Ready To Eat Canned Food Suggestions For Your Prepper Stockpile

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A staple of all preppers is their food stockpile. In fact, its arguable that Americans need to focus on creating their own stockpile to deal with the increasing threat of regional disasters. The month of March has featured a nor’easter every week of this! Its important for people to start taking note and being more …

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What Is The True Shelf Life Of Store-Bought Canned Foods?

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What Is The True Shelf Life Of Store-Bought Canned Foods?

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Have you ever wondered how long store-bought canned good will last in your stockpile? Professional food processors and manufacturers have both the equipment and knowledge to properly preserve food — plus the tests and inspections from the federal government.

However, most canned foods are packed in water. That makes a big difference. Water or any other liquid can potentially become a petri dish for future bacterial growth. This is especially true for home canning, but we’ll get to that later.

pH 101

pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of any food. Foods with a higher acidity (measured on the pH scale as between 4 to 6) form a natural barrier to bacteria and require simple processing and less processing time, but the acids can quickly compromise the integrity of a can or jar lid and the food itself. These foods include:

Juices (tomato, orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit); tomatoes, grapefruit, apples and apple products like apple sauce, mixed fruit, peaches, pears, plums, all berries, pickles, sauerkraut; foods treated with vinegar-based sauces or dressing like German potato salad and sauerbraten.

Quite often, these kinds of canned goods will have a white plastic coating on the inside of the can to prevent corrosion.

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Foods with a high level of alkalinity (measured on the pH scale between 8 to 10) require more complex processing under pressure and longer processing time, but those robust processing steps actually add to the shelf life with no danger of internal acidity compromising the can or lid on a glass jar. These foods include:

Canned meats, poultry, stews, soups except tomato, pastas in sauce, potatoes, corn, carrots, spinach, beans, beets, peas and pumpkin.

What becomes clear is that you can’t lump all store-bought canned goods together in your storage area with long-term food products and assume all be well. You’ll have to separate them and write on the label or can the purchase date and the shelf-life. In fact, you should do this with all food stores, including long-term foods and most definitely with any home canning.

What About Expiration Dates?

Are expiration dates for real? Yes and no, Even the USDA says that expiration dates are suggestions or recommendations rather than a hard-and-fast rule or deadline. The reason is that so many factors can affect the shelf life of food. In fact, the dates on packaged goods aren’t referred to as expiration dates but “sell by” or “best by” dates.

Even then, some products don’t have any of these dates but instead a cryptic combination of letters and numbers. These are usually codes to indicate the point of origin for a particular product in the event of a recall.

The other truth is that a product does not suddenly go bad when it reaches its “best by” date. In fact, many canned goods are edible and safe for years after a “best by” date if stored properly. But be careful out there.

Several factors affect the storage of foods:

The temperature that any food is stored at is the most critical factor impacting shelf life. The standard recommendation is a temperature between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit for canned goods. The lower the better, but don’t go below freezing; also, any canned food stored at or above 85 degrees Fahrenheit will quickly degrade and potentially become unsafe to eat

Temperature Extremes

Variations in temperature in an environment where you are storing any food is perhaps the greatest threat to shelf life. This is particularly true if any food goes through a pattern of freezing and thawing over a period of months or even years, and the freezing can complicate things, given that most canned food is preserved in water. The end result is often a tasteless mass of grey mush in a can bursting at the seams. Bulging cans are also a sign of bacterial contamination.

That’s why storing any food in an attic space, an unheated or unventilated garage or any other area subject to winter/summer temperature extremes is a bad idea. A root cellar is fairly stable, and a home basement, as long as water or moisture are properly managed, is fine, too. A dedicated pantry also works, and it may encourage you to engage in a recommended practice for food storage.

Eat What You Store!

