can use it to make several dishes:

  • Meat salads
  • Soups
  • Pasta
  • Pot pies
  • Eggs with toppings
  • Tacos, burritos, quesadillas
  • Mix with rice

You can also eat canned food cold and straight out of the can in a dire situation if you have pre-cooked meats. Canned meats definitely belong in your emergency food kit, whether it’s your pantry or your backpack.

Canned Poultry

Poultry such as canned chicken retains their nutrients and fat content throughout the canning process. This means that you get all the essential protein and nutrition from canned poultry, such as turkey, duck, or chicken, without having to worry about storage and spoilage.

There are two ways that meat is preserved for canning:

  • Raw pack – the raw chicken is put into a jar and processed
  • Hot pack – the chicken is cooked a little and added to a jar with some liquid before processing.

There are endless recipes you can make from canned chicken. You can make them taste amazing, as though you spent the entire day prepping and marinating them.

These make an amazing emergency meal as the option are endless:

  • Chicken salads
  • Chicken rolls
  • Chicken fried rice
  • Chicken soup
  • Chicken wraps

Having canned chunk chicken breast around can be extremely helpful in emergencies, but you don’t just need it for survival. Canned chicken is useful for everyday situations; for example, you may not feel like cooking dinner one evening but still need a healthy dose of protein.

Canned Seafood

Canned seafood is an excellent source of proteins and omega-3 fatty acids, making it just as healthy as its fresh counterparts. In the case of canned fish like red and pink salmon, it was found that there are more omega-3 fatty acids in the canned versions as compared to fresh ones.

It’s also interesting to note that canned whole fish can provide high amounts of calcium as canning helps to soften the bones.

Canned seafood can be eaten straight out of the can, which is highly convenient in emergency situations. You can also use it to make simple recipes such as salad and sandwiches.

Pancake Mixes

Pancake mixes are among the best options for emergency foods. Not just from a survival point of view, but even during one of those days where you’re really hungry but lack the energy to go for a grocery run.

These delicious treats are lifesavers in every pantry. The sugar contents in pancake mixes can provide a fair share of energy, and they’re also so tasty! The best part is that these mixes are extremely versatile, and you can use them for more than just pancakes. They work beautifully for crepes, waffles, muffins, and even cookies.

If you have dietary restrictions such as a gluten allergy, pancakes may not be for you. But if you can handle flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, milk, and butter, pancake mixes should be a part of your emergency food kit. You can drizzle dark chocolate over them for a quick, delicious, and nutritious meal.


Canned cereal lasts much longer than traditionally packed cereal. In some instances, it’s even known to have a 25-year shelf life!

Canned cereal is easy to prepare, and can give you enough energy to go about your business efficiently. You can have canned cereal as a dry, crunchy snack, or enjoy it the traditional way with some milk as hot breakfast cereals. The artificial flavors used to enhance the cereal are also great for the taste buds in case of a gloomy, difficult day.

Baked Beans

Green beans in a traditional process of canning
Green beans in a traditional process of canning

You can enjoy many different types of canned beans:

  • Green beans
  • Black beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Dry beans

These healthy foods are tasty and easy to consume, and extremely rich in nutrients to help you avoid appetite fatigue.

You can make many kinds of simple and elaborate recipes with canned beans:

  • Bean salad
  • Bean chili
  • Beans and rice
  • Soup
  • Beans and eggs

Depending on your preferences, you can enjoy canned beans with little to no effort. You can eat them plain in a pinch or heat them up with some basic seasonings for a hearty and filling meal.

Canned Rice

There might be a situation where you cannot make traditional, uncanned rice. In such cases, canned rice is an excellent alternative that does the job with little effort on your part.

Rice is excellent for survival situations as it is rich in carbohydrates and can be stored for long periods. It is also dense in calories in proportion to the amount of storage space it requires.

No ingredient is more versatile than rice, especially in a survival situation. You can make rice cakes, fried rice, rice and beans, rice and meat, and many more. There are endless ways in which you can enjoy a hearty meal of canned rice—all you need is a gallon of water and some seasoning. Remember that brown rice does not last as long as white rice does.

Canned Fruits

Many people assume that canned fruits do not have the same vitamins as fresh fruits. But the truth is, canned versions actually retain their vitamin content even when stored for a long time.

Citrus fruits are especially beneficial for survival situations as they are an excellent source of fiber and extremely high in nutrition value. These high-energy foods can help when you need a quick pick-me-up. They are perfect for all kinds of survival situations, from hiking expeditions to emergency disaster supplies in your pantry.

FAQ: How Much Canned Food Do You Need To Survive?

With the advanced canning technologies used today in terms of sanitation and variety, it is indeed possible to survive on canned food alone.

Whether you’re working on a survival stockpile with emergency food resources for disaster relief or packing for an adventurous expedition, canned food is a cheap source of valuable nutrition. It provides an effective way to maximize calories per dollar, enabling you to get more for your money.

Knowing how much canned food to stock up on can help you avoid a dire situation. It is always better to have excess than fall short, especially in matters of survival. The average person requires about 2000 to 2500 calories per day to maintain their weight. Though the exact amount depends on age, height, activity levels, and metabolism, this is a fair ballpark to keep in mind when stocking up on food.

According to the Canned Food Alliance, the average adult needs two cans of food per day for survival.

Is Canned Food Bad for Your Health?

Despite how convenient and efficient canned foods are, they have a reputation for being bad for your health. This may be because people assume they contain artificial ingredients.

So, is canned food bad for your health?

The main reason canned food might have harmful effects is that it can contain BPA and lead. Bisphenol-A, or BPA, is a toxic substance recently discovered in the lining of tin cans. It helps limit corrosion and acts as a barrier for metal particles penetrating the food. BPA is also found in all kinds of plastic containers and hygiene products.

BPA can affect hormone levels, increase the risk of developing prostate and breast cancer, and may cause infertility. Look for a ‘BPA free’ label when purchasing canned food.

Another detrimental aspect of canned food is that the lead used in the containers causes the canned food to have abnormal lead content. This could lead to lead poisoning, which is very harmful. Fortunately, the use of lead-soldered cans was stopped in 1991, and the Food and Drug Administration officially banned them in 1995.

What you do need to keep an eye out for is the amount of sodium and sugar. Consuming too much canned food with high sugar or sodium content can cause diabetes and hypertension.

Ultimately, you should not face any problems as long as you read the ingredient list and ensure that:

  • The label reads ‘BPA free’
  • The sodium and sugar content isn’t too high
  • The food contains enough nutrition to be healthy

Canned Food Evolution

Canned food has evolved significantly from its inception. When the technology was first developed, it was merely a way to make food last longer without refrigeration.

Now, canned food is a staple in most households. You can rely on canned food if you don’t feel like cooking or if you’re stocking your pantry in preparation for a storm. It’s also extremely useful in survival situations when you’re out and about and need a quick fix without too much effort.

Tuna is one of the most nutritious canned foods for survival
Tuna is one of the most nutritious canned foods for survival

The most nutritious canned foods are tuna and salmon, vegetables, grains, beans, and fruits. The next time you go shopping for canned food, make sure you add these to your list and then make them a part of your survival preparedness.

If you have another unique canned food item that would be a good addition to our best canned foods for survival listed above, let us know.