20+ of the BEST Canned Foods to Stock Up On

More than ever before, having a pantry stocked with all the right foods and household items, is so important. Today I’m sharing a list of the best canned food to have for emergencies. Knowing this will help you stay out of the store and ensure your family has plenty of food to eat, even if your grocery store has a limited selection. Then be sure to visit my huge list of recipe ideas to make using foods from your pantry!

Canned foods are more shelf-stable for long term food storage, and can come in handy during an emergency where you won’t be able to make it to the store for long periods. Be sure to check out our #StayHome resource page that is full of recipes, activities and ways to save money during a crisis!

Here is what you need to know about canned foods to stock up on and what healthy canned foods you should stock up on.

What to Buy Right Before an Emergency

If you know that an emergency is coming, such as a potential grocery shortage or a natural disaster, there are a few things you can buy ahead of time to help you better prepare for a shortage or emergency where you won’t be able to make it to the store.

  • You can order a meal-delivery kit to help give you fresh meals and produce when you can’t make it to the store. While your store might be out of things like lettuce and tomatoes, a meal kit can still allow you to make meals using fresh produce even if the stores are out.
  • Stock up on meat and freeze it for later. If your power goes out, you won’t be able to access your freezer, but if you can’t go to the store, you’ll have plenty of meat to last you until the next time you can go.
  • Freeze as much food as possible! I have a complete guide about freezing food that you can use to prolong everything from your fresh produce to herbs and meats. A full freezer will also ensure that your food items stay cold in the event of a power outage.
  • Preserve your produce to use at a later date. You don’t have to forego fresh produce just because you won’t be able to go to the store! You can freeze or even dry your product to make it last longer!

What Canned Foods to Always Keep in Your Pantry

You want to ideally stock enough food to last your family between three and six months. However, canned foods are the exception to the rule. If you find canned foods for a good deal, you can stock up a little more since they have a longer shelf life. 

I recommend stocking canned goods based on what your family will eat for up to a year. This will ensure you have ample time to eat through what you have and prepare for any emergency that might occur. Just make sure you buy things your family will actually eat. Just because it’s a good deal, doesn’t mean you should buy it if no one will eat it!

Here are some of my suggestions for what canned foods to stock up on and keep in your pantry:

Canned Fish

Canned seafood will last much longer than fresh or frozen seafood, and can be used to make a ton of meals! You will need to be able to refrigerate your seafood after you’ve cooked it, but you can still use canned fish to make easy high protein meals like salmon or tuna cakes or tuna salad.


Beans have many diverse applications and flavors, making them an excellent staple for your canned food pantry. Canned beans are cheap to find, but you can buy them in bulk at warehouse stores for long term food storage. Beans can be used in meatless meals such as tacos or to stretch your protein in tacos or soup recipes. See all of our recipes with beans!


Canned vegetables are a great side item to add to meals, but can also be used to make many meatless dishes such as a pot pie or pasta. When cooked in with other food items, you won’t notice they aren’t fresh! 


Like canned vegetables, canned fruit can be a great way to enjoy fruit that is out of season or can’t get to when fresh produce isn’t an option. Look for canned fruit with no added sugar for a healthy canned food option.

Shelf Stable Milk

Shelf-stable milk comes in many forms, including powdered milk, sweetened condensed milk (see our homemade sweetened condensed milk recipe), evaporated milk, and dry milk. Many recipes call for each of these, but you can use powdered milk and evaporated milk just like you would normal milk, you may need to rehydrate the milk first depending on your recipe.

Soup, Soup Base, and Chili

While homemade soup usually tastes better, and you could make your own soup, canned soup is a great go-to option for your food storage. Soup bases would also work when you can’t make your own homemade broth. Chili is a great hearty food option that can help you get protein and meat when you can’t eat the real stuff.

Diced Green Chiles

If you are looking to make your own homemade salsa or spice up whatever dish you’re making, diced green chiles can be a great option! They have a long shelf life making them perfect for stocking up! Here are a few recipes with diced green chilies!


Canned pumpkin can be used to make pumpkin recipes all fall long without using a real pumpkin! Canned pumpkin isn’t just for pies! You can use it to whip up pumpkin cookies, pumpkin muffins, and even pumpkin bread. (See ALL of our Pumpkin Recipes)

Tomato Sauce

Tomato sauce can be used to make your own pasta sauce, salsa, and so much more! This versatile ingredient is a must-have for any canned food storage!


If you’re not big on beans, you might want to give lentils a try! Canned lentils have a long shelf life and can be used to stretch your meals further! See our Slow Cooker Lentil Soup.

Canned Meats

If you aren’t able to get fresh meat, you can still use canned meats! Canned chicken can be used to make chicken salad, or to add into a stew. You can also find sloppy joe mix, canned chilis that use meats, and more to help keep healthy proteins stocked in your pantry.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Canned Foods

Many people will tell you that canned foods don’t taste as good. While some canned items such as milk and eggs won’t taste like the original, there are a few secrets to making your canned items taste just as good as the original!

  • Rinse your veggies and beans: Many canned foods contain high levels of sodium or salt. Making them a lot more salty than fresh beans and veggies. With the exception of tomatoes, it’s best to give them a good rinse before cooking.
  • Buy canned vegetables with less sodium: If you can find canned variations with less salt, they will taste a lot better!
  • Use vegetable broth to add more flavor: If you are looking to enhance the flavor, try adding a splash of vegetable broth when cooking your canned vegetables and beans. It will improve the flavor without changing the taste too much.

Additional Items to be Stocked Up on in your Pantry in Case of an Emergency:

In addition to canned foods, it’s also important that you keep other shelf-stable dry goods on hand in case of an emergency. 


Final Thoughts

You never know when you’re going to need to stock up on something for an emergency. While hurricanes and inclement weather usually give you a few days of notice before they strike, you may not be able to find everything you need if you wait until the last minute to head to the store. Having a good stockpile of canned items can help you overcome these challenges, so you are better prepared for whatever comes your way. 

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