Not all canned foods have a long shelf life, especially the ones that contain a lot of different ingredients. Generally, speaking, canned foods with high salt content tend to last for an extremely long time.
The longest lasting canned foods are: canned meat 4-30 years, followed by canned vegetables 3-8 years, canned beans 3-6 years, canned fish 3-6 years, canned rice 2-6 years, canned broth 3-5 years, canned soups 2-4 years, and lastly canned fruits which only last around 1-2 years. However, you can stretch their shelf life even further if you store them correctly.
Having high quality canned food will be essential in any SHTF situation, although not all of them have a long shelf life. My personal recommendation is to get canned meat which has 30 years of taste guarantee Click here to check it out on Amazon.com
A decent food stockpile is imperative for any prepper, the amount of food and water will determine for how long can you survive. While there are a lot of foods that last for 25 years or even more you will notice that none of them are canned foods. The reason for this is because canned foods do not last nearly as long as 25 years, the average shelf life of canned foods is around 1-5 years, and if you keep them in a cool environment you can extend their shelf life to 4-8 years.
Not only canned food do have a long shelf life, in my recent article Food that last for 25 years ( Top 37 ) I have created a detailed list of the top 37 foods which have the longest lasting shelf life. All canned foods have an expiration date, although in most cases this is not an indication of the canned food losing its nutritional value. The expiration dates are there as a guarantee from the manufacturer as for how long will it taste as intended and not for how long is it safe to eat. Although this is a two-edged sword as many people have eaten canned foods well beyond their expiration dates and had no problems, while some can get sick even from canned foods that have not yet expired.
How you store your canned foods is vital as these types of foods are rather sensitive to temperature fluctuations and even exposure to prolonged sunlight. Some canned foods could be underprocessed meaning that bacterial growth will occur and eating unprocessed canned foods will pose a potential health risk. Although canned foods are regulated by the FDA, manufacturers can still cut corners during the processing of the food just for higher profits. If you know how to store food long term, then you will be able to stretch the shelf life of most canned foods.
Canned fish 3-6 years
Canned fish usually contain a lot of Omega 3 healthy acids, depending on the type of fish some have more than others. These are one of my favorite canned food types for long term storage, they not only taste good and are healthy but are also easy to consume as you don’t even have to heat them up for eating. Although some people will not advise on hoarding vast amounts of canned fish as these contain traces of Mercury, but in my opinion, the benefits easily outweigh the negatives.
Although not all canned fish are good for prepping, as you should aim for the maximum amount of nutrients for your money. There are several things to look for in a canned fish before purchasing, especially in bulk.
- Fishbones: canned fish which also include the fish bones are an excellent source of Calcium, usually these bones are fairly small and will cause you no problems ingesting them.
- Oil: usually canned fish come in some sort of oil, it is very important what kind of oil it contains. If it is 100% olive oil then this is a high-quality product, if it is less than 100% it means that it is mixed with canola oil, my recommendation is to avoid at all cost canned fish which do not have 100% olive oil.
- Wild Fish: usually wild-caught fish are considered much more nutritious than their farmed counterparts, mostly because farmed fish have a limited space to live and their muscles do not develop as much as if they would be in the wild.
- Fat: Some fish contain more fat than others, such as salmon and sardines. Usually, these fish with more fat on them have more Omega 3’s and they are also more nutritious than lean fish.
- Sauces: There is a lot of canned fish which include some kind of sauce, usually tomato sauce. My recommendation is to avoid these as the sauce in them will shorten the lifespan of the canned fish by a lot, generally speaking, the sauce will start to go bad much sooner than the actual fish.
In addition to being highly nutritious, it is also fairly cheap and as a prepper, you will have no problem hoarding as much as you want. Generally canned fish have a shelf life of around 3-5 years, but you can stretch this out even further by keeping them in a cool environment. Keep in mind that canned fish once opened can spoil in just a few hours depending on the ambient temperature, so each can once open they should be eaten.
- Canned tuna
- Canned salmon
- Canned anchovies
- Canned mackerel
- Canned trout
- Canned cod
- Canned herring
- Canned sardines
- Canned albacore
- Canned pilchards
- Canned sprats
Canned meat 4-30 years
Canned meat is vital for every prepper’s pantry, it is full of proteins and carbohydrates. When you think of canned meat the first item which usually pops in people’s minds is SPAM, this is one of the cheapest and most nutritious types of canned meats, although some might argue about the taste. One important thing to keep in mind before purchasing and meat in bulk is that usually, these canned meats have very high salt content in them.
Under normal circumstances, the human body can deal with the excess alt but in an SHTF situation where there is a water shortage, this excess sault could lead to some complications. Canned meat doesn’t need to come out of a store, as you can also do it yourself to extend to the shelf life of the meat, especially if you are preparing for an off-grid situation. Usually, you will find, beef, chicken or pork in the cans but there are some canned meats that contain “mystery meat”.
There are several things you should consider before buying canned meat for prepping:
- Taste: Experiment with different kinds of meat as depending on the manufacturing process the taste of the meat could change
- Sauces: My recommendation is to stay away from canned meats which include sauces, as these will lower the shelf life of the meat.