“Eat what you store and store what you eat.” This is a very good idea, but I must admit I have a hard time doing it with long-term food storage. Long-term foods are usually dried foods in big, No. 10 cans, and my kitchen pantry only has so much room. I do have a No. 10 can of macaroni and a No. 10 can of cheese powder on the bottom shelf in the pantry, but that’s because my kids eat mac and cheese like wolverines.

On the other hand, I’m not real anxious to use taco flavored TVP (textured vegetable protein) as an everyday food on my tacos when I can still get a pound of ground beef and taco seasoning at the grocery store. And that starts to point to the desire to supplement long-term food stories with grocery-store canned foods.

Here’s six things to watch for when purchasing canned goods from the grocery store:

  1. Don’t buy or store a dented can. It’s more likely to be exposed to air, and bacteria will soon follow.
  2. Check any can or jar lid for corrosion. If you can wipe it off you may be okay, but you should probably toss it.
  3. If a can is bulging or the contents spurt out when you open it, stand back and put it into a double plastic bag and get rid of it. That could be sign of botulism and it could kill you if you consume it.
  4. Smell the contents after opening. If you detect any kind of off-odor, throw it away.
  5. Observe the color. Are the orange peaches a pale yellow? Are the dark, red kidney beans a shade of grey? It may be okay to eat, but boil it first.
  6. Boil all canned goods if they have been stored for a long time, and then smell and taste afterward. Acid foods should be boiled for 10 minutes and alkaline foods for 20. This will kill most residual bacteria, but will probably not kill any botulism microbes or spores.

Here’s a chart you can print and put up in your long-term food storage area if you are storing store-bought canned goods. These recommendations were made by the USDA:

Canned Ham 2 to 5 years
Low-acid canned foods:  Canned meats, poultry, stews, soups except tomato, pastas in sauce, potatoes, corn, carrots, spinach, beans, beets, peas, pumpkin. 2 to 5 years. 



Low acid foods have a low pH of 4 to 6.  They require high-pressure processing and longer processing times but have a better shelf-life
High-acid canned goods: Juices (tomato, orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit); tomatoes, grapefruit, apples and apple products like apple sauce, mixed fruit, peaches, pears, plums, all berries, pickles, sauerkraut; foods treated with vinegar-based sauces or dressing like German potato salad and sauerbraten. 12 months. To 18 months  High-acid foods have a pH of 8 to 10 and only require water-bath processing but have a lower shelf-life due to the effect of acids deteriorating both product and can, or jar/lid integrity over time.
All home-canned foods 12 months. Before using, boil for 10 minutes for high-acid foods; 20 minutes for low-acid foods. Add one minute for every 1,000 feet above sea-level. Home canned foods are potentially the most dangerous from a food contamination standpoint if not processed properly. The shelf life is limited to one year.

Do you agree or disagree? Share your thoughts on storing cans long-term in the section below:



Best Canned Goods for Starting Food Storage – Starter Kit

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Having a month supply of food storage is simpler than you might think.  It’s known as a food storage starter kit.  In one box (19 x 13 x 7.5) you can put 6 cans of food that will make 90 meals.  The 6 cans are a bit bigger […]

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Food Storage Starter Kit

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Having a month supply of food storage is simpler than you might think.  It’s known as a food storage starter kit.  In one box (19 x 13 x 7.5) you can put 6 cans of food that will make 90 meals.  The 6 cans are a bit bigger […]

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20 Long-Lasting Foods That Will Keep You Well-Fed After SHTF

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If you haven’t already stocked up on survival food, you should get started right away. There are plenty of nutritious, long-lasting foods that you can find in any grocery store. Keep in mind that during a disaster, your body will need more calories than usual due to all the stress and work involved, so focus […]

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The Reality of 2 Weeks of Food Storage

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The thought of food storage can be very overwhelming, especially if you are new to being self sufficient. You have just realized the need for food-storage and the dangers of what is happening in the world. So now what are you going to do about it? You may find some very good answers in the video below.

The best answer that I have is research and lots of it. You Tuber ObessivePrepperAz shares her thoughts on an easy and affordable way to start off making sure you have two weeks’ worth of food. She walks you through how to calculate food storage for your family and points out some very helpful hints.

