Canned Protein Foods For SHTF


While planning and choosing various foods for your overall preparedness food storage, also think about the proteins.

All foods made from meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts, and seeds are considered part of the Protein Foods Group.

Proteins are the building blocks for our bones, muscles, and blood.

Here’s a list of some choices for storing back some canned protein…



They are already ready-to-eat, pre-cooked and/or pasteurized, and therefore theoretically require no fuel consumption for safe eating (although some of the items listed below will likely taste better warmed up or cooked).

Canned Food Shelf Life


Canned Salmon

Not only is this fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, it’s actually better for you when canned because ‘traditional pack’ salmon is packed with the bones intact, meaning more calcium for your bones and teeth. Also, some of the fat is removed, making it a healthier option.

Canned Tuna

Tuna is a naturally lean protein source, also containing good omega-3. Be aware that tuna may contain levels of mercury, so it’s probably best not to consume more than a few cans a week. Here is a tuna consumption calculator for your reference regarding maximum recommended intake.

Canned Chicken

Packed with protein and low in fat for a relatively low calorie count, chicken is high in selenium as well as cancer-preventing B-vitamin niacin. It also contains B6, which is important for energy metabolism.

Canned Pinto Beans

The canned beans are convenient and can easily be added to soups or stews. They’re a good source of folate and manganese, relatively high in protein, and rich in vitamin B1 as well as a slew of other minerals.

Canned Kidney Beans

They are high in fiber, iron and memory-boosting B1, releasing their energy slowly (meaning no sugar spikes), and contain a relatively good amount of protein.

Canned Beef

There are a variety of commercially available canned beef choices out there. Beef is another source of protein. I just randomly checked a can of Kirkland canned beef (12 oz) and it contains 15 grams of protein, slightly more than the same size canned chicken (13 grams).

Canned Almonds

Often considered the healthiest nut, a medium sized handful contains about 5 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber (the highest of any nut), calcium, zinc, iron, vitamin E, and some B-vitamins, minerals, and selenium. Generally, most all unprocessed nuts are good in that they contain protein and other attributes. If they’re canned, they should have a longer shelf life, but the oils in them will go rancid after a time.


How much protein do you need each day?

Recommended daily amounts are shown in the following list from the USDA.

These amounts are appropriate for individuals who get less than 30 minutes per day of moderate physical activity, beyond normal daily activities. Those who are more physically active may be able to consume more while staying within calorie needs.

Children 2-3 years old
2 ounce equivalents**

Children 4-8 years old
4 ounce equivalents**

Girls 9-13 years old
5 ounce equivalents**

Girls 14-18 years old
5 ounce equivalents**

Boys 9-13 years old
5 ounce equivalents**

Boys 14-18 years old
6 ½ ounce equivalents**

Women 19-30 years old
5 ½ ounce equivalents**

Women 31-50 years old
5 ounce equivalents**

Women 51+ years old
5 ounce equivalents**

Men 19-30 years old
6 ½ ounce equivalents**

Men 31-50 years old
6 ounce equivalents**

Men 51+ years old
5 ½ ounce equivalents**

**See Protein Equivalents Chart below…


Protein Equivalents Chart


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  1. Sardines (which i happen to like), have a crazy long shelf life. when i compared the dates on cans, sardines was about four yrs, compared to two for canned tunna/salmon. no idea why.

      1. Ken,
        maybe the Mrs. would like the skinned/boneless sardines.

        although, frankly, not as nutritious without the skin and bones, and much more expensive, when on sale i buy these for a treat. the others on and off.

    1. When I moved to Portugal in 1995 someone here gave me dozens of cans of sardines. The use by date was 1986!!!! I was too scared to eat them so I kept them another few years and eventually fed them to my dogs. They had a feast with no bad results whatsoever.

  2. We have stopped buying canned seafood as a result of the contamination from Japan. We have been trying other canned meats which are surprisingly good, especially the canned chicken. We use it in place of tuna in some recipes.

