Tips for Tailgating with Canned Food

From the first pitch of spring to the last touchdown of fall and all those summer concerts under the stars, no grand sporting or music event is complete without a great tailgate spread.  Here are a few simple steps from that can ensure your tailgating fare scores big with your crowd.

Pre-Game Warm-Up

  • Place perishables, such as meats and condiments, in a clean, insulated cooler chilled with ice or cold packs.
  • Pack foods that are already cold or frozen - don't assume your cooler can cool foods adequately if they're packed at room temperature.
  • Pack perishable foods between ice or cold packs; they'll stay cold longer.
  • Keep your cooler in a cool place - not in the hot trunk or in the sun. Try to place it in the shade, under a tree or table.
  • Return perishable foods to the cooler immediately after serving.

The Playbook

  • Carry nonperishable foods in a clean picnic or laundry basket - with the heaviest foods on the bottom.
  • Mix hearty salads on the spot. Pack chopped vegetables and dressing in the cooler. Add canned meat, seafood or chicken just before serving. Reminder: Pack the can opener.
  • Pack for convenience. Tuck in ready-to-serve canned foods: three-bean salad, salsa, chili and sauerkraut (to top off the hot dogs), and German potato salad. Reminder: Glass containers are prohibited at most venues. Cans provide a convenient and safe alternative.
  • Pack several kinds of canned juice and set up your own juice bar.
  • Pack uncooked meat, poultry or fish carefully in well-sealed containers, making sure their juices don't leak. Keep them in a cold, insulated cooler, separate from cooked and ready-to-serve foods.


  • Canned fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as their fresh and frozen counterparts.
  • Canned food only needs to be warmed through before serving because it has already been cooked in the can.
  • Soups and stews are canned as soon as they are prepared to ensure the ultimate in freshness.
  • Canning is one of the safest ways to preserve foods while maintaining vitamin and other nutrient levels.
  • Available year-round, canned foods can easily be added to favorite recipes for a convenient meal solution.

Adapted fromThe American Dietetic Association's Complete Food & Nutrition Guide by Roberta Larson Duyff, MS, RD, CFCS

And also check out our favorite canned food recipes for Game Day and Tailgates.