However, ObsessivePrepperAZ is just touching on the bare minimum you will need in her video, but by adding things like rice or noodles to some of your storage you can turn one can of soup into a pot of stew. Her tips and secrets are very helpful for a beginner prepper.

She focuses on how many cans of Campbell Chunky Soup you would need for one meal a day. One of her viewers suggested a very effective way to stretch those cans to feed four people 2 or 3 meals per day. That is a LOT more than one can of soup for one person.

“Tip: Double that food storage with one bag of rice, one bag of dried potatoes, and two packs of cubed bullion. Take two cans of that chunky soup, add I cup rice OR potatoes, and a bullion, add at least 3 cups water; make it into a large pot of stew. Feeds four, 2-3 meals per day. Stew is salvation.”

We hope you enjoy her suggestions and please feel free to comment some of your tips and advice to help the newbies!! We all have to help each other become reliant on ourselves.

The Reality of 2 Weeks of Food Storage


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10 Reasons You Should Learn How to Pressure Can Food

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With freeze-dried foods and survival seeds vying for your dollar–not to mention emergency gardens full of fresh foods–pressure canning just doesn’t feel necessary to many people in the preparedness world. If that sounds like you, your feelings are wrong. Having come to preparedness late in the game, I empathize with the overwhelming urge to learn […]

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8 Nutritious Foods You Can Afford When You’re Practically Broke

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free_range_eggsIf there’s one thing we all learned from the crash of 2008, it’s that any one of us could be dragged down into poverty. No one is really immune to that anymore. In the Western world, economic prosperity has been crumbling for years, and stability is rapidly disappearing for a variety reasons. Truth be told, you’ve probably read about countless disasters and survival situations on this website, but the one situation that is most likely to affect you, is a financial calamity in your family.

And if that happens, one of your most pressing concerns will be food. Every resource you consume will have to be restricted, and every day you’ll be forced to triage your finances. You’ll have to choose between paying for your rent/mortgage, utilities, debts, medical bills, and of course groceries. And even if you accept assistance in the form of food stamps, you’ll likely struggle to afford nutritious food.

That’s why I’ve compiled this list of low-cost groceries. Keep in mind however, that this isn’t a list of the cheapest foods. Things like taste or long-term health implications aren’t a priority either. These are foods that simply provide the most nutrients for the least amount of money, and you should keep them in mind if you ever find yourself in the poorhouse.


In terms of the number of calories you get for every dollar, you can’t beat butter. The only thing that would surpass it is refined sugar, but obviously you don’t want to make that a significant part of your diet. Butter is cheap, and brimming with saturated fats that will keep you sated for hours.

Whole Grain Wheat Flour

Grains have fallen out of favor among health conscious eaters in recent years, and for many very good reasons. But again, long-term health isn’t the priority of this list. Despite its faults, whole grain flour is loaded with vitamins and minerals, and is incredibly cheap. So cheap in fact, that even the organic brands often only cost a few cents per ounce.

The main drawback to wheat, and most grains for that matter, is that they contain phytic acid. This substance is known to prevent the absorption of many different nutrients. However, if you’re planning on using the flour to make bread, pancakes, or even hard tack, you can soak the flour dough in lemon juice overnight, which will eliminate most of the phytic acid.


Lately eggs have been pretty expensive due to a rampant avian flu epidemic that wiped out millions of chickens last summer. At one point, prices rose so high that ounce for ounce, the protein in chicken meat was cheaper than egg protein. Most of the time however, eggs provide one of the cheapest sources of protein and fat. However, not always as cheap as…

Whole Milk

While milk can provide plenty of protein, fat, and sugar at a low price, unlike eggs it has far more vitamins and minerals. Milk contains an abundance of vitamin D, Riboflavin, and Vitamin B12, and for minerals, it provides plenty of calcium, phosphorous, potassium, and selenium. It also contains a very good ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fats, which eggs do not.