      1. We can a lot of venison, cause its almost free. Some in pints, & some in quarts. Our labor for the processing. My sheriff department calls me when they have a nice animal that has to be put down due to vehicle damage. Here is a comparison of the costs. My brother-in-law had summer sausage made at a processing facility & it costs him $169. I made #45 lbs summer sausage from two animals & it only cost me $27. #5 lbs. jerky, and app. 12-15 lbs. fresh tenderloin from the backstrap.

  3. Please remember the harsh winters, especially for those thinking of bugging out as a possible option.
    Canned food freezes and it gets very cold up here in Canada. Right now as I type this it is minus 47 not including wind chill.
    I also wanted to add to give you a perspective on pre disaster prices up north. You can usually get a pack of 25 smokes for around 11$ CAN in the more northern cities and towns in the provinces. I have seen them go for up to 20 to 25 $ a pack in the southern border towns of N.W.T. Food is already expensive up here. Services and roads are not good.
    I do not trust putting all my eggs in one basket. Also as I am preparing to go gold prospecting, and already live a nomadic lifestyle, I have to cache. I believe the governments WILL do house to house searches…please make caching a part of your plan…staying at home and storing is excellent…bugging out especially if you are thinking of heading up north….well…different approach. Also remember in the depression that wild game was knocked out nearly. Hope this helps.

  4. This one is for all the fishers out there. Those nasty carp that most throw back can be easily home canned in wide mouth pint jars, using a pressure canner. The end product tastes like mackeral. Just cut into chunks (bones will get soft) after scaling and cleaning. Then pack into jars, water and salt then can for 90 minutes at 15lbs of pressure. I have done several hundred pounds of carp this way. Any extra fish you get can be canned in this fashion.

    You have then turned something that is generally considered trash fish becasue of all the bones into a useable product. You just have to make sure the water they come from is safe to eat the fish out of. Some rivers/Lakes in the larger metropolitin areas have been condemned due to chemical contaminates.

    1. Christine

      have tasted home canned fish and it was amazing good. much better than bought.

      as well, using your suggestion re “trash fish”, the minerals/calcium in the fish bones would add considerable nutritional value to this. there is lots of good nutrients in fish bones.

      a good canner is likely worth their weight in gold, especially in meager survival situation.

      1. Yes I think my skills and the canners I have (multiple) would be worth quite a bit. Also having a sufficient store of jars and re-useable canning lids to. So many people buy those pesky little metal flats at the Wal-Mart and they can be re-used to a point but not much and of course we are not supposed to at all. Also having a canner that does not use a gasket and\or having extra gaskets is also a necessity should we be in a lengthy SHTF scenario.
        I subscribe to the Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without. saying so I have “made it do” with trash fish instead of buying salmon or mackrel!

        1. Christine, I am assuming you have the type of jars/lids my Mom reused for yrs and yrs… always worked for her. never a problem

          I myself never learned, but more and more I want to. yrs ago my attempts, and it was only jam were dismal failures

          but, that is me being lazy, not learning for sure.

          am wondering if I can ask what spices/flavors etc you put in your canned “trash fish”?

          1. I only put salt and water, 1/2 tsp per pint. Also no I have the regular jars you buy now and old mayo/miracle whip/nescafe type jars (yes they work, my pantry is proof and rarely do I have one fail, I have actually had more of the ones from the dollar general fail than any, 1 broke in my pressure canner this last year, I average about 1-2 a year usually from waterbathing and rarely in a pressure canner). The lids are re-useable they are called tattler. You use them with regular jars and regular rings but they are a 2 piece design plastic lid with a rubber gasket. The main drawback is that there is a small learning curve to using them and you can not just write on them you have to stick a piece of tape or write on the jar

          2. well done Christine. it is interesting that you use “other” jars… I seem to recall my Mom/Grandma doing that too. I think the stuff you have posted re food preserve shows you are going to have / do have very valuable skills.

            just curious, how long roughly, do you feel a canned jar of food (that you can) is good for? I recall one set of my grandparents canning up every bit of extra, and latterly using it up over yrs. they were poor but never went hungry. I recall this set of grandparents commenting that they were well experienced with this and felt they would be able to tell if something was off. must have been correct as I don’t recall them ever getting sick.

