Canned Goods – Nutrition, Storage Advice and The Truth About Expiration Dates

Are Can Foods Good For Long Term Storage?

There is no doubt that can goods are a great choice for the prepper. They’re affordable, easy to store, and relatively appetizing. Now days, we have an endless selection of foods such as soups, vegetables, fruits, stews, chili, meats and even canned bread. With the large selection of foods to choose from, there is sure to be something out there for everyone.

How Long Can You Store Can Goods?

Canned goods are a great choice to compliment a bulk dry food storage and your freeze-dried stores. Store-bought can goods have an amazingly long shelf life but the information available is hit and miss at best. Let’s discuss nutritional values, storage options as well as what those dates stamped on the cans really mean.

Can Goods Nutritional Values

Emergency Essentials

It’s a fact that some of the calorie-dense canned foods have a high-fat content but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially in an SHTF situation. In our current world, high fat is considered to be unhealthy but in an SHTF situation, you will likely burn far more calories than you currently burn. It’s also a fact that some canned goods are poor long-term food consumption choices, but we are talking about an SHTF situation. We stock up on canned goods to compliment other food stores.

Combining canned vegetables, chili, or meat with some of your beans or rice makes for a much healthier choice than eating only canned or freeze-dried foods every day. You could use some of your canned chili to pour over your rice or pasta to stretch out the calories while still getting some extra beneficial nutrition.

Ultimately, storing canned foods is not all about the calorie count. You need to have a healthy combination of calories and nutrition. A bag of potato chips is loaded with calories but virtually no nutritional value. Keep this in mind when you go shopping and read the labels.

Storage Conditions for Can Foods

Although canned goods have a fairly long shelf life, the conditions you store them in can drastically cut the shelf life down. The USDA recommends keeping canned food at temperatures below 85 °F, and most experts prefer below 70 °F. Further, the more stable the temperature is, the more life you will get out of your food.

  • Store your canned goods in a cool, dark and dry area
  • The garage or attic are poor options for storage
  • Basements and cellars are good as long as you keep the food off of the floor
  • Temperature controlled room is ideal, unfortunately, a lot of us don’t have that much room
  • Remember, canned goods can get really heavy so make sure you store them in a structurally safe area

Canned Food Shelf Life

The shelf life of canned goods seems to be the most debated aspect of storing them. There is confusion about expiration dates and best by dates. Let’s go over the most common date stamps:

Expiration Date – This is the last day a portion of food should be eaten and may not be safe to eat after the date has passed. This is rarely stamped on canned food any more. Most canned food is good much longer than the expiration dates.

Best by Dates – This is the recommendation of the manufacture as to when they believe the nutritional value and taste begin to deteriorate. The food is most likely still good if the can is not damaged.

Better Safe Than Sorry

Canned Goods – Nutrition, Storage Advice and The Truth About Expiration Dates
Canned Goods – Nutrition, Storage Advice and The Truth About Expiration Dates

Many websites and books try to establish a chart on how long canned food will last. To us, it is a waste of time to put the expected expiration date on your preps. Use common sense and take the following into consideration when you are going to consume a can of food that has been stored for a long time or in poor conditions.

If you have any suspicion at all that the canned food you are about to eat is not safe, toss it. Here are a few things to look for when determining if your food is safe:

  • Look for can damage – sides of the can or its lid are bulging, rusty/corroded or is leaking food
  • Bad odor or bad discoloration, small bubbles in the liquid inside the can, mushy contents, cloudy liquids or if the can explodes once opened

List of Best Canned Food Options for Long Term Storage

  • Canned Vegetables, Beans, Carrots, Corn, etc. – Everyone should have these in the pantry now. There are endless possibilities for these canned goods. Perfect for adding to dry preps or making your other preps go further.
  • Canned Soups – Buy several different varieties before you decide on a certain brand.
  • Canned Meats, Chicken, Beef, Ham – These meats are fully cooked and ready to eat, perfect for adding to salads, soups, stews, and rice/bean dishes.
  • Canned Spam – Spam is full of the things that nutritionist hate, but your body will need when working hard – fat, sodium and protein. Further, Spam is also incredibly versatile and is a great compliment to any dish.
  • Canned Sardines, Tuna, Salmon, Shellfish – Canned seafood tastes great and has many different uses. It is a very good source of protein and essential fatty acids.
  • Canned Stews -This canned good is fully cooked and you can eat it cold in an emergency. It actually tastes pretty good and is a good addition to rice to make it go much further.
  • Canned Chili – Canned chili is pretty tasty and can be eaten right from the can. Further, it’s a great way to add flavor to rice, beans or even pasta. There are many choices of chili on the market, if you are a chili snob like I am, I suggest you buy a few different varieties and try them before you stock up on a certain brand.
  • Canned Fruits – Stock up on these for a great treat and break the monotony of your limited food stores.

You Should Rotate Can Goods Like Your Other Preps

Finally, just because canned goods have a long shelf life, it is always a good idea to rotate them. You should practice rotating goods with all your preps. Further, buy what you like and what you already eat, and rotation will be a breeze. The article above is just a suggestion and it is best that you follow the manufactures recommendations when necessary.

P.S don’t forget the can opener! It isn’t easy to get cans open without one so store several for backups and redundancy. The Military, P-51 Model is a full-proof way to open cans so keep several on hand.