Tomatoes: The Overlooked Survival Food

On my list of the Top Ten Food for Stocking Up, I impulsively added tomatoes as #6.  During the past few days I’ve been keeping an eye on the foods we most often eat, and sure enough, tomatoes are a big part of our diet.  Sunday we dined on tacos and tostadas, both topped with salsa.  The next night we gorged on take-out pizza with a delicious tomato sauce flavored with red wine.  Ketchup is the life blood of my kids’ lunches, and my favorite soups are tomato based.  Why haven’t I focused on stocking up on tomatoes before??

One reason I’m glad to include tomatoes as a major part of my food storage is that they contain healthy doses of Vitamins A and C and are wonderfully low in calories.  Tomatoes are a natural diuretic being 90% water themselves and can help flush toxins out of your body.  On top of all that, they’ve been found to contain lycopene, an amazing element that combats cancer. 

The peak season for growing your own tomatoes has passed, if you live in North America, but they’re available at the market year round.  If you can get your hands on a large number of fresh tomatoes, here are some options for you, other than letting them rot in your vegetable drawer!

Oven dried tomatoes.  Yum!

Oven dried tomatoes. Yum!

Oven Dried Tomatoes

What a delicous way to preserve your tomatoes, and this couldn’t be simpler.  Wash your tomatoes and slice them about 1/2″ thick.  Toss them with salt, pepper, and olive oil and place them on a baking rack.  Bake at a very low temperature, 225 degrees, for at least 2-3 hours.  You’ll know they’re done when they feel like soft leather and are chewy.  For long-term storage, freeze them using a vacuum food storage system.

Dehydrated Tomatoes

Again, wash and slice tomatoes, but this time, layer them on dehydrator trays.  If you’re new to food dehydration, read this.  Tomatoes will need a good 6-12 hours of dehydrating time, and when they’re finished, they’ll be crispy. 

Homemade Tomato Powder

The first time I heard of tomato powder, I thought, “Huh?”  It turns out that this is a great ingredient for adding tomato flavor and nutrients to soups, chiles, stews, salad dressings, and more, and it can be quickly rehydrated as tomato sauce.  Stored in the fridge, tomato powder will last indefinitely.  To make your own, seed your tomato slices before dehydration.  Once you have crispy tomato slices, break them into small pieces and turn them into powder using your food processer or blender.  I use my Magic Jack and get great results.

The Paranoid Dad’s Secret Salsa Recipe

We love this fresh flavored salsa.  You can add cilantro, if you like.  I love cilantro, but Parnoid Dad says it tastes like dirt.  Go figure.

In a saucepan over low heat, combine these ingredients until thoroughly heated:

3 T. oil

3 T. vinegar

3 t. salt

3 t. sugar

3 cloves garlic, pressed

Pour warmed liquid into a bowl and add 1 large can tomatoes (chopped or pureed), 1 chopped white onion, chopped jalapenos to taste.  Add a nice big bag of tortilla chips, and dinner is served!

Make-it-Yourself Ketchup

Yes, you can make delicious, homemade ketchup, seasoned just the way you like it!  I’ve found that some store brands are too sugary, and the sugar free brand is quite pricey.  Two recipes I’ve found online are this one from Hillbilly Housewife, and this slightly more gourmet version.  Yumm!



What’s so great about tomatoes, is that they come in so many different canned versions, which make them an incredibly affordable part of your food storage.  It’s not unusual for my local grocery store to price cans of tomato sauce at 25 cents each.  Stock up on those cans of pureed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, whole tomatoes, chopped tomates, whew!  They will add an infinite variety to the recipes you’ll make using your stockpiled food and provide a nutrient dense ingredient as well.

There may be links in the post above that are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which does not affect the price you pay for the product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

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  1. Diana says

    We've had some sort of tomato blight here in the Northeast this year, so I have upped my storage of tomato products just in case prices go up because of the problem. Always an easy way to get a vegetable (Okay, a fruit!) into my family, too.

  2. dlpt says

    I found a great chili recipe on the back of a can and began buying the ingredients which included a variety
    of tomato products….it got me thinking that chili and rice is good, chili on potato is great, chili with cornbread is yummy,
    chili on spam okay well not much . I began buying lots of canned tomatoes to stock up along w/ rice and beans
    oh and a couple of boxes of velveeta cheese…watch the dates.