White beans, Lima beans, Kidney beans etc. They all have a few things in common. They’re usually light in vitamins, rich in minerals, and contain a moderate amount of protein. They aren’t always cheap, but their high shelf life allows you to cut down costs by buying them in bulk.

Canned Salmon

I don’t normally recommend any processed canned foods, but canned salmon is one of those rare foods that are healthier than the fresh version. Aside from being expensive, fresh salmon is usually farmed, which means they are typically contaminated with PCBs, and fed chemicals that turn their flesh pink (which happens naturally in the wild). Canned salmon is almost always caught in the wild, and is usually very affordable. It provides an abundance of omega-3, vitamins, and minerals, and unlike other canned sea food like tuna, the amount of mercury in salmon is negligible.


While the cost of groceries has gone up significantly in recent years, bananas are still remarkably cheap. They also contain a well-rounded dose of nutrients like vitamins C and B6, as well as minerals like magnesium and potassium. Contrary to popular belief, bananas don’t contain the most potassium (see beans above) but they are one of the cheapest ways to consume that mineral. Though most westerners aren’t aware of this, you can actually eat the banana peel as well if it’s properly prepared, which will double your potassium intake.

Beef Liver

There’s no doubt that the taste and texture of liver renders it unpalatable to most people. Unless you grew up eating it, there’s a good chance that you will absolutely hate beef liver. However, the widespread unpopularity of liver means that it’s usually pretty affordable. The nutrient profile of this organ is also amazing. It might give you the best bang for your buck, compared to everything else on this list.

In fact, some of the nutrients in beef liver are so high, that eating a single serving every day might actually be bad for you. That serving would include 431% of your daily recommended amount of vitamin A, 137% of riboflavin, 800% of B12, and 486% of copper. Unfortunately, it doesn’t keep very long in the fridge, so you may want to skip liver if you live alone. But if you live with a family, you can easily divvy up a single slice between everyone.

Have any great ideas for highly nutritious foods that won’t break the bank? Let us know in the comments below. 

Joshua Krause was born and raised in the Bay Area. He is a writer and researcher focused on principles of self-sufficiency and liberty at Ready Nutrition. You can follow Joshua’s work at our Facebook page or on his personal Twitter.

Joshua’s website is Strange Danger

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

18 Off-Grid Uses For Tin Cans

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There is one item that every prepper in the world is guaranteed to have: canned food. Even if they mostly have dehydrated or freeze-dried food, every prepper has at least one can or corn or beans somewhere. And of course, canned food usually comes in tin cans. Most […]

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101+ Meals in a Jar Recipes

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Every prepper stores lots of extra food, but only a few of them make meals in a jar. This is a shame because they’re a very easy and convenient way to enjoy delicious meals during a disaster. If you get in the habit of making meals in jars […]

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10 Foods You Didn’t Know Were Available In Cans

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All preppers have some canned food in their stockpiles, but most of them only have the kind you can find at stores like Walmart or Sam’s Club. Things like canned beans, canned fruit, canned vegetables, and mini-meals like soup or Spaghettios. But did you know there are many […]

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Can You Eat Foods Past Their Expiration Date?

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Canned Food

The following are codes or dates that you can expect to find on certain food products, along with a brief explanation provided by the USDA.

Types of Dates:

  • A “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires
  • A “Best if Used By (or before)” date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date
  • “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product
  • “Closed or coded dates” are packing numbers for use by the manufacturer (USDA, 2015)

Some 20 states require dating of food while others have no specific laws. The USDA does not specifically require dating on foods with the exception of baby foods/formula.

“Use-by” dates usually refer to best quality and are not safety dates.

Is Dating Required By Federal Law?

“Except for infant formula, product dating is not generally required by Federal regulations” (USDA, 2015).

Baby food, more specifically baby formula should not be consumed past the “use by” date.

