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Survival Food: Sardines vs Peanut Butter

Updated on November 1, 2016
robertzimmerman2 profile image

Robert is from south-east Florida and serves the world as a reference librarian. Also a musician, Bob plays bass in a Indie cover band.

Sardines and Peanut Butter
Sardines and Peanut Butter | Source

Food for Thought

People today are thinking in ways they have not needed to for a long time. There are many "negative" situations from local to international that could disrupt your access to food and water for a time. Do you have an emergency plan?

This article talks about two packaged foods for an emergency kit - Canned Sardines and Peanut Butter packets. The information will help you decide if sardines or peanut butter is better for you in terms of nutrition, convenience and cost.


Who needs Survival Food?

Maybe YOU!

I live in the "Target Zone" of Atlantic Ocean hurricanes, SE Florida and since I was born here I was raised to have an emergency plan or in this case a hurricane plan. I also spent a few years as part of the local Emergency Management Operations in the capacity of an Emergency Operations Area Coordinator. When practicing or on deployment I would always bring a small bag of emergency supplies, including food, that stayed with me. Emergency food and water is part of an overall emergency plan, or plans for "bad" situations.

Emergency / Survival food can be purchased in many different forms from food bars, MREs (Military - Meals, Ready to Eat), trail mix, canned goods, etc. You can even make your own, but I prefer to purchase food that will last a long time and that is much easier (and safer) than making it. Whether your emergency food is for major disasters or just to have when traveling or camping, if you are going to have it on hand you might as well put some thought into it.

It is VERY IMPORTANT, no let's change that to CRITICAL to include water in your survival kit! You will need water more than food, LOTS MORE. You can use standard bottled water you may already be buying but emergency water is also available in small packets that have a very long shelf life.

With perishable supplies such as food and water, the problem is threefold. First you have the problem of COST - I will assume that you intend to purchase your supplies rather than steal them! The second problem is STORAGE - Where are you going to keep your supplies? And the third problem is SHELF LIFE - You need to rotate you supplies so they do not become unusable.

Your Overall Plan

When thinking about emergency food and water you should think in terms of those being part of your overall emergency plan. Fortunately there is a great deal of information on this from reliable sources such as The American Red Cross and The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Both have detailed and printable lists of what items should be in your family emergency kit.

You may end up with one simple plan or several differing plans for different situations. Post hurricane survival in suburbia is totally different than being lost in the Wilderness while hiking. I'm not going to get into a long discussion about these choices because today we are talking about Sardines vs. Peanut Butter. Look for links scattered within this article for ideas.

Here is Florida we are focused on post hurricane survival and the hurricane season is in the Summer. Up North you might be thinking the opposite. Survival in Winter. Your situation is different but the concept is the same. Supplies to get you through a temporary survival situation of say, two weeks.


TEOTWAWKI - Stands for "The End of the World as We Know it"

My Emergency Food Method

Now if I were very wealthy I would just build a proper food storage area in my home and stock it with whatever I wanted. Since I do not have that choice I have developed a simple method to get the most out of the money I spend on emergency food.

1) Buy only what we like to eat. Very wasteful to buy foods you do not like. Gluten Free is a must in my home.

2) Buy only what you will use outside of hurricane season. Use up what you store, then replace next year.

3) Buy only what needs little or no preparation. Boiling water is about all I want to do for cooking.

4) Buy only what requires throw away utensils. Have paper plate, bowls, cups & plastic knives, forks & spoons.

5) Buy foods that are easy opening. I have more than one food opening device but why hunt for them?

6) Buy what is on sale. Gee, that's a hard one, eh?

As you can see, this method gets me thinking ahead every year so as we approach hurricane season I mentally shift gears and begin looking for deals on bottled water, canned foods (with pop tops), nuts, dried fruit and of course - Peanut Butter and Sardines!

Oh, I almost forgot one VERY important item - Make sure you have emergency Toilet Paper! My wife laughs at me when I buy an enormous pack of TP when it is on sale but I answer "Honey, someday you will thank me for this!"

"Nutritional Density Ratio"

Since space and weight are limiting factors in any emergency kit, you should always select food with a high nutrition to weight ratio!

Balance Scales
Balance Scales | Source

How do Sardines and Peanut Butter Fit into My Method?

Nutrition to Weight Ratio!

Overall, the important thing for survival food is the ratio of nutritional value for the size and weight of each serving. Here are other requirements I decided were important that lead me to choose canned sardines and peanut butter packets.

