can Kirkland brand albacore

3 Ways to Stretch a Can of Tuna to Feed Four Hungry People

Are the popular “reality” television shows anything close to what you consider reality? Take the venerable hit show Survivor, getting ready to launch its 39th season, for example.

To me, that seems more like fantasy than reality. And, honestly, I can’t remember the last time I had to survive on approximately 14 grains of rice per day or think of multi-legged creatures in terms of grams of protein.

Still, I think that borrowing a few basic “survivor” attitudes and skills could help us to look at some of the items in our freezers, refrigerators, and pantries—like that lone can of tuna—a bit differently.

can Kirkland brand albacore

Let’s say that a 5- or 6-ounce can of tuna* in your pantry is the only scrap of protein in the house. You’ve got four hungry people to feed. A trip to the store is completely out of the question (did I mention we’re marooned on a deserted island?… wink, wink). What will you do? What WILL you do?!

That’s exactly the question I once posed to three frugal food experts. Their responses, while varied, prompted me to make sure I have canned tuna on my shopping list as soon as I return to civilization.


Pat Varetto, Frugal Living Blog says, “I would probably make a tuna pie, using leftover vegetables from the freezer, which I always seem to have in abundance.”

Make a simple pie crust and line a baking dish with it. Drain 2 to 3 cups of vegetables (mixed vegetables, beans, corn, peas, and carrots … just about any combination will do) and set aside the liquid.

Add tuna to the vegetables (don’t drain the tuna). Add a generous tablespoon or so of cornstarch in a half cup of the vegetable liquid, mix well, then add to the vegetable/tuna mix.

Pour into the piecrust and top with more crust and prick in several places.

Bake at 350 F. until the crust is slightly browned, about 30 minutes.

Registered dietitian

Brenda Ponichtera, Registered Dietitian and author of Quick & Healthy Vol. II  says of her Tuna Macaroni Salad, “Try this on a bed of lettuce accompanied by sliced tomatoes. A whole-wheat roll completes this meal.”

Tuna Macaroni Salad

  • 1 can tuna, drained
  • 4 oz. medium-size shell pasta (about 2 cups dry)
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onion
  • 1 can (6 oz.) water-pack tuna, drained
  • 1/2 cup nonfat ranch-style dressing

Cook macaroni according to package directions, omitting salt and oil. Drain. Add remaining ingredients and toss with dressing. Refrigerate until serving.


Here’s what Rhonda Barfield, author of Feed Your Family for $12 a Day, would do with a can of tuna:

Exotic Tuna Salad

  • 1 can tuna, drained
  • 1 cup canned water chestnuts, drained
  • 1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
  • 1/2 cup celery, finely diced
  • 1 cup Miracle Whip Light
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 pita pockets

Drain the tuna and place in a 2-quart bowl. Add water chestnuts, grapes, and celery. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine Miracle Whip Light, soy sauce and lemon juice. Mix well. Pour sauce over tuna mixture. Toss together. Chill. Serve in warmed pita pockets. Serves 4.

And in conclusion …

Now before you fill my mailbox with “Uh, Mary … I do believe those recipes contain just a few more ingredients than a can of tuna”, keep in mind I didn’t say that is all you have in your pantry is that lonely can of tuna!

Question: What would you do with a can of tuna if you suddenly found yourself and your family in survivor mode?

*A regular size of a can of tuna in most stores has shrunk from 6 oz. just 5 oz. However, Costco’s Kirkland brand of solid white Albacore tuna beats all in its 7 oz. cans in an 8-pack.

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