Charities are urging people donating food to put down the tins of cheap canned goods, and one charity has issued an outright ban on canned tomatoes.
The cheap foods dubbed as essentials are firm favourites for food donations but some charitable groups say they would rather go without.
Refuge charity The Aunties told Fairfax it is no longer accepting tinned tomatoes, which it says are useless for the women and children it helps.
"Open a pantry in a refuge or emergency house and there's always bloody tinned tomatoes because nobody eats the things," spokeswoman Jackie Clark said.
"Basics" like chickpeas were often no good as people accepting food donations weren't likely to have ingredients to go with them, she said.
"Are they going to be making hummus in the safe house?" she asked.
And Porirua Māori woman's refuge is requesting donations in the form of Christmas presents as well as fresh fruit, vegetables and meat.
More than 10 kids needed clothes, it said, and toys such as DVDs and Playstations were also welcome.
Clark told Fairfax the Aunties were keen for donations - particularly in the busy time leading up to Christmas.
She also encouraged those wanting to donate to call and ask their local refuge what they needed.
Many charities or agencies had "wish lists" posted on their websites or social media. The lists directed people wanting to donate, to the items that would be most useful to those receiving them.
Speaking to Fairfax, Salvation Army Major Lee Edney was more accepting of cheap tinned goods like tomatoes.
"We'd hate to have a food bank full of tinned tomatoes, but they can be useful."
She said the organisation received a "reasonable amount" of them and agreed that not everyone would know what to cook with them.
However, she thought everything was good in moderation.