FOOD STORAGE – Date and Rotate

Rotate your food storage! One of the best ways to make your food storage a success is to practice good food product rotation. Organization and Rotation.

Let me explain what I mean:


Some of these food items are somewhat set-and-forget for long term packed foods – particularly dry grains, etc., which are packed for decades of longevity.

However there are many food types that should be consumed within a reasonable time frame. This will minimize spoilage and maximize freshness and nutritional value.

By rotating your food storage inventory, you will be slowly consuming, and ideally replenishing your that inventory.

[ Read: ‘Use-by’ and Sell-by’ dates ]

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.

Here’s what we do:

Take From The Right

For example, one of my shelves may contain a variety of canned beans. When I’m ready to grab a can, I will take the one to the right of the other cans. Always the furthest on the right.

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 (which should be consumed first).

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. Stack 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 also good practice to get into the habit of dating your long-term storage foods when you get them or pack them.

Use 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. Whatever works for you.

Having a visual reference 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.


  1. +1 on organization! It’s amazing the crap you find during a move. It was a good chance to inventory and organize everything as we put it away.

  2. Good reminder on an important issue.We use the masking tape/sharpie combo on all home canned foods and it has helped on rotation a lot. We used to put a label on the lids but you cannot see them when stacked so the label goes on the jar side.
    Be sure to eat what you store. Eating what you enjoy when SHTF can be an attitude adjuster and a good attitude may just carry you through a tough time.

    1. Bluesman,
      You are exactly right!
      I use White Artist Tape on nearly everything that needs labeling. Why? Because it comes off clean and easy afterwards. Works perfect with a normal Sharpie marker.

      1. Ken,
        I have friends that are apparently intelligent human beings that bought a bunch of freeze dried storage food , tried it once ,didn’t like it and stored food no longer and don’t store anything else. I guess I would classify them in the foolish category.
        Proverbs chapter 23 , verse 9 comes to mind.

  3. I just write on the bottles with sharpie. Comes off easily with hand sanitizer.

  4. I don’t use storage racks or shelving cause I’ve got no room for them. So instead I use my staircases. My cans have to be stacked up on top of each other up to 30 cans high.

    I’ve got 6 sections of staircase over 3 floors which are good for use on reasonably wide steps with 4 corner turning places which store hundreds of cans & bottles for everyday usage. I reckon about a 6mo to a year of canned meat/fish/fruit/vedg/powdered milk/evap. milk, even dried egg. My soft packs & card boxed is all in several large (huge) stackable (barely) boxes on the top landing, these are rotated too. My biggest problem is flour for baking, if its not packed under nitrogen, its normally got less than a year shelf life.

    Over the years I’ve found that printed usage dates on cans/jars are really unrelaible. For instance “corned beef” can just about last forever (20 years – army surplus lol), longer than some shop jams. But canned tomato has a shorter life than the manufacturers stated date (but very variable from supplier to supplier), you can tell its going when the “iron-tin” taste is obviously there.

    My point is, I do not DATE label anything. I use the OLDEST area up ONE at a time and fill in with bought goods if I run out there. When the area is empty I move on to use the next oldest area and refill the empty space. Its a very simple system, which works well and takes no resouces to manage. You just have to remember the age of the areas (hint: look at the dates stamped on the cans/jars in each area for a good idea of what is oldest if you can’t remember). Sometimes where there’s only a few items left I move them over so as to re-fill straight away. So I make an effort to have 3 months food per area, I use the short life stuffs up first and move over long life stuff like “corned beef” to the next area if need be. So I’ve always got a filling area and an emptying area.

    COMPLETELY OFF TOPIC: MOST IMPORTANTLY THOUGH – I NEVER buy (unless I’m in a panic for some reason) things that are normal price… I only buy when I get 70-50% or more off. If you keep your eyes open, special offers are everywhere. They are sold as “loss leaders” to get folk in. I get my chopped-pork cans for half price, thats my largest stacks of meat :) .

    I do store markers (6mo), pencils, pens (1yr for ball points store them point down), paper, tape, paint, tube etc. Of course, I store CAN-OPENERS too, cheap and cheerful about a half a dozen should last you a few years. With jar lids that get too tight I just pour a little hot water over it, and it usually frees. My dogs are all in jars :).

  5. I agree with ‘BS’ – I don’t rotate, I just have five different sections in my storage area, nos. 1 to 5. I filled area 1 first, then 2, and so on, and after eating all the food in my kitchen cupboards, I just moved all the food from area 1 into the kitchen, made a note that I had done this, and bought new food to refill area 1. Then I ate all the food in the kitchen cupboards again and refilled them from area 2. Each area contains a selection of all the non-frozen, non-chilled food that I eat. No need to rotate anything physically, and I get maximum use from each storage area because I can stack tins five high and not worry about having to move them to rotate them, I only move them when I am moving them into the kitchen to replenish it.
    One other point – tinned food is number one on my list – I have maybe 50% at least of my food in tins. It’s already going to last a minimum of a year or two (things such as spaghetti, with tomato sauce, will show signs of aging when you open them a few years after the best by date, but only because there will be some sauce stuck to the inside of the lid – vegetables such as peas, sweetcorn, potatoes, etc. in tins will be fine for more than five years easily.) I don’t see any need for food that lasts for 25 years – I think that if things do collapse, the most stupid people will die off first (they are the ones who laughed at you when you told them you were prepping, they think ‘the government’ will come and save them if things go wrong), and the more intelligent people will survive.

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