Ultimate Guide To Storing Canned foods In An Emergency

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Canned meals have been stored for hundreds of years as a way to be prepared for any form of disaster. The process of canning was invented by Nicolas Appert, known as “the father of canning,” in 1810 as a means for the French government to properly feed its troops.

During the 1960s, when the prospect of nuclear war was a very real possibility, canned food was the major source of emergency food storage for both civilians and governments.

Canning food for an emergency is still a viable option today. This meal is inexpensive, has a long shelf life, and is readily available on supermarket shelves. There’s also a huge selection of delectable dishes to choose from.

Storing Canned Foods Pros and Cons

There are advantages and disadvantages to using canned products for this reason, just like any other form of emergency food source. The essential items to consider are listed below.


  • Inexpensive when compared to many alternatives.
  • A wide variety of food is available canned.
  • Many items can be consumed directly from the can, without a need to cook.
  • An empty tin can may be used for a variety of other purposes (i.e. to cook with).
  • Usually contains a considerable amount of water in the can which can be a positive if hydration is an issue.
  • Available just about everywhere groceries are sold.


  • Heavy and sometimes awkward to carry in a pack.
  • Shorter shelf life than many alternatives (see below for more information on shelf life).
  • A can opener is often times required.

While preserving canned goods for an emergency is a smart idea, they usually contain a lot of water (approximately 35 percent of their weight is water), making them quite weighty. If you need to be mobile and carry your meals in a backpack, canned items are a terrible choice. Canned goods, on the other hand, may be a smart option if you expect to stay inside your home in an emergency.

Shelf Life Of Canned Foods

Canned foods have a long shelf life. While producers may list a shelf life of one to five years on their products, this is just to ensure that the canned food has the same texture and taste as when it was made. Canned items are generally edible and healthy much past their expiration dates; however, they may not taste as delicious.

Type of Canned FoodExamplesTypical Shelf Life
Foods with a High Acidic Contentjuices, fruits, pickles, vinegar-based products1 Year
Foods with a Low Acidic Contentmeat, vegetables, spaghetti, potatoes2 – 5 Years
Home Canned FoodsAll types1 Year

Canned foods have a very long shelf life, even after the marked expiration date has passed. The National Food Processors Association (NFPA) took samples from canned products found on a steamboat that sank in 1865, nearly 100 years ago, according to an article published by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The samples were found to be perfectly safe to consume. The texture, color, nutritional content, and even smell of the food had all deteriorated dramatically during this time, but it was determined that the food was still safe. The study found that large amounts of vitamin C and A were lost, but protein and calcium levels remained high, indicating that the food was nutritionally valuable.

Around the same time, NFPA scientists examined a 40-year-old can of corn and discovered that it was not only safe to consume and had retained much of its nutritional value, but also “looked and smelled like recently canned corn.”

Canned food has an extremely extended shelf life, according to multiple studies. Much longer than the expiration dates indicated on the packaging. While the flavor and texture of the food may deteriorate, the majority of the nutritional value will be preserved for many decades beyond what the makers print on the cans. The canned products’ storage conditions will have a considerable impact on how well the food holds up over time.

Storing Canned Food – the Calculations

  • Average Cost Per Ounce Prepared: $0.11/oz
  • Average Cost Per Ounce: $0.07/oz
  • Approximate Number of Days of Survival per $100: 29 Days
  • Approximate Cost Per Day of Survival: $3.50
  • Shelf Life: 1 – 4 Years
  • Typical Storage Temperature: Room temperature (65-72°F)
  • Ideal Storage Temperature: As cool as possible but above freezing

A “day of survival” is defined as 50 ounces of food consumed in one day. This should be enough to keep you on track for a daily calorie intake of 2000. The “Average Cost Per Ounce Prepared” is the cost of the meal after it has been properly prepared. The “Average Cost Per Ounce” refers to the average price per ounce of canned items in their shelf-stable canned state. The majority of a canned food product is water, which is normally drained out during processing. This is why the price per ounce goes up once it’s prepared.

the Best Way To Store Canned Food

It’s critical to keep your canned foods in as close to ideal storage conditions as possible. While it is typically assumed that canned foods will be stored at room temperature when they are created (65-72°F), and that they would perform well in such conditions, there are a few things to keep in mind if you want to get the greatest shelf life possible.

  • While these foods will be relatively stable at room temperature, they will retain their nutritious value, texture, and flavour the best if stored at 50 degrees Fahrenheit (or 10 degrees Celsius). If the cans are allowed to get much colder than that and then freeze, the texture of the food inside will be considerably degraded. Another risk is that the can may become tainted during the freezing process, resulting in deterioration.
  • Maintain a constant temperature: While the temperature at which the cans are stored is vital, ensuring that the temperature remains consistent is even more important. If the meal is subjected to extreme temperature changes, it will quickly decay.
  • Keep them in a secure location where they won’t be moved: When your canned food supply is frequently moved around, the possibilities of the cans being bumped or spilled grow. In a short period of time, a dented or damaged can may cause the food within to spoil.

While maintaining ideal storage conditions for canned foods isn’t as important as it is for other sorts of foods, it can undoubtedly help to extend the life of your food, especially if you don’t always remember to rotate through your emergency food supply. Wine coolers, cellars, closets near the center of a home, or any other space that is likely to be cool and somewhat temperature stable are some examples of good storage areas for canned foods.

Rotating Canned Foods

The easiest method to have a large stock of canned foods for use in any emergency is to rotate through them on a regular basis. There are a variety of canned food racks available to assist you with this. You may ensure that you are always rotating through your supply by pulling from the front of the rack and putting newly acquired cans in the rear. This will ensure that your food supply is always as fresh as possible.

It’s critical to develop the habit of preserving canned goods that your family consumes on a regular basis. It’s pointless to stock up on canned anchovies if your family never consumes them. You will never rotate through your supplies, and in the event of a catastrophic disaster, you will have a stockpile of food that your family will refuse to eat. As a result, make sure you’re storing and rotating what you eat.

Ultimate Guide To Storing Canned Foods In An Emergency Bottom Line

Aside from the fact that they are quite heavy due to their high water content, they are nearly the ideal food to have on hand for your family in an emergency. If you choose to store a large number of canned foods, make sure they are kept in a temperature-controlled setting (ideally somewhere cool), and rotate them as much as possible to keep them fresh. As a supplement to your canned food supply, I recommend adding some dried or dry foods.

There are better solutions out there, such as meals ready to eat (MREs) or freeze-dried foods, if you plan to use canned goods in a backpack or any other mobile fashion.

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