Therefore, the question is can you eat food past the dates stamped on a food product. Well some you can and some you cannot, how’s that for specificity. It is obvious some fresh foods cannot be eaten if they have been lounging in the refrigerator for several weeks.

On the other hand, the dates on the packaging are recommendations, but are not necessarily chiseled in stone, and as stated earlier they are not food safety dates. Use your nose and eyes as well as the dates on the packaging when it comes to fresh products or packaged products that require refrigeration.

Fresh meats will of course spoil after a couple days left in temperatures above freezing and the higher the temperature the faster the meats or other fresh products will begin to decompose. Cooked meats can be stored up to four days in refrigeration.

Eggs for example, are edible for up to five weeks after purchase if purchased before the use by date and stored in your refrigerator. Keep fresh eggs as close to the back of the refrigerator as possible. Most refrigerators are cooler in the back furthest from the door.

Test Your Eggs

A bacterium creates gases as it breeds and grows and too much bacteria in an egg will cause it to float (become buoyant) because of the gases. Draw a bowl of tap water and place the egg (s) in the water. If any float do not eat them obviously.

Some Recommendations for Storage

  • Fresh chicken should not be consumed if it has been thawed in the refrigerator for longer than two days
  • Beef, pork, and lamb can be stored thawed in the refrigerator up to five days and still be considered safe to eat
  • Ground fresh chicken and beef is good for two days thawed and under refrigeration
  • Ground fresh pork or turkey two days under refrigeration
  • Cured products such as ham purchased from a grocery store is up to five days

Certain cured or dried products can have an extended shelf life. However, much depends on the curing process and the level of expertise that went into the process. Check any dried or cured products for evidence of deterioration, mold, bad smell, or taste.


Processed fresh foods/meats such as deli sandwich meat, hot dogs, and sausages if left unfrozen past the use by date can encourage the growth of the bacteria listeria, which causes the infection listeriosis.

Canned Goods

Highly acidic foods such as tomatoes are generally of good quality up to 18 months. This does not mean you cannot eat the product after 18 months, but you can expect some texture and flavor deterioration after this point. Low acidic foods such as green beans are considered stable for five years or longer.

Any canned product that shows swelling or bulging should be discarded. Swelling can mean a bacterium is growing in the can and this could cause sickness or worse if consumed. Glass canning jars can burst if a bacterium begins to grow.

Where you store your canned products can make a difference, so hot areas like attics or garages can reduce the stability of canned products. Fifty to 70° F is the ideal storage temperature for canned products. If stored in this temperature range the shelf life can be six years or more.

In most cases, you can tell if fresh meat is spoiled by the smell and color of the product. Fruits and vegetables will show obvious signs of spoilage as well.

Foods like pasta, white rice, and most hard grain products with the exception of brown rice is somewhere around 12 years plus and even longer if stored at a constant 70° F or slightly lower. Brown rice is shelf stable for up to six months, and can be stored up to 12 months under refrigeration and up to 18 months in the freezer.

The reduced shelf life of brown rice is due to the oils that will oxidize and go rancid. Weevils will infest any grain products so package to prevent infestation.

Sugar, salt, and honey are considered shelf stable indefinably as long as stored properly.

Flour is shelf stable for 5 years plus if stored in a sealed container. Flour can last longer if stored in an oxygen free environment however.

Frozen foods with the exception of frozen meats can be frozen for years. Meats will begin to lose flavor and texture, and there will be some deterioration after a certain period. Much depends on the packing method before freezing however.

Grounds meats are considered stable between two and four months in the freezer and this includes processed lunch meats. Steaks and whole roasts according to are good for six months up to a year in the freezer.

Vacuum sealing products will help to extend the shelf life of many frozen foods and certain other fresh products when stored in the refrigerator. Vacuum seal hard and soft cheeses, for example, to extend the shelf life while under refrigeration. (n.d.). Retrieved 2015, from

USDA. (2015). Retrieved 2015, from

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