Prepper Food: The Shelf Life Of Spam & How To Store An Opened Can

If you’re a prepper looking to find a canned meat product that can last for years, you need to consider SPAM. It’s available in nearly 50 countries throughout the world and it’s been around for over 70 years. 

You’ll want to know whether spam goes bad and whether it’s suitable for your emergency food storage. Dehydrated meat can get tedious after weeks or months on end, so considering spam as an alternative protein source could be a good idea. 

We understand though that you don’t want to store spam in the wrong way. Not only do you want to avoid food waste and throwing away money, you also don’t want to be left without a good source of protein and boring, bland meals. 

We’ve done extensive research to find out whether you should start stocking up on spam, and if you do, how to make it last as long as possible. 

Billions of cans of SPAM have been sold since production began in 1937 so let’s take a look at how you can use it within your prepping and if it’s suitable for your bug out bag as well as your long term food storage supply. 

What Is The Shelf Life Of Spam? Does Spam Expire?

There’s no expiration date for Spam and generally you can eat it for many years after purchase. People have eaten it up to 10-15 years after purchasing spam without becoming ill. 

However, there is a ‘Best By’ date which is listed on each can of spam. This is generally around 3 years after the product is made. The Best By date gives you an approximate idea of when the spam will start to lose its freshness and flavor. For the best taste, try to consume it within its Best By period. 

Spam LITE generally has a longer shelf life as it contains less fat which means it takes longer to turn rancid. Both Spam LITE and Spam CLASSIC will take years to go fully rancid so don’t panic if you need to consume yours past the Best By date. 

Spam Classic

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Spam Lite

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What Is Spam Made Of?

Unlike many processed foods and chopped meats, spam does not actually contain too many nasties. The only meat parts included in spam are pork shoulder and pork ham. 

Taking pork as one ingredient, the other 5 ingredients used to make spam include:

  • Salt
  • Water
  • Potato starch
  • Sugar 
  • Sodium Nitrate

Sodium Nitrate is a preservative which is used to help foods to retain freshness. However all of the other ingredients in spam are fairly simple and haven’t had anything added to them. 

Is It Safe To Eat Expired SPAM?

As we’ve said spam doesn’t expire as such – but there will be a gradual loss in freshness and flavor over time.

It’s safe to consume expired spam and if you’re in a survival situation you can feel confident using it as an excellent source of protein to help fuel your physical exertion. 

If you can, try to eat your spam before it expires. If you are including it in your long term food supply, this can be achieved by ensuring you regularly rotate the cans of food that you store and check Best By dates regularly. 

What Happens If You Eat Expired Spam?

Nothing serious will happen if you eat expired spam, especially if it’s just a few months or even 1-2 years beyond its Best By date. 

You should always check that the can containing the spam isn’t damaged as you should generally avoid eating canned foods if their container is seriously damaged or dented. 

If you eat expired ham, the most serious effect will probably be on your tastebuds. Flavor and freshness of spam decrease over time.

How To Tell When Spam Has Gone Bad

Unfortunately, the best way to tell if spam has gone bad is to look at it – which you can’t do through a can. 

You need to avoid discovering that the spam has gone bad at the last minute. Don’t let yourself and your loved ones be in an emergency situation where you are hungry and relying on a can of spam for your next meal, then open it to find it has gone bad. 

Keep on top of your food rotation and food storage regularly. If you’re packing a bag to go out on an expedition or into the wilderness, pack a fresh can of spam so that you have the assurance that it will be OK to eat. 

You can sometimes tell if spam has gone by looking at the can itself. Avoid eating spam if the top of the can has rounded and become domed. The top of the can should always be flat. 

If you have dented cans it’s usually a warning sign that the spam could be damaged too so always open it and check before you pack this can for an emergency bug out bag. 

Is Spam A Good Prepper Food?

There are lots of reasons why spam makes a good prepper food. The reasons why you’ll want to include spam in your both your emergency food supply and your long term food supply include: 

  • Can be safely consumed for years even beyond the Best By date displayed on the can. 
  • Inexpensive and easy to get hold of 
  • Easy to store 
  • Doesn’t require refrigeration
  • Provides a good source of protein
  • Contains a good amount of fat and calories to fuel physical exertion
  • Doesn’t require cooking and can be eaten straight from the can

Spam has been used by preppers, campers, military personnel and outdoor enthusiasts for decades. It’s a brilliant option if you want to ensure you have a good source of protein that won’t expire quickly or pose a risk of food poisoning. 

Alternatives to Canned Meat

If you don’t want to use canned meats ( such as spam, corned beef or ham) there are other options available which you can choose to use to ensure you stay healthy and have a sufficient amount of protein and iron in your diet. 

You could consider using dehydrated meats such as beef jerky or chicken jerky. This can be bought easily or you can make your own at home if you have a food dehydrator or a suitable oven cooker. 

Jack Link’s Beef Jerky

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Chef’s Cut Real Chicken Honey Barbecue Jerky

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Another option is to look at vegetarian or vegan alternatives to canned meats. These could include some of the following foods: 

  • Jackfruit – this is often used as a substitute for meat dishes such as pulled pork and is ideal for batch cooking large stews or casseroles. 
  • Lentils –  these are cheap and easy to store yet offer excellent nutritional value 
  • Black Beans – a good option for adding to sauces or for making Mexican dishes, these provide an efficient energy source and are very filling. 
  • Chickpeas – these are very versatile and can be eaten straight from the tin as an immediate energy source, blended into sauces and dips or baked in the oven. 

365 by Whole Foods Market

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Goya Foods Lentils

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Native Forest Organic Young Jackfruit

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Organic Canned Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans) 

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How Long Is Spam Good For After Opening It?

It’s recommended that you use spam within 5 days of opening it. 

You can optimize the lifespan of opened spam by ensuring that you store it correctly after opening and always keep it refrigerated. 

If you only want to use a small amount of spam at a time, you may want to consider chopping it up and freezing it into smaller portions until you are ready to use it. This can help to avoid food wastage and make things much more cost effective. 

How to Correctly Store An Opened Can Of Spam

Once you have opened a can of spam and made sure that it is OK to eat, you should slice it carefully into portion sizes. Keep the portions separate so that you don’t risk putting any food substances such as butter onto portions that you aren’t ready to eat. 

Always remove opened spam from the can if possible and place it instead in a covered glass or plastic container. Make sure that the container is airtight and clean and dry before use. 

If you store your spam correctly you should be able to consume it safely up to 5 days after opening.

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