Intro Guide To Buying Canned Meats For Prepping and Survival

Over the years we have canned a lot of meat. Finding canned meat at a reasonable cost at the grocery store can be challenging. In the past, our freezer space and power supply were very limited.  Recently we have been putting back some cans of sardines for some convenience food plus they are awfully convenient for picnics.

I realize that some of you may not be a big fan of fish or just like to eat it occasionally so this post is going to include some of the canned meats I have found that are worthy of consideration for putting back for SHTF. I am including at least one selection from each of the major meats out there. If possible you will see a budget-priced brand and a splurge brand.

There is going to be a price difference between beef, pork, and poultry so if you are sticking to a prepper budget and set your limit at $6.00 per lb you may want to get a mix and just make sure you are averaging your goal price per pound. Most people don’t want to be stuck eating the same protein for days on end with no relief.

Portion sizes may be a serious consideration if you are a single prepper or just have a partner or spouse.

Some canned meats have more servings than others. A can of sardines is great for one person but opening a whole can of beef or a ham can be too much, especially if refrigeration is not an option.  Saltier canned meats like hams or potted and processed meats can last longer without refrigeration.  A pint of canned meat is usually a 1 lb or more depending on how much broth and other ingredients are included. A standard serving of meat is about 4 oz. If meat is canned with a lot of broth then you might plan for 5-6 oz serving sizes.

Canned meat can be very high in sodium

Be prepared for a much higher sodium content in canned meats you purchase than what you do at home. If I can meat I usually add just a little bit of salt or sometimes none at all. I like to cook from scratch and if everything I have to work with has already got a bunch of salt, the resulting combinations can be too much for both Matt and I. Canning your own meat gives you the flexibility to use the added ingredients and spices that are right for your diet.

Be aware of preservatives and fillers

Some readers and their families may have allergies or food sensitivities. Canned meat may have other ingredients beyond meat, salt, and spices. Nitrates are commonly used in meats like SPAM.  Meat packed in gravy or broth can get a lot of its weight from the gravy so you are getting less meat than you expect. I used to love the canned roast beef in gravy when I was a kid but half of the weight came from the gravy.

Beef

If canned beef is too much for you then consider dried beef in bulk or consider buying some fresh beef and canning it yourself. You can get a 1/4 of a cow for a good price per lb. If you have friends or family that need to put back some beef for the winter then you may want to ask them if they want to go in on a 1/2 or whole cow and get a better deal for everyone.  Just make sure you get everyone on the same page fast or be ready to absorb the cost and storage of more beef if someone doesn’t come through with their portion.

Keystone Canned Ground Beef

This was the best value I could find on canned beef. 28 oz of cooked beef is a great deal for under $7. This is a lot of meat so if refrigeration is a factor and you don’t have a big enough household to eat it up fast, then you may want to look at the Keystone Ground Beef that is in a 14.5 oz can.  It is not near as good a deal at $5 per can. I like that this brand only contains ground beef and sea salt so I know I am not paying for cheap fillers or consuming a lot of preservatives that I don’t need to.

Hormel Roast Beef & Gravy, 12-Ounce Cans (Pack of 6)

I used to love getting cans of this when I was a kid. It was easy to heat up and tasted great on bread and mashed potatoes. The portion size makes a very hearty meal for one so you don’t have to worry about refrigeration or waste. If you add some sides or use it to make sandwiches it is enough for two people.  This is the best deal I could find for beef that was not just ground beef. The chunk style canned beef costs so much more so it is hard for me to recommend it for those trying to stash back for an emergency. This roast beef is very tender as well so if someone has a hard time eating tougher meats, this is a good solution.

This would also make an excellent base for a chunky stew. Throw in some canned mixed veggies, and you got something really good and satisfying.

Chicken

I used to can the chickens up that we raised and butchered here. The truth is that I came to realize that the amount of work and expensive feed we had to buy to raise the big white chickens that you get in the grocery store was simply not worth it. The cost of chicken in the grocery store is not something I can match at home raising it myself under the conditions we have on our farm.

If I had access to a lot of inexpensive high protein food then it may be different. As far as canning chicken goes, you can definitely put back some inexpensive canned meat and broth by catching sales on chicken and pressure canning it. Tyson chickens are under $1 per lb but I am not a fan of their practices so I usually go with the grocery store brand when there is a sale or even organic if the price is right.

I recommend deboning your chicken and canning it with some salt and water at the very least. Bones take up too much space, and they are a hassle. Boil up the bones for broth and can that. It is very good stuff, and you can cook it down a lot for concentrated flavor. I do have to say that if you cook it down too much, it is a bit rich. A pint of broth that has been cooked down a lot is enough for a gallon of soup sometimes.

Buying Canned Chicken

If canning chicken is not for you then you have some choices when it comes to getting canned chicken.  Like any meat, portion size and packaging have an impact.

