Which canned foods are best for their nutritional value? Should you stored canned goods at all?
The main staples of my stored food is rice, pasta, wheat flour, and vegetable oil. But canned goods add food options not easily obtained any other way: fruits and vegetables year-round; heat and serve beef stew; ready-to-eat chicken, salmon, or tuna; beans that don’t need to be soaked all night and cooked all day; sauces and gravys; etc.
You can grow some fruits and veggies in your garden, but canned goods are so easy. Both are good options. And there is only so much room in the frig and freezer. Canned fruits and vegetables keep for a long time. Dried beans are useful, but they take a long time to prepare. So despite the disadvantage of weight and space, canned goods are a necessary component of any food storage plan for preppers.
I would divide canned goods into different categories of food, so that you have options for each meal, plus all of the nutritional components (protein, fat, and carbohydrates, and vitamins/minerals).
I would plan to use about three servings of fruits (of one kind or another) every week. You might think you would eat canned fruit every day, but in reality, any food gets tiring on a daily basis. So for a 6-month food storage plan, 26 weeks x 3 is 78 servings. Of course, you can find common canned fruits at any grocery store. But consider looking in different stores, to collect a wider range of canned fruits. Also, the very large cans are tempting to buy, since they are cheaper per ounce of fruit. But once the can is opened, you have to use it within a week. So take that into account. Whatever size can provides you and yours with a week’s worth of fruit, that is the size to get.
But what you eat. But also, try to expand your usual diet to as wide a range of foods as possible. As any SHTF scenario continues to unfold, grocery stores will run out of food, so will your frig and freezer. And a garden only provides so much volume of food. You may be eating more canned food that you would like.
Beans. I don’t like the dry variety. They take too long to cook, and then, after all that effort, they are not so great. Maybe you have a favorite soup or chili recipe, so that’s good for you. But I’d rather open a can of baked beans, heat and serve. Three bean salad is great for improving a rice or pasta dish. And then you can use a can of plain pre-cooked beans for soups and chili without all the waiting.
What else? Corn, peas, carrots, etc. I would get these as individual vegetables, not in a can with mixed veggies. The reason is that taste is better, and the recipes are more versatile. I like roasted red peppers, pepperoncini, and other vegetables used as condiments. They improve an otherwise bland meal based on grains and legumes.
Meat, Poultry, Fish
The FDA says you should eat no more than 2 servings of canned tuna per week because of the mercury content. But canned salmon is much lower in mercury — lower than almost any other fish. So plan for one can of tuna per week, and one or two cans of salmon. Actually, those newer foil packs of tuna and salmon keep well and are more compact for storage.
Then consider storing some canned chicken. Use the chicken in chicken noodle soup, and it tastes great — much better than canned chicken noodle soup by itself. You can also mix the canned chicken with mayo for a chicken salad sandwich.
Spam is much ridiculed, but actually tastes fine in a sandwich. Buy a can and try it, before stocking up. To each his own. As for other red meats, beef stew is perhaps your best option. Find a variety you like. Heat and then pour over a huge plate of rice. Or doctor the stew with chopped fresh veggies from the garden, and enjoy from a bowl.
Stored meat, poultry, and fish is not as good as fresh. But it’s better than becoming an unwilling vegetarian, because the commercial food system has collapsed and you didn’t plan well. It’s also hard to get enough protein from a diet based on grains and legumes, so stored meat is an important nutritional consideration.
Soups store well. You can add pasta or rice and turn it into a meal. And the many varieties of soups make a diet based on grains more palatable.
Tomato paste is a good storage item. Look on the label of any pasta sauce, and the main ingredients are: water and tomato paste. You can make your own pasta sauce with tomato paste, a little vegetable oil, spices, and some chopped peppers and onions. Tomato paste is also good for homemade pizza. Thin it with oil, not water, and spread on the pizza dough.
What other foods store well in cans? Condensed milk for baking. Sesame tahini for homemade hummus. Boston brown bread. Cheese-like sauces. You may not have thought of those options. (Or you might not think much of those options.)
The downside of canned foods is the weight and space. The location needs to be cool and dry. Canned goods will rust. High temperatures will cause canned goods to spoil much faster. Ideally, you should commandeer some cabinet space in your temperature controlled home. The basement is OK, as long as you can find a dry place. A garage that is hot in summer is not as good; the same for attics.
Keep an eye on the expiration dates, since canned goods don’t keep forever. A food rotation schedule would be ideal, but is perhaps too hard to implement in a busy household.