Tomatoes: The Overlooked Survival Food

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stock up on tomatoesOn my list of the Top 10 Foods 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 some of my favorite soups are tomato based.  It’s no wonder that I stock up on tomatoes and tomato products.

Reasons to stock up on tomatoes

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 is in the glorious, hot days of summer, 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

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, you can seal them in either canning jars using a jar sealer attachment and a Food Saver or in Food Saver bags. Since the dried tomatoes will still have a degree of moisture, I don’t recommend storing them for much longer than 3-6 months.

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. Far more moisture is removed using this method than oven drying, so these crackly tomato slices will have a much longer shelf life. Use the canning jar/jar sealer method with a Food Saver. That is my preferred method for storing dehydrated tomato slices.

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. Add more powder for a thicker sauce.

Stored in the fridge, tomato powder will last indefinitely.  To make your own, seed your tomato slices before dehydration or not. I leave the skins on and the seeds in. Place the slices on dehydrator trays, making sure they don’t overlap and dry until very, very crispy. This will take several hours.

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 Bullet and get great results.

The Paranoid Dad’s Not-So-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 or preferred sweetener, to taste

3 cloves garlic, pressed

Pour warmed liquid into a bowl and add 1 large can tomatoes (chopped or pureed), 1 chopped white onion, and chopped jalapenos to taste.  I also add a handful of chopped cilantro. 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. This is the recipe I included in my mini-book, Switch From Store-Bought to Homemade, available as a free download!

Lisa’s Homemade Ketchup

6 oz. tomato paste

1/4 c. honey*, or to taste (I also sometimes use sweeteners when I want to cut down on carbs and calories.)

1/2 c. white vinegar

1/4 c. water

3/4 t. salt

1/4 t. onion powder

1/4 t. garlic powder

Whisk all these ingredients together in a medium size saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for 30 minutes and allow to cool before pouring it into a container. We use squeeze bottles but you could also recycle old ketchup bottles for this use.

Home canned tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of the easiest foods to can, even for beginners. Other than learning how to make jelly and jam when I was a kid, canning tomatoes were the first food I ever officially canned. Since you use the simple water-bath method, there’s no need to calculate pressure or timing based on your elevation.

Here are simple instructions for canning your own tomatoes.

With all these options, it’s very, very easy to stock up on tomatoes in your food storage pantry. They’re versatile, delicious, and I’ll bet you and your family can’t go much longer than a week or two without eating something made from tomatoes!

stock up on tomatoes

Are you new to food storage? Check out these tutorials as well as my full-length family survival manual, Survival Mom!

For even more, here’s a page full of more links and videos!

Even more food storage resources!

This article updated on August 2, 2015.


25 thoughts on “Tomatoes: The Overlooked Survival Food”

  1. 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.

    1. I never paid much attention to how much we use tomato products, but you can bet I'm going to be stocking up big time! Thanks for visiting my blog!


  2. 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. 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. 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. Diana,

    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. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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?

      1. TheSurvivalMom

        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.

    3. TheSurvivalMom

      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. 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. 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. 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.

  10. Paranoid Dad is right. In fact, he’s being generous when he equates cilantro with dirt. I had something yuckier in mind.

    1. love cilantro, but I think radishes taste like dirt–my DH thinks they are wonderful! Taste buds are very variable between people!

      1. The Survival Mom

        Have you ever tried pan frying sliced radishes? I fry them in a little bit of butter and they taste quite good — like the root veggies that I like so much. I also have been adding them to my beef stew recipe in place of potatoes. I never liked radishes much before this.

  11. On June 6, 2010 there was a statement about e.coli. I have read the post about three times and I don’t understand who is going to ‘recall, what’. Please explain. I have just been introduced to your site and it is apparent I have ALOT of reading to do. Thank you for your time. Blessings.

    1. The Survival Mom

      I read it myself just now, Martha, and I’m not sure at all what Steele meant by that. Maybe they thought they would have a supply of tomatoes by drying their own, knowing it’s been safely preserved, in case of a widespread recall of tomato products? That’s my best guess!

  12. Jan, would love to know how you do your : Italian blend for sauce & tomato powder. Green onion powder & leek powder & bell pepper powder & onion powder !!

    1. The Survival Mom

      Just put those veggies, either on their own or combined with others, in a blender and blend until you have powder. I use recycled spice shaker jars for my powders.

  13. I have long been an advocate of storing the ingredients to the dishes we eat. I have a sensitivity to bell pepper and it seems like it is put in almost everything. Plus my DH is a very picky eater and won’t eat most vegetables (like broccoli & spinach to name a couple.)

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