Swanson White & Dark Premium Chunk Chicken, 9.75 Ounce (Pack of 12)

When SHTF I am not going to be picky about things like light versus dark meat. This chicken is raised in the USA with no antibiotics. This is impressive considering the price.  Each can contains 2.5 servings, so it is a reasonable size for a main course for two people and a real feast for 1. If this were mixed in with some dried veggies, broth powder, and a few noodles, it would make soup for 4.

Here is a link for the same brand but in an 4.5 oz white meat only version.

Canned Whole Chicken

There used to be canned whole chickens for sale at the grocery store, but I have not been able to find them online at a reasonable cost. You may be able to find them at your grocery store. The Sweet Sue brand shown in the picture below seems to be out of stock everywhere.

 

Turkey

Turkey is very inexpensive around the holidays so it is a good time to buy whole turkeys and can the meat if you have the time to do so. Remember that you can stash whole turkeys back in your freezer for months and then can them if you don’t have the time to spare during the busy holiday season.

If you don’t want to fool with canning any then you can pick up 12 cans for $20. This is a good choice for those that just like a little turkey once in a while.

Hormel White & Dark Chunk Turkey, 5-Ounce Cans (Pack of 12)

Although white meat is popular, it seems like a lot of people I know prefer the dark meat on the bird. Hormel has a pretty loyal customer base and consistently delivers a quality product. The 5 oz size is very convenient for 1-2 person households, making sandwich spreads, adding to soups, etc.

Valley Fresh 100% Natural Canned White Turkey in Broth, 10 Ounce (Pack of 12

For just white meat there is Valley Fresh. These are large cans at 10 oz. I like that the turkey breast is packed in broth because that helps when adding to soups. When there is broth you can also add a little cornstarch and some water, simmer for a minute or two, and you have turkey breast in gravy!

Fish

Some canned fish has gone up substantially in price over the past few years. I like the Smoked Sprats, but they can be a bit costly at my local grocery store. We buy Seasons Sardines in Olive Oil, or the Seasons No Salt Added for my Dad who is on a restricted sodium diet.

Sardines

At $18-$24 per 12 tins and sized for a single person, you are paying less than $2 for a serving of meat and good fat from olive oil. That is pretty good for convenience food. The calorie count is not super high, but the protein, calcium, and oil that you get are quite valuable during a survival situation. These are something it is far cheaper to order. I like supporting my local grocer, but they are asking $3 per can for what I get for $1.70. Amazon wins this time.

Season Sardines in Pure Olive Oil, 4.375-Ounce Tins (Pack of 12)

The new style of some sardine tins is a bit flimsy.

I wanted to warn those that are used to the typical sardine can with a metal lid. Some of the new sardine cans come in a box like usual, but they have a foil lid. I wonder how much this affects the shelf life?  If you rotate food out on a good schedule, it may never be an issue, but for the very long term, it seems that flimsier film would fail.

I know for sure that it does not have the puncture resistance of the old metal style. Keeping them in the box can help some, but it is something to watch out for. I don’t know if all brands are going for this new style of packaging in the near future. At the moment the Seasons Sardines in Olive Oil have a standard metal lid but the Seasons Sardines that are no salt added and canned in water have a foil pull back lid.

Tuna

With various types of packaging and serving sizes, tuna is a good staple to put back if you like a fairly strong fish flavor.

StarKist Chunk Light Tuna in Water, 5 Ounce Cans (Pack of 48)

Genova Yellowfin Tuna in Pure Olive Oil, 5 Ounce (Pack of 24)

Other Fish

Canned salmon is good but it seems to have become quite expensive.  If you want very inexpensive fish to put back then the best you will do is usually canned Mackarel.

BUMBLE BEE Chub Mackerel

While mackerel is not my favorite, it sure beats no meat at all, and you can make good fish cakes with a few other ingredients. This is actually a better deal than fancy canned cat foods if you run out of pet food in an emergency too.

Canning Your Own Fish

Plenty of people can their own fish but is very time consuming and energy intensive. Pints of fish have to be processed in a pressure canner for 1 hour and 40 minutes according to the National Center For Home Food Preservation. 

I advise following the link above and carefully reading and following the instructions provided if you are canning fish. If it is fish that you caught, it is important to make sure to clean your fish within 2 hours after catching. If you are keeping them alive in something, then that is different. You can leave them on a stringer for hours, but when they come out of that water, the clock is ticking.

The instructions in the link are only for certain types of fish too. Canning safety is very important!

Pork

There are a lot of canned pork products out there. Canned BBQ is common as well as canned ham.

Dak, Premium Ham, 16 oz Can (Pack of 10)

These hams are very popular in the prepping community and are known for offering good quality. The price can vary a lot. There are definitely some sellers on Amazon that are asking way too much, but others are offering these hams for around $5 an lb. For ready to eat meat that is an amazing deal.

