canned survival food

Don’t Buy Canned Survival Food Until You Read This!

So, you want to get prepared for disasters and make sure that you have enough food on hand to survive? You are smart and think ahead so you won’t have to resort to eating dog food, rats, or any of the numerous other things people have eaten to avert death by starvation.

The most obvious choice of emergency survival food is canned food.

Canned foods are cheap, they are readily available in supermarkets, and they last a long time without any special storage needs.

But canned foods also aren’t perfect for emergency preparedness.  Here’s what you need to keep in mind about canned foods when stockpiling for disasters.

1. You’ll Need to Stockpile Trash Bags Too

Trash bags are something that everyone should have lots of in with their emergency supplies, along with these non-food items to stockpile. There is a lot you can do with those trash bags, such as sealing off a broken window or making an emergency bucket toilet.

As far as canned emergency food goes, you’ll need trash bags to dispose of the waste.

Imagine how stinky it would get after just a few days of leaving empty cans out.  The dirty cans would start to grow bacteria and would attract rats, cockroaches, and other pests.

In a longer-term disaster, it could be really disgusting! So make sure you have a way to dispose of all those cans of emergency food.

2. You Still Need to Rotate Canned Food

I wrote an entire article on canned food expiration date and how in most cases the expiration date is completely irrelevant.

Most canned foods will be safe to eat years after they go bad.

But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the expiration dates.  Some foods really do go bad faster in cans. For example, acidic foods like canned fruits will spoil much faster than foods with less acidity, such as canned meats and veggies.

To play it safe, devise a can rotating system.

can rotation system

Here's a simple canned food rotation system that works great.

3. Don’t Put Canned Food on the Basement Floor

Most types of emergency foods should NOT go in the basement because they are too susceptible to humidity and pests.  Unless you house gets to freezing levels though, it should be fine to store canned foods in the basement.

Just be warned that you shouldn’t put the cans on the basement floor.

The temperature of the slab floor will be different than the air temperature.  This temperature difference can cause humidity buildup in the can and make the canned foods go bad.  Put them on a shelf instead.

4.  And Be Cautious When Storing Them in Your Garage

The garage is the worst place to store your emergency food (Read: Where to Store Your Emergency Food to find out why).

However, a lot of people have no other choice but to store their food in the garage because of space constraints.

Like with the basement, don’t keep the canned foods on the floor.  However, there are more issues with canned survival food in the garage then this.

Garages are prone to temperature extremes.

If the garage gets too hot, the canned food may spoil.

If the garage gets too cold, the canned food may freeze.

Frozen canned foods can be thawed and eaten safely BUT ONLY IF THE SEAMS ARE STILL INTACT.  If the can has burst open, then you need to throw out the food (Source).

5. Canned Food Isn’t Enough for Disaster Preparedness

Canned food falls into the “nonperishables” group of survival foods.  Sorry to break it to you, but just having nonperishables isn’t enough to get you through a disaster!

What if you have to flee your home?  How the hell are you going to carry a bunch of heavy cans of food with you?

So, make sure you have all of the types of survival food stockpiled including:

  • Other types of nonperishables
  • MREs and “camping food” – like these ones
  • Survival food bars – like these ones
  • Long-term food storage buckets – like these ones
These emergency food bars actually taste good. You can buy them here.

These emergency food bars actually taste good. You can buy them here.

6. Know the Risk of Botulism

Botulism is caused by an odorless, tasteless bacterium called Clostridium botulinum. It used to be a major problem before food canning standards increased.  It usually isn't a problem today.  However, it is still possible for the botulism toxin to get into canned foods — especially if the canned foods got damaged (earthquake, anyone?).

If a can is bulging at the sides or top, the contents explode when you open it, or there are bubbles inside the liquid of the can, DO NOT EAT IT.

7. Variety Is Key!

Ever heard of appetite fatigue?  It what happens when you eat the same foods over and over again.  You get so bored with the foods that you lose interest in eating and can lose weight – not something you want to happen during an emergency situation!

So, while it may seem like a good idea to stockpile 100 cans of chunky tomato soup like Ted Cruz, you should diversify your selection.

Pretty much every type of food comes in a can.  Consider going to ethnic grocery stores and seeing what canned foods they have.

I’ve got some yummy cans of salsa, water chestnuts, lychee, hummus, coconut milk, and a bunch more “weird” foods in addition to the standard canned foods.

Here are some ideas for canned survival food to buy:

Canned Meats and Other Proteins

  • Tuna
  • Mackerel
  • Sardines
  • Sausages
  • Beef
  • Ham
  • Turkey
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas

Canned Vegetables

  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Green beans
  • Carrots
  • Mushrooms
  • Potatoes

Canned Fruits

  • Tomatoes
  • Peaches
  • Pineapples
  • Pears
  • Cherries

Canned Meals

  • Soups
  • Chili
  • Spaghetti Os
  • Ravioli
  • Beans and rice

Other Canned Foods

  • Condensed milk
  • Coconut milk
  • Pate and spreads
  • Gravy
  • Pudding
  • Bread

Oh, and don’t forget to stockpile a few extra manual can openers. 😉

Are you stockpiling canned foods for emergencies?  Let us know any tips you have in the comments section.  Or join us in our Facebook group for more emergency prepping talk and tips.

Image credits:
Warhol’s Japanese Mushroom Soup” (CC BY 2.0) by  Keoni Cabral
Queenofthehivemomof5’s Canned Goods Stoc” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by 

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