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!



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.



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.

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Perhaps a bit off-topic, but during my rotation, I’m finding my usual replacement canned goods have moved more towards pull tab easy open tops. How do these compare in shelf life and durability to the traditional rolled top cans that require an opener? Thanks.

Do you write the manufacturers sell by /use by date or the date item was purchased when marking item?

i mark the best by date on front of the can and plan what I’m eating/fixin for dinner,luch,etc. by the lowest date i put old expiration dates in the back of the seven can row it seems like a lot of work but it keeps things in rotation.i also buy things with the longer shelf life date on the can also keep a list of what you have on your computer and print the list of what you have,keep good print out copies incase no power.if you don’t have time for this find time its not that hard,oh i only store the things i eat on a regular basis-never the oh that looks good or lets try that kind of product.hope this helps at least one person

Do we have to rotate rice if so how? And why? If not? Why not?

here is my brand of country oor girl logic. Rotation of white rice, would depend on a lot of factors. .. daily/monthly use rates and methods of packing, and need….. properly packed rice… frozen for 10 days, and packed in oxygen free packaging is supposed to be good for 20 years. If one never rotates or checks their storage methods and application of them it could be a nasty surprise whe we need them, if not up to par…had been invaded by vermin or a bag became unsealed and contaminated in some manner.
. Regular Brown rice is much shorter storage time and I do not stock it, my family does not care for it, but love the white rice… also I pack Instant white rice in 2 liter bottles with oxy absorber, to use for streching /thickening quickly.. keep a small amount of instant brown rice…in same manner but only one liter bottle.
. I rotate my longest storing foods like rice and wheat much slower than I routinely use….mostly to check the effectiveness of how I have packed them… I keep those in my long term area and a smaller amount in short term pantry and do not pack those with oxygen absorbers.. I DO put short term rice thru the freezer for at least 10 days.. I am experimenting with different rice recipes,.. rice milk, rice flour, casserols. etc…. so use much more rice than wheat….Wheat has ultra long storage kept dry and secure.. i pack with bay leaves…so it stays viable for sprouting… so I only have small amounts open, and use it very slowly for now…( I don’t make much bread currently)
.. I have learned much since my first bucket of rice was packed.. They were not packed by the same methods i use now. as i use those up, my e ntre food supply is stabilized by those base items and all will be more secure as I replace ..using lessons learned.
I started rotating after about 2 years, but slowly. opening smaller buckets to check methods/supplies and effectiveness used. Once i get to goal, will rotate pulling a 3 month supply and rotating every 6-9 months., and rplacing those amounts during the first month, properly secured…..( keeping in mind that I will se these items slower now than I will need them should a major event occur that makes me need to dig deeply into my deepest pantry.) If you have packed in jars with oxygen absorbers, and they remain sealed, or packed in bucket with mylar and oxygen absorbers and product is hard and no air …then i would leave it. If any change or have learned much like i did, and need to update storage methods, then that might be what you need to do as well. hope this helps.