The 1 lb size may seem like too much if you are single person or couple, but you need to remember that ham is salty and keeps quite well. If you had ham for dinner and then finished it off for breakfast, you probably wouldn’t have any need to worry about spoilage, especially if you put it out of any direct heat or light.

Wal-Mart also sells Dak ham. It is worth it to check the price and compare. Here is a link to the current Dak ham available on their website. 

Spam Single Classic, 2.5 Ounce Pouch (Pack of 24)

How could I possibly make a list of canned or packaged meat for survival without including SPAM? The link above is for individual packages. I think this is an excellent deal for single preppers or for packing. The price is excellent, and you get a lot of calories, protein, and fat. It does contain nitrates, but a lot of shelf-stable meats do. The classic version of SPAM is made from just Pork but you can get other flavors that include cheese for example, or that is spiced differently.

Spam Less Sodium, 12 Ounce Can (Pack of 6)

Cans of SPAM are a full 12 oz compared to the 2.5 oz single serving pouches. I wanted to the include the low sodium version for those of you that need to watch that or that find processed canned meats are too salty for your taste buds!

Expiration Date Warning

Some of you may have read this from me before, but you have to be careful about expiration dates when buying foods online. If the deal sounds too good to be true, then you may want to ask the seller what the expiration date is for what you are purchasing.  If you are going to consume the food within a year or so and the date is a year out then who cares, but if you want it to be part of your preps for five years then you will want the freshest batch.

Meat canned in oil offers the most calories and nutrition for your money

I buy meat in oil or water depending on if it is for my Dad or not.  Unfortunately, the fish canned in oil has salt in it, so he gets the sardines in water with no added salt.  For long-term preps, I look at calories more often than salt for Matt and I.

Auto Order Convenience

I take advantage of Amazon’s Subscribe and Save Program. A lot of items you get 15% off the regular price.  You set a schedule of when you want deliveries. You might want a case of sardines every month, but canned chicken may be something that you want every three months.

Each month I get an email asking me to review my order. I can skip a month on an item and add another item at this time.  As long as you get 5 different subscribe and save items per month you get the maximum discount. If you buy Amazon gift cards you get another 2% on each reload so that can help too and it can be used towards your subscription.  Some items the discount may only be 5-10% but that is usually for items besides food.

This program can also help you budget for some of your preps and make sure you don’t run out of things like toilet paper, toothpaste, and other household needs.

Do you have a favorite brand of canned meat? Did I miss a brand that you have found to be an excellent deal? Please share with your fellow Backdoor Survival readers in the comments below!

Samantha Biggers can be reached at [email protected].

  1. Freeze dried meats can be a good deal also with much longer expiration dates. I’ve used lots of Thrive meats. Very tasty and easy to use. Plus you get the advantage of no added ingredients.

  2. Great list, I buy most of the same products with the exception of your choice of Sardines, I get the same size, flavored (mustard, hot sauce, jalapeno or smoked oil) at my local Mega-Lo-Mart store for .98 a can. I can’t tell any diff. in taste. On occasion, they also carry Sardines in retort type pouches similar to Tuna and SPAM singles, which is great for packing in BOB’s. And since nobody in the family will eat Sardines (not yet anyways)…I get’em all to myself.

  3. No mention of Costco canned meats! I get their canned Tuna, canned Roast Beef and canned Turkey (when they have it). I also get their canned Salmon & of course the Original Spam. Their brand name is Kirkland, and all the above are the finest quality I’ve ever found. The cost(s) might be just a bit more but the quality simply cannot be beaten!.

    1. Thanks Jake! There are no Costco’s in my area so I am not familiar with the cost and quality. I know there are a lot of Costco stores out on the west coast and they seem to be popular.

  4. Certain canned meats claim to have no expiration date (beef, pork and chicken). Wertz canned meats claim to be no antibiotics and hormones used, the animals used are free range and grass fed (beef and pork). Keystone meats are beef (ground and chopped), chicken, Turkey and pork. Best price for Keystone meats I’ve found is Wal-Mart. I purchase the cans online. Mountain House has freeze dried meats and can be purchased at lots of places including Amazon subscribe and save. Thrive is a little more costly than Mountain House but claims to have more meat in the can. Valley Food Storage has a good variety. Of course there are always Auguson Farms, Honeyville, Emergency Essentials, and The Ready Store, plus many others. You can get human grade dried Bonita flakes and put it in your own Mylar bags if you want fish for long-term. MRE Depot often has access to freeze dried fish and meats from government over runs, also Safecastle.

  5. I LOVE Kipper, especially doused in Tabasco sauce on Salteen crackers! We always keep at least a dozen or so on hand. I prefer King Oscar brand, but my wife likes Brunswick, so I buy both.

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