  • Taste - must a food or snack I (and others) enjoy
  • Economy - must be reasonably priced and available
  • Non Emergency Use - must be foods that I will eat anyway
  • Convenience - must be ready to eat and easy to consume
  • Minimal Packaging - must be high density of edible product
  • Long Shelf Life - must stay fresh as long as possible
  • Gluten Free / Low Salt - must conform to my dietary needs

Of all the different snacks, food bars and canned goods, sardines and peanut butter are two things I eat all year around. In my opinion it is crazy to spend my hard earned money on food I MIGHT need and if I don't, will be wasted. If I'm lucky and there is no emergency, I can eat these foods during the rest of the year.

Can of Sardines vs. Peanut Butter packet

Peanut Butter
Serving Size
Total Fat
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
Nutritional Table

Nutritional Density

As you can see from the table above, both sardines and peanut butter do pack lots of food value in a small container. This table is based on examples of each product. Please check the details of products you are interested in.

Now, I'm not a nutritionist, just a consumer who reads labels like you, but reading the nutrition value of both products I see each have a similar amount of calories but the peanut butter is about a third the serving size. Both have the same amount of fat, but again, the peanut butter packs that in a smaller amount of food. Peanut butter leads the way in fiber content too and even though it's not much, you would be getting it from a small packet of product. Peanut butter also has a small amount of sugar which sardines do not.

The next important item is protein, and here the can of sardines contains double the grams than the packet of peanut butter. Remember that the peanut butter is about a third the quantity (32g to 106g) so the peanut butter is "denser" in that respect. The other vitamins/minerals are measured as a percentage of the Daily Value in a 2000 calorie diet but other than calcium there is not much in either.

One advantage the sardines have that would be very important in a survival situation is that they are packed in water. I could not find the water content amount listed anywhere but any amount of water is a good thing. This is balanced however by the sodium (salt) content in sardines. Peanut butter in packets often contains no salt.

This brings up the idea that you should also have some multivitamins in your emergency store. We always have those around so we do not add them to the kit.

Ease of Use

This gets us thinking about how we might have to eat our emergency food in a survival situation. We want the simplest and easiest to consume food we can get. What if it's raining? What if our dominant hand is injured? What if there are wild critters in the area? After a hurricane, there will not be power for some period so no Air Conditioning. I want the least amount of work in that scene!

A can of sardines has several strikes against it in my opinion. First, you need two hands to pull open the lid. Second, you really need a spoon or a fork to eat it. And third, the strong aroma could attract wild animals even if you bury the leftover can. Many predatory animals eat fish - like bears for example. Crazy? Perhaps but it is good to think about this stuff - YOUR BRAIN IS YOUR MOST VALUABLE SURVIVAL TOOL!

Now about peanut butter packets. These can be opened with one hand (and your teeth). You do not need any utensil to eat, just squeeze into your mouth. And, peanut butter is not as strong an odor as sardines plus what animals eat nuts? Small ones! (although bears would still be interested).

I always put some plastic zipper bags in my emergency kit, very handy. I could use the bags to hold the empty containers to lessen odor. Here the peanut butter packets also have an advantage in that once emptied they are very flat. A sardine can is still a can and takes up more space. There are other uses for an empty sardine can such as a container to boil water but that gets into a different survival situation than staying put and staying alive for a couple of days in suburbia.

In a survival situation I would prefer . .

See results

My opinion

Considering what emergency food to include in a kit depends on whether the kit is for your home or for travel. If for travel, like a car kit, the size of you are likely to need the supplies. Your house is a better place to hang out than the side of a ravine in your car.

Personally, between canned sardines and peanut butter packets I go for the peanut butter for a couple of reasons.

1) Higher overall nutritional density

2) Ease of use (just tear and squeeze!)

3) I like sardines but I LOVE peanut butter

3) Small size means more fit in my B.O.B.

4) Variety (Almond butter, chocolate / honey)

5) I use them as snacks anyway - no fish smell for my coworkers!

6) Availability of similar packets of jelly.

Although, canned sardines also come in a wide variety of styles including water or oil, various sauces (mustard/hot) that would make for some variety. I would not like to eat sardines without a fork or spoon however.

You see how difficult this question is?


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    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      These are both foods I enjoy, actually. In a survival situation, I would probably go sardines.

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 3 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      Living in Fl. I keep my emergency food as you do. I like to be prepared and we do a lot of camping so it will all get eaten. Nice hub.