FOOD STORAGE 101, Date and Rotate
One of the easiest ways to make your food storage a success is to practice good rotation. Organization and Rotation are the keys to not losing your food storage to spoilage. Being organized enables you to rotate your foods without having to consciously think about doing it.
Let me explain what I mean:
First, it is important to maintain a well rounded food storage. This may include bulk items such as grains, legumes, sugars, fats & oils, dairy, and other cooking essentials. The specific items within the bulk category may include wheat berries, flour, rice, corn meal, pasta, a variety of beans, nuts, honey, sugar, molasses, jams, vegetable oil, shortening, dry milk, baking powder, baking soda, yeast, salt, vinegar…
In addition to bulk food storage ‘staples’, include a variety of canned foods and canned meats. Consider complimenting your overall food storage with dehydrated foods (do-it-yourself or purpose-made) and freeze-dried foods from professional food companies. Add store-bought packaged and processed foods which you normally eat, and whatever else fits with your food storage plans. Diversify!
ROTATE YOUR FOOD STORAGE
Some of these food items are somewhat set-and-forget for long term packed foods – particularly dry grains, etc. However you should implement ‘best practices’ such as regularly consuming your bulk food items (e.g. wheat berries ground into flour to make bread, etc.).
In this way you will be slowly consuming, rotating, and replenishing your bulk inventory. If TSHTF, you will already be eating the foods you’ve stored – lessening any learning curve that might be necessary to use these foods (from scratch) and lessening your body having to adjust to these basic foods.
Other items in your food storage may not have as long a shelf life as your long-term packed bulk items. Although canned foods generally have a shelf life less than that of sealed buckets of grain, read this to understand a little more about ‘Use-by’ and Sell-by’ dates. Get into the habit of regularly looking at your stored foods and eat them as part of your normal meal plans.
Here’s an effective way to properly rotate your foods:
While organizing food on a shelf (e.g. cans of SPAM, veggies, chicken, beef stew, whatever…), on any given shelf, place the newest food furthest to the left. In this way if you always take food to eat from the right-most location – you will be assured that it is the oldest (which should be consumed first). This is known as FIFO, First In – First Out.
Take From The Right
For example, on one of my shelves which contains a variety of canned beans, when I’m ready to grab a can as part of a meal I would take the one to the right of the other cans. When I restock, I stock from the left, pushing the remaining cans of beans to the right. This technique always ensures that the can on the right is the oldest can. So, you see, you are ‘rotating’ without having to think about it as long as you follow the ‘take from the right rule’ every time.
Take From The Front
When your shelves are deep enough to store multiple rows of food items, place the newest items in the back while moving the older items to the front. This will assure that what you take from the front is the oldest – which should be consumed first – ensuring proper food rotation.
All you need to remember is ‘left to right’ and ‘back to front’. A simple way to properly rotate your food storage.
DATE YOUR FOOD STORAGE
It is a good practice to get into the habit of dating your foods when you get them or pack them. Using a ‘Sharpie’ marker, write the year-month (2014-04) on the top of a can, on a box, or on a piece of tape affixed to a 5-gallon bucket of long-term food storage, etc.
Having a visual reference of the date of your various foods within your food storage is a valuable indicator, and will help you to keep your food rotation practices in check.
It’s a simple thing, and is well worth remembering.