They May be Smelly, Oily.....and Useful? 10 Surprising Uses for Canned Sardines

They May be Smelly, Oily.....and Useful? 10 Surprising Uses for Canned Sardines

by Brandon

Here’s lookin at You

If you have recently cleaned out your pantry, perhaps you may have come across a can or two of those stinky little fish (hidden in the darkest corner of your pantry) known as sardines.

You might personally distaste sardines and gag at the thought of eating them (personally I like them…with crackers, of course). And therefore, you figure it’s okay to throw them out…

But, hold on just a moment!

Believe it or not those oil-soaked fish are quite useful — in a prepping sort of way. Sardines actually have a variety of survival applications.

Part of acquiring survival skills is the ability to find new uses for something you might think of as ordinary. Many pieces of mundane items actually enjoy new, and wonderful uses through repurposing.

I Wish I had Thought of That

Now, I wish I had come up with these alternate applications for a tin of sardines. But I didn’t. So, to avoid the stain of plagiarism, I’m freely acknowledging that the following ten uses come from the book Prepare For Anything Survival Manual, by Tim Macwelch. The descriptions for the different uses of sardine cans are my own paraphrases of what’s in the book.

I think the information from the book is of value, creative, and a great example of out-of-the-box thinking. The kind of thinking you want to cultivate for survival scenarios.

Perhaps after reading this post you might change your opinion of the humble sardine. Consider the possibilities….

The Amazingly Versatile Sardines…And Their Can

1– Grease Lamp: Not only are you assaulted by the smell emanating from the can, you’ll also notice plenty of oil. So, here’s one use…in case you forgot your light. For this to work you need sardines packed in oil. Eat the fish (you know you want to). Then place a string in the oil for a wick, leaving out about an inch. Finally, light it. And there you go.

2– Animal Trap: Again, eat the fish, which should satisfy your hunger for a bit. Or, perhaps you happened across an empty sardine can…and you’re out of food and famished. Either way, make an animal trap by cutting an X in the bottom of the tin, place it over a hole, and secure it to a stake with a length of rope. If a small, yet heavy enough animal steps on the X, it’ll punch through and hopefully get stuck long enough for you to….uhhh…take it out…put it to sleep…rock it good-night using a choke hold…

3– Signal Mirror: Provided you have a little chocolate or toothpaste and a rag or piece of paper, you can shine that tin up and use it as a mirror.

4– Trap Bait: Again with the traps. Oh, well. If you’re new to trapping, or just need to relocate a pesky raccoon, then sardines might be the key. The oil and bits of fish from a sardine can make tempting pieces of bait many omnivorous animals find hard to resist. 

5– Eat Them: Maybe this should have been listed first. You can always use sardines for the intended purpose: consumption. Just make sure you have some crackers (or something) to liven up those little fishies. 

6– Survival Kit: Yep, you read that right. Actually there are commercial survival kits in a can, so the idea is not bad. However, you can make your own with an empty sardine can (make sure it’s quite clean first). Fill the can with your own survival supplies, and use a liberal amount of duct tape to seal it up. Now you have a water proof can, survival items, and duct tape.

7– Mini Frying Pan: With a large-sized sardine tin you’ll have a functional frying pan. Remember this is more of an emergency, alternative use for a scenario in which you need to cook, but you don’t have an actual frying pan.

8– Camp Stove: In case you forgot your actual camp stove, but you have a sardine can and high-proof alcohol, then you’ve got yourself an improvised cook stove. 

9– Emergency Pet Food: Dogs and cats can survive on sardines for quite a while, if no other food is available. And they’ll probably enjoy it as well.

10– Shelter Smoker: Have a bug infested shelter? Not to worry. Use a large sardine can to smoke them out. Place red-hot coals in the tin, add dry rotted wood over the coals, and place the container in a safe spot — one that won’t catch fire. It should create a lot of smoke and flush out the creepy-crawlies.


You'll Never Look at a Can of Fish the Same Way Again

Ten reasons to help you change your mind about canned sardines.

I’m not saying that sardines are absolutely necessary to food storage or survival. 


I am trying to demonstrate that something as innocuous as a sardine can has many applications. You just have to look at items in a new way, a new angle, that will solve a problem. Because that’s what survival will require from you, using any available resource to fulfill multiple tasks. 

Still…hopefully this post will get you thinking that sardines aren’t so bad after all. The next time you’re at the grocery store, pick up a can or two and add them to your short term storage.


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