          3. I have used jars of home canned food several years after I made it(3-5 years). Right now I am still using soup I canned in 2011 and pumpkin butter made in 2010. Remember to rotate your stock. Here are a few tips:
            Look at the jar does it look okay?
            Is the lid intact and not rusted?
            Is the seal still tight?
            Open the jar, does it smell like it should?

            It is always a good idea to boil what ever you open for 10 minutes unless it is something like pie filling that you are going to bake or the chicken you open to make into enchiladas. If any of the above list is “off” then do not use it. I have used jelly 5-7 years after I made it.
            These are only my rules of thumb. Generally unless something has a lot of sugar like fruit or jelly I throw it out to the chickens or pigs after 5 years if rotated right then that will be a rare happening. Usually only when a jar is lost in a cabinet.

  5. I HAVE actually lived out of a back pack for several years altogether in my life. I am from B.C’s wet west coast. It is the warmest part of Canada year round, like Oregon, but believe me, it still gets cold, a wet cold there…a dry cold here, especially IF YOU LIVE OUTSIDE YEAR ROUND!

    And except now for Fuchishima, fishing is great. THAT IS WHY I HAVE MOVED INLAND…Canned goods are way easier to store. Life is way easier, lots of driftwood to burn…OR IT WAS….we now have radiation everywhere to contend with! Lessons I have learned are to have the best quality waterproof camping gear money can afford. Such as pelican cases, Baja bags and back packs for white water rafting/caving/kayaking. I have also lived off a bicycle and pack, and out of many vehicles. I love that life. I LIVE THAT LIFE! Very few bills, and responsibilities. That is what I am working, SO HARD FOR! I want to be prepared…..but I also want to have fun….life is short!

    “All of the wannabee preppers who think they will forage of the fat of the land, should actually go outside and hike/camp under Winter conditions for three days.”
    I agree, I spend much time out in the bush. Every prepper needs to get out there.
    Actually there is still o.k. hunting around, up north here in the winter, the other night my aboriginal friends whom I work with just snared a rabbit, took it home for supper. Supplement your reserves. I just saw 2 lynx the other day. Moose and deer are everywhere. My best friend just caught 2 fishes ice fishing.

    “Or Water”. Actually….My M.S.R xgk-ex camp stove is small…light weight, can use 5 different types of fuel, and this type of stove has been used on major worldwide expeditions…can boil up water damn fast…and at high elevation…and my M.S.R. water filter with dromedary bags…work very well for filtering water, mate. Soon to get a Katadyn pocket water filter, also. there is snow everywhere for water.

    I just finished a 38 day shift strait, in the middle of nowhere working outside in these conditions. We had a medic on duty with helicopter-air evacuation; very warm clothing, all you can eat food and water, a warm truck to go to if I had to, a warm camp to go to. I am healthy, and live in a disaster free area. It does get freaking cold. You do get used to the conditions. You have to be very prepared. I am learning new things every day.

    When off work, I have a winterized camper and my 4 by 4. And I usually am off somewhere exploring. In the summer, warmer months when not working, I am always out camping and exploring!
    You cannot easily leave a bottle of water or a can of beans in the camper or truck without it freezing.

    “Buggin’ out with a full heavy backpack and trudging across snowy terrain”, would be suicide without a plan.

    Caching, in my humble opinion, is a challenge, but is a good way for those of us who cannot afford everything we want. Not everyone OWNS their own land…what do you do with all your stores if you cannot pay the bills? I would rather spend my hard earned money on the prep itself…stash it….and hide it somewhere for free. Than have to pay to store it. There are infinite free places to hide things…It is wise to have many different, small caches in your plan.

