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In this post: Why you should keep canned foods on hand, how to cook with canned foods and delicious recipes using canned foods. 

In general, cooking with canned foods isn’t my favorite. I much prefer to use fresh meats, fruits and vegetables in all my recipes and meals.

However, canned foods are really great to keep on hand for emergencies, like when someone gets sick or you can’t go do a normal weekly grocery shop as planned. 

cans on a table with text overlay that says cooking with canned foods and recipes for canned foods

Why Keep a Decent Stash of Canned Foods?

1. Canned Food is Nutritious

Because canned foods have been canned at peak harvest time all their nutrition, freshness and flavor have been sealed in. So, no matter when you buy canned food, you know it’s going to be almost as good for you as fresh food. 

One thing to note, is that some canned foods include a lot of sugar. Fruits especially, but even veggies. So, look for ingredients that don’t include sugar. Fruit packed in juice versus fruits packed in syrup for example. Or peas packed in only water versus peas packed in water with sugar. 

2. Canned Food Lasts a Long Time

There’s nothing like buying a bunch of fresh produce, only to have it wilt away in the fridge because you didn’t get to eating it in time. #wompwomp

With canned food, you don’t really have to worry about that, because canned foods tend to last a really long time!

(Canned foods can have expiry or best before dates, so watch for those.)

3. Cooking with Canned Food is Really Easy 

Canned foods make whipping up a homemade meal easy.

Dean and I grocery shop on Fridays. I know a lot of you shop on the weekends. So by Thursday, I’m betting your fridge is looking like ours – either a little bare or a little wilted. (The produce in the fridge, not the actual fridge. I’m pretty sure you knew what I meant. Moving on.)

And by Thursday I’m pretty much done being creative with food. Tired out. Ready for a rest.

Creating an easy, healthy, homemade meal when we’re tired from the week (and we don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen) is as easy as opening up a pantry full of canned-food-goodness.

4. Canned Foods are Budget-Friendly

Making a meal with canned foods is way more economical than say ordering in. Which means even when you’re tired and don’t feel like cooking a huge meal, you can have awesome healthy foods on a budget year-round!

Plus, most grocery stores frequently run sales on canned goods, like buy three get the fourth free or something like that. So, you can stock up for even less that way. 

5. Canned Foods Are Great in Emergencies

Listen, I like to keep all things as positive as possible here on the blog. But the reality is, in this world, emergencies like natural disasters, power outages and illnesses happen. And, given that my strongest number on the enneagram is a 6 – which means I LOVE safety and security – I would rather be prepared than not. 

I also grew up up north and sometimes winter storms meant we couldn’t get to a store for days, so my mom kept many canned goods stocked in the pantry. So, I learned from her and do the same. Mainly as we head into the winter months each year. 

And with all the craziness going on at the time of updating this post, I’ve never been more glad for those stocking up tendencies of mine! 

Make sure to keep a regular, non-electric can opener on hand too. Just in case you need to open a can or two and the power is out! 


What Canned Foods Should You Keep on Hand?

Well, that depends a bit on your family’s food habits. 

  • Do you normally include canned foods in your meal plan? 
  • What foods does your family like to eat?

There’s no point in stocking things that you would never eat. 

For example, in our house, only our son likes canned tuna. And only the girls and I like canned beans in things like chili, or chickpeas in salads. So, I keep some of each on hand, but not as many cans as I would keep of something we all like. Does that make sense? 

In general, our government leaders recommend that you stock enough food to feed your household for 2-4 weeks. That includes foods in your freezer, fridge and your pantry. 

Here are some canned foods that we keep on hand: 

  • apple sauce
  • brown beans in tomato sauce
  • red kidney beans
  • black beans
  • chickpeas
  • flaked tuna (from a reliable, ethical, safe source, limited to eating 1-2 times per week to minimize exposure to heavy metals)
  • flaked chicken
  • peas
  • carrots
  • green beans
  • beets
  • spaghetti sauce
  • coconut milk

cans on wood table

How to Cook with Canned Foods

In general, canned foods make meal prep much faster. That’s because canned food is already cooked and mainly just needs to be heated and seasoned. 

So, if you’re using canned food in recipes that normally require you to steam or boil veggies first, you can usually skip that step and just move onto to baking, roasting, sauteing or seasoning. 

Canned foods also make great additions to soups and casseroles because they can just be opened and “dumped” into the pot. 

Reduce cooking times in your favorite recipes, when using canned foods, so as not to create mushy foods. 

Cooking with Canned Foods – Recipes:

Several of  the recipes in our recipe archives use canned food and I plan to create several more easy recipes using canned foods to inspire you this year.

For now, here are some easy to prep, recipes that can incorporate or be entirely made from canned foods. If the recipe doesn’t expressly say to use canned foods, it’s been included because I have used either canned veggies, fruit or even meat in them with success! 

These yummy recipes can incorporate many canned foods and make a great framework for cooking with canned foods!

If the recipe doesn’t expressly say to use canned foods, it’s been included because I have used either canned veggies, fruit or even meat in them with success! 

pantry with cans and bowl of casserole with text overlay about cooking with canned foods

Do you keep canned foods in your pantry? Are you a fan of cooking with canned foods?

(This post was originally written as a sponsored post for Cans Get You Cooking in 2015. It has since been vastly updated to include more information, more recipes and more resources in March 2020.)

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  1. I’m a can food lovers BFF. I have about 5-6 quickie recipes over at the blog and they require cans..cans..and more cans. I’m already a big can fan. Good luck with the drive… Happy Valentine’s Day….Suz

  2. Hi Shannon,
    I lost a favorite canned food recipe that used canned cranberry sauce, canned corn, ground beef, onions and other ingredients. Would you possibly have such a recipe?

    Thanks so much!!!