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Canned Foods Can Stretch Your Food Dollar

How to stretch your food dollars by incorporating more canned foods.

Nashville, Ark. – With soaring food prices and strains on the family budget, consider stretching your food dollar with canned foods. While some people may frown upon them, canned foods can be nutritious. They are very versatile.

 There are so many choices on the canned food aisle of your favorite grocery store that it can be intimidating. How do you know you are getting the best flavor? On today’s grocery aisle, many canned foods have seasonings added to them. Then there are several canned items that are lower in sodium. Start by reading the label. Read the front of the label to make sure you are purchasing what you intend to buy. For example, canned tomatoes with basil and garlic added to them would be great in Italian dishes but may not work in other recipes. Next, turn the can to the nutrition facts label and read the information there. Look at the three big items – Fat, Sodium and Carbohydrates. Compare them with similar products. If you need help understanding the information on the nutrition facts label, the Extension Service can help.

Most canned vegetables have added sodium. It is always a good idea to rinse your canned beans and vegetables before using them, especially if a doctor has recommended you lower your sodium intake. When you rinse the liquid off, you can control the sodium content. The best way to drain the liquid off is by pouring the can contents into a colander in the sink. The colander will catch the canned food, but the liquid will go down the drain.

When canned foods do go on sale, it is a great time to stock up. Canned beans are a great way to extend almost any recipe. They can add extra protein and other important nutrients. Again, it is a good idea to drain the liquid they are processed in before using them. That thick, gooey liquid that surrounds the beans is extra starch and full of sodium. Unless a recipe specifically calls for using the liquid, drain and rinse them.

In the case of canned tomatoes, you will not want to drain them, unless the recipe states to. Pour the whole can in, tomatoes and juices. For example, if making a pasta dish with diced or stewed tomatoes, use the entire can. You will get the benefit of the flavor and vitamin-rich juice they were canned in.

Another great canned item to have on hand is tomato paste. It is great for adding intense flavor to any tomato-based sauce or soup. Just add a spoonful of tomato paste to the recipe to “kick up” the flavor. You can always freeze the remainder of the can and use later.

Do not forget that can of broth. It adds flavor to all kinds of dishes. Vegetables, chicken, or beef broth are all great at adding flavor. Again, look for the lower sodium varieties if you are watching your salt intake. Consider adding chicken broth to mashed potatoes, or beef broth to the roast you are cooking. A popular restaurant in north central Arkansas uses chicken broth instead of water to prepare grits for their morning menu. It really makes this dish stand out. Use vegetable broth instead of water when cooking canned vegetables.

One last tip, if you are using canned beans or vegetables to extend a recipe, add them toward the very end of the cooking process because they will not take as long to cook. The last thing you want to do is serve something that is overcooked and mushy.

For more information on nutrition, check out our website You will find lots of information, plus healthy recipes. You can also call the Howard County Extension Office at 870-845-7517 and ask to be added to our mailing list. You can also visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse or email me at You will get information about upcoming classes including hands-on cooking such as “Cook Your Way to a Healthier You” – DASH Diet Cooking School scheduled for May 2 and 16 at the Howard County Extension Homemakers Education Center in Nashville. This two-part hands-on workshop will teach the principles of the DASH Diet (top rated diet) including ways to lower sodium and why you should.

Recipe of the Week

This recipe is worth repeating. It has so much flavor, uses canned vegetables, and is easy to make. It only takes about 10 minutes to prepare. It makes a lot and can be used for a side dish or appetizer. Goes great with any Mexican food.

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

  • 1 (16 oz.) jar salsa

  • 1 (15.5 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed

  • 1 (15.5 oz.) can whole kernel corn, drained

  • 1 (14.4 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes, drained

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin

  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir well.
  2. Cover and chill for 30 minutes before serving.
  3. Serve with chips or as a side dish.
  4. Yields: 24 (1/4 cup servings)
  5. Note: Add more garlic powder if desired.
  1. Nutrition Information per Serving: 30 calories, 0 fat, 1 g. protein, 6 g. carbohydrates, 2 g. fiber, 240 mg sodium



By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.