    ‘No one can take what they cannot find”. And you can put a month’s supply of food inside a 5 gallon bucket. P.V.C. with cap ends works for certain things.. Food though needs a waterproof metal container for the long term against rodents and animals.

    My biggest challenge, my plan, is to master caching and have an intricate cache system. Freeze dried and dried goods, work well for me, I can hunt trap and fish…plus I still have the food and liquor store’s … for now…Canned goods stockpiling will work well once I get to my region, dig well below the frost line, using redundancy; many layers of protection for my cache goods, and somehow afford and find new metal drums to hide away. (might just weld my own custom metal boxes)? Somehow also use culverts? I write all this as I wanted to give a different perspective that most people in warmer climates have no experience with.

    For now, all I can do is stock pile my truck, my storage facility, my utility trailer, and rely on TEMPORARY caches using 5 or 7 gallon plastic buckets.

    It will take a while, but prospecting I hope will teach me many new skills, and meet many contacts to learn from.

    Damn, ain’t prepping a bitch?

    Guerilla camping and caching. Staying hidden.

    P.S. I love this site. I learn much from ken who is a hero, and from the community.

    1. note*”Canned goods are way easier to store”, on the coast, because it is warmer.

  6. While today many people avoid the “packed in oil” version of canned fish, in a survival situation, each 3oz portion that was packed in oil gives you 50 extra calories. That’s significant if the cook is paying attention to those kinds of details. That oil might be used as part of pot pie crust.

    Yes, it’s healthier not to add in oil now with some many Americans being obese. You usually have to switch gears regarding prepping for then most will end up malnourished.

  7. Have you ever wondered what you would do if you and family were facing starvation? When or if that happens, you want to do the opposite of what one does when dieting. That should be your first thought in case we encounter a collapse in America.

    When dieting, by eating several small meals, the body can maintain a stable blood sugar. The stomach contents empty faster. This helps the body burn at a high rate of metabolism and helps assuage hunger.

    When starving, you want to lower the rate of metabolism. You need to have higher blood sugar under work conditions but not necessarily under resting periods. Hunger will be persistant, particularly if all you eat is the low calories that come from lean protein (see my rabbit starvation post above).

    To do that, it’s better to eat one large meal late in the day if possible.

    Why? For the most part, this helps children to sleep. When children are malnourished and hungry they have difficulty sleeping as their thoughts are full of hunger. A full belly for those on watch duty is bad for the night watch portion as it may induce sleep.

    A full belly at the end of the night works well for the parasympathetic portion of the body’s normal processes. During the night, the blood is shunted to the core trunk of the body and since there is little movement, energy is allocated for digestion and the formation of tissue maintenance. It’s called “rest and digest” for this reason.

    Then upon waking, while you would be hungry, in actuality there would be lower blood sugar but still would allow you to work efficiently.

    By doing this, it means less firewood consumed, for the last thing you want to do is build three fires a day as that will use up all your fuel sources. Smoke is more easily seen during the day too, thus makes your position more detectable. At night you’d use a Dakota Hole fire as that will help reduce detection in the wilderness.

    We don’t want to be efficiently metabolizing all day long, for that will result in more food eaten in the long run.

    If the work crew needs more energy, then one could make energy bars to help boost their energy. There are several recipes for making these as a form of hardtack but containing gathered wild edibles. But many people would eat the most at the end of the day.

    Think, if you’re bugging out, then you’re trying to gain the most miles during the day, and when walking you don’t properly digest food anyway. You want to walk until you find cover in the treelines or grasslands, and then only drinking sips of water to maintain hydration. By eating the meal later, during darkeness when you can’t hike anyway, this is better for your tribe. Likewise, by firelight you can concentrate on making tools which require concentration but often not labor intensive work.

    This is the most efficient means of rationing your food for many practical reasons.

    If food is spoiling or going stale, then you want to eat that food and put in your belly if you can’t preserve it. It’s better to do this and then store some of it then let it be wasted. Thus the order in which one eats provisions is governed by the rate of spoilage and being able to mix proteins to get a complete protein as well.

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