  3. says

    That is just a brilliant idea! I have stocked up on plenty of cans of chili but had forgotten how much my family likes chili and rice, and you're definitely on the right track with stocking up on ingredients for dishes your family enjoys! Thanks for the tip.


  4. Diana says

    There's canned cheese available (something like Internet that is a good backup. However, if you go to that website be prepared for a LOT of anti-government rhetoric. In Kathy Harrison's Just In Case Book, she also talks about making cheese, which I haven't tried yet, but it sounded easier than I would have thought!

  5. says


    Well, of course I had to go to that website! They definitely have some strong opinions! LOL I want to explore making cheese, too, because people have been making it for thousands of years. How hard can it be?? :o) Thanks for mentioning Just In Case. It's a great resource.


  6. Steele says

    I've always said that nearly everything we eat as a lunch or dinner contains tomatoes. Stew, spaghetti sauce, chili, casseroles, etc. When purchasing for long term (i.e. Honeyville, Mountain House, Thrive, etc.) you will never find cans of dehydrated tomatoes. I do not know why.

    I chose to dehydrate tomatoes instead of buying canned. The reason, is space and of course cost. Nearly everything that you eat, other than salads or tacos, for example, the tomatoes do not have to be fresh or in chunks. So, I purchase tomatoes on sale ($0.25-0.33 lb) and dehydrate them. After they are dehydrated, I grid them in a coffee grinder into powder. It's pretty amazing actually. 10 lbs of powdered tomatoes will only fill a pint jar about 3/4 of a way. And while many people say you need to seed them, I have not found that to be the case.

    • Steele says

      If you want more "flavor" dry in the oven (oven roasted) with sprinkles of garlic but do not add oil. Finish dehydrating them in the dehydrator, and then grind them up! And I only store them in pint jars with 02 absorbers, and date them. This way, I only open what I would use in a couple days, and if there is a recall for e. Coli, I can easily find them.

      I do the same thing with onions, garlic and celery. If I wanted to make a "ready to use" soup base, I could grind up dehydrated carrots, onions, celery, peas, green beans, tomatoes, etc and make a base powder.

    • Steele says

      You can also store them in vacuum bags or mylar bags in smaller sizes, and make up ready to make meals this way. An example is chicken bouillon in one package, carrots in another, broken spaghetti noodles in another, black pepper, and then vacuum bag all those bags into one. If needed, simply open up a can of freeze dried chicken, open all packets and just add boiling water and cook for a bit? You can do the same for spaghetti sauce. Package the tomato, garlic, onion, spices separately, along with the macaroni and when needed just add freeze dried beef.

      Who says I can't make my own mountain house meals?

      • says

        This is exactly what I have been working on for the past couple of months. I discovered a great book over on Amazon, Dinner is in the Jar. It has some great recipes and directions for making your own dehydrated meals. With small mylar bags and oxygen absorbers, I don't see any reason why these shouldn't last for a year or more.

    • says

      I grind my dried tomatoes with the seeds also. For chopped tomatoes, I have broken my dried tomato slices into smaller bits, which is pretty easy since they're so crispy.

  7. Jan says

    Every summer we put away tons of tomatoes. I can tomatoes with jalepenos, onion, and bell pepper so that I can use it in chili, spanish rice, etc. I can an Italian blend for sauce. The tomato powder is super easy. We use it for dips, casseroles, soups, etc. We also make green onion powder, leek powder, bell pepper powder, and onion powder. It adds alot to dips, soups, etc.

  8. Debbie says

    Yes, tomatoes are great to store, I have 4 kids, so I have stored tomatoes in a number of ways. No. 10 sized crushed tomatoes from Sam's club, home canned chili, tomato chunks and powder from – then there is ketchup, jugs of salsa…I'm sure I'm forgetting something.

    I like to keep about 12 weeks of normal food on hand, for us that worked out to about 24 no 10 cans of crushed tomatoes. Thats a good sized stack! Thanks for the ketchup recipe, I've just kept 6 of the large store brand bottles in my rotating stores.

    I would love to use my home grown tomatoes but I have yet to grow more then we can eat fresh. I'm up to 16 plants this year, I'm hoping to get some dehydrated tomatoes out of them.

  9. Johnna says

    I plant 14 tomato plants every spring and can them. It does take time and can be messy,but there is nothing like the garden fresh taste of tomatos in the middle of winter.

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