- Grass-fed: Usually animals fed with grass have leaner muscles.
- Fat: While some fat is good for a balanced diet, most of the fat in canned meat is not the healthiest one.
- Sugar: Some canned meats also contain a lot of sugar, which reduces the canned meats shelflife.
- Preservatives: Most canned meats will include some preservatives, although these are not harmful in small doses they could have an impact if you are surviving only on canned meat for prolonged periods of time.
Usually, canned meats which contain “mystery meat” contain meat from different kinds of animals and the meat is of very low quality. For example, the meat used for hot dogs is not actually meat but leftovers from other meat processes and these are made out of scraps including bone and some case animal skin. Although one major benefit of these canned mystery meats is that their shelf life is much longer than regular canned meats.
- Canned beef
- Canned pork
- Canned chicken
- Canned mystery meat
Canned beans 3-6 years
According to the FDA, more than 90% of Americans do not consume enough beans, these are naturally low in sodium and high in protein. However, there is a big difference between canned beans and baked beans, studies how found that canned beans have 10x times more sodium than baked beans. If you want to lower the sodium of the canned beans you can always rinse it and this way you will wash away around half of the sodium, on the other hand, you also do that with most of the nutrients.
Due to their high salt content, canned beans have a fairly long shelf life, as the salt content in them is so high that most microbes and spores will not survive even if they got contaminated during canning. In addition to their high protein count beans also contain a lot of vitamins and minerals.
- Canned black beans
- Canned black-eyed peas
- Canned cannellini beans
- Canned lentils
- Canned navy beans
- Canned chickpeas
- Canned great northern beans
- Canned soybeans
- Canned kidney beans
- Canned lima beans
- Canned romano beans
- Canned pinto beans
- Canned fava beans
- Canned green beans
Canned rice 2-6 years
Rice has been a staple diet for many cultures since thousands of years ago, it is rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates. Although the nutritional value will differ from one rice type to another. By far one of the most recommended types of rice due to its health benefits is brown rice, the problem with brown rice in general not just canned rice is that it has a much shorter shelf life than white rice.
One of the most interesting facts about rice is that it absorbs a lot of water, canned rice is always cooked rice and most of the content in canned rice is actually water. My recommendation is to go with simple uncanned rice as this has a much longer shelf life than canned rice and all you need for cooking it is water.
- Canned white rice
- Canned brown rice
- Canned jasmine rice
- Canned arborio rice
- Canned basmati rice
Canned vegetables 3-8 years
Canned vegetables are mostly pickled vegetables if there is no added sauce to them. We all know that vegetables are rich in vitamins, fibers and in minerals. Due to their high vitamin and mineral count, canned vegetables are a must for any prepper. No matter what kind of SHTF situation you might face, if there is a food shortage you will develop a vitamin deficiency sooner or later, which could cause you to feel tired all the time, after a prolonged time of vitamin deficiency your health could spiral out of control extremely fast.
While raw vegetables are much more nutritious these have a limited shelf life, on the other hand, canned vegetables have lower nutritional value but they have an extremely long shelf life compared to raw vegetables. Canned vegetables are not made to replace a meal, they are an addition to your meal. You can also find canned vegetables which contain several types of vegetables, in my opinion, these are the best.
- Canned corn
- Cand potato
- Canned pickles
- Canned tomatoes
- Canned carrots
- Canned paprika
- Canned asparagus
- Canned beets
- Canned green spinach
- Canned onions
Canned fruits 1-2 years
As is the case of canned vegetables, these have also a lot of minerals, vitamins, and fibers. An added benefit to canned fruits is that you can also hydrate yourself with them as most of the content is water, fruit, and sugar. Although people who suffer from diabetes should avoid canned foods due to their high sugar content, there are some canned fruits with no sugar but generally, the shelf life of these is far lower.
Even if the canned food has been opened, it should still be edible after a couple of days but anything longer than that will spoil not only its taste but also its content. There are a lot of people claiming to eat healthily and eat a lot of food in order to lose weight, what they forget to mention is they eat a lot of canned fruit which is packed with sugar and makes people actually gain weight rather than lose it. Although in an SHTF situation your weight gain will probably be the least of your problems.
- Canned apples
- Canned apricots
- Canned pineapple
- Canned mandarin
- Canned raspberries
- Canned peaches
- Canned cherries
- Canned avocadoes
- Canned pears
- Canned grapefruit
- Canned cranberry
- Canned mango
- Canned raisins
- Canned jackfruit
Canned soups 2-4 years
In addition, to being very nutritious, canned soups also hydrate as they have a lot of water in them. Although you should keep an eye out on canned soups that have high salt content in them, as your body will use more water to digest it than it actually gets from the soup. Generally speaking, most canned soups contain vegetables, meat and in some cases even fruit, or a combination of them all. You can also find vegetarian canned soups which do not have any meat in it, these tend to have an even longer shelf life.
One of the big benefits of canned soups is that you can use the can to heat the soup up in an open fire, this is very beneficial in an SHTF situation.
Canned broth 3-5 years
Canned broth contains either meat, vegetables or a combination of both of them. The broth is made by simmering the meat and bones, and the remaining liquid is the actual broth. This is the same in case of the vegetable broth but instead of meat, only vegetables are used. The canned broth is much more nutritious than canned soup, and some as in the case of canned soup you can also heat it on an open fire directly in the can. One of the survival foods with a long shelf life is broth, as these do contain a lot of energy and have a fairly long shelf life.
Types of canned foods
Basically, there are two types of canned foods, Low Acid (LACF) and Acidified Canned foods (ACF), this in addition to the manufacturing process and the canned foods content will determine for how long they will last. Both types of canned foods could be potentially dangerous if the food is not prepared and canned according to the current safety standards. The major health threat comes from microbial contamination which does not need oxygen to live and reproduce.
One of the most dangerous microbial contamination is caused by Clostridium Botulinum which causes botulism. If you have ever seen some kind of canned food where the can is swollen on one or both sides, this usually indicates that there is a microbial growth in the can which produces excess gas in the can, thus the swelling of the can. In this case, even if the can is before the expiration date, do not consume it, throw it out immediately.
Low Acid Canned Foods
Lov acid canned foods are thermally processed assuring commercial sterility, this commercial sterilization process will destroy the spores of the Clostridium Botulinum. Although commercial sterilization alone can not guarantee the lack of any spores or other microbial contaminants. Usually, these types of canned foods contain some kind of sauce, meat or beans but not always, due to their high protein and carbohydrates content these canned foods are excellent long term food.
Low acid canned foods contamination
- Contamination during processing: this could occur at any time during the manufacturing process of the food or the actual can itself. Although this happens rarely, you have probably heard of several canning manufacturers taking thousands of canned foods of the market ones they have identified the contamination.
- Post-process contamination: this occurs once the food product has been already manufactured and it gets contaminated by external microbes. Generally, this is a rare occurrence as most canning food manufacturers have high standards regarding the sterility of the environment in which the food is processed.
- Underprocessing: this occurs when either the thermal processing has not been done adequately or the manufacturing of the actual food was underprocessed.
- Thermophilic bacteria: these are bacteria that survive the thermal treating and usually these bacteria need higher temperatures to survive and reproduce. This is why you never store canned foods in a hot environment, as this will aid the growth and reproduction of thermophilic bacteria.
- Acid tolerant bacteria: these are bacteria that can survive in acidic environments, although generally speaking these are usually killed during the thermal processing.
Acidified Canned foods
Acidified Canned foods are low acid canned foods where they add acidic food or different types of acids. Usually, these types of foods are called pickled foods, such as pickles, however, they are not limited to only pickled foods. These are considered somewhat safer than Low Acid foods as in addition to being acidified these are also thermally treated for commercial sterility. According to the FDA acidified foods must be acidified to lower their PH to 4.6, however most manufacturers lower this number even further to around 4.2.
Canned foods storage
Not all canned foods have the same shelf life, for this reason, you should categorize each canned food and put them in a separate aisle. Once you have formed up a line of canned food always consume the oldest before the new ones. This way you will prolong the shelf life even more.
Always keep your canned foods in a dark and cool environment preferably in a basement or in a food pantry. In my recent article, How long can you store bottled water? ( In your Home, Garage or Car ) I also mention that it is not safe to keep any of your food and water next to your fuel and chemicals as these create dangerous vapors that can easily penetrate the plastic container. You can also keep your canned foods in a fridge to prolong their shelf life, however, do not ever store them in the freezer.
As most canned foods have a lot of liquid in them, once these freezes and expand could deteriorate the can and in some cases, leakage may occur. The only item which I would consider freezing is SPAM as it contains a small amount of liquid.
Before opening a canned food take into consideration how long will it go bad after you open it? Generally, speaking canned foods containing meat and sauce will go bad fairly fast, canned fish will go bad even faster, while canned fruits and vegetables stay good for a couple of days even in ambient temperature.
If you find one more canned foods that are leaking or bloated, throw them away. The bloating comes from microbes producing excess gas which will create a lot of pressure, in some cases the canned food could erupt. In case the canned food is leaking its content could be due to some of its ingredients inside is corroding the can or that the can have suffered some kind of damage and it got weaker where it is leaking.
Do not ever keep any kind of canned food in the sun, as termo resistant microbes need higher temperatures to reproduce. Even if it is not hot outside, direct sunlight will still heat up the content of the can. In addition to this make sure to keep them in a cool environment as higher temperatures are not only beneficial for termo resistant microbes to thrive but the actual can may contain BPA which with the higher temperatures will get free and contaminate the food.
You have a lot of options of where to choose from regarding longest-lasting canned foods, just keep in mind that most canned foods will go bad no matter how long of a shelf life they have if they are not stored correctly. Some canned foods can be eaten well beyond their expiration date, some people even tried 30-year-old SPAM and claimed it was still good, however in a long term SHTF situation the last thing you want to get is food poisoning so only eat expired canned foods if you have no other alternative.