Food Storage and Food Rotation Challenges


It’s one thing to buy and store extra food to keep as part of your emergency preparedness food storage inventory, but it is quite another to keep it organized and to rotate it in a practical way to ensure no waste from spoilage over time.

I’m sure that most everyone who has built up a supply of food storage has had this problem, and maybe still do!


Store what you eat

Experienced preppers have heard this a million times, and those who are just beginning, maybe not…

Store what you eat and eat what you store.

Once you’ve heard it, you say to yourself… “that makes sense”. But do you actually do it?

It makes sense that your food storage inventory should consist of a good portion of the foods that you normally eat. Otherwise they’re more likely to just sit there and collect dust while they age.

Where are you storing all of your extra food? Is it scattered about haphazardly in various cupboards, drawers, pantry shelves, boxes, bins, basement, nooks and cranny’s, etc..? Do you even know all of what you have?

A result from a lack of food storage organization is that food items will be forgotten while their expiration date is ticking closer. Granted, many foods are still safe to eat well beyond the indicated date or ‘best used by’ date, etc., but if you had a food rotation system that would enable you to use your inventory such that what goes in first will be used first, ‘first in – first out’, you will eliminate this issue!

Keeping your food in different locations is not such a bad idea (in fact it’s a good idea to diversify), but when your food storage is scattered around in different locations, it makes it more difficult to use it and rotate it properly. To overcome this challenge you might consider a tracking method of sorts… write down what you have and where it’s located. Maybe you don’t need to detail every little thing, but to at least track the categories of what you have, etc…

When you are buying extra food, be reasonable about how much you accumulate, based on its realistic shelf life. Some foods will waste sooner than others, so maybe you shouldn’t store too much of that as other items.

One way to look at it is this… Lets say you’re dehydrating a-lot of vegetables right now and storing them in your food storage. Come winter time, you should start eating them! Don’t let them sit there. If you’ve stored enough, it will last you all winter, into the spring and summer until your next crop, or until you buy more fresh produce during that time of year. Rotation. Dehydrate the vegetables that you will eat. If you don’t like to eat peppers, then don’t dehydrate peppers!

For a successful food storage, you need to focus on storing the foods that you normally eat and you need to focus on tracking and using the inventory.


  1. good article…

    so, do you know, for various items which have an expiry date on them, is that a firm date? I wonder if it varies, or, if it is not really too important, if the can/package is in good shape/it has been stored in cool/dark?

    packs noodles?
    juice box?
    water bottles?

    1. Expiration dates are firm dates. But not many items have actual expiration dates. Best by dates are dates when they expect the quality and nutritional value to start to decline. I wouldn’t buy normal cans for long term storage, but depending on the exact food and who you ask, cans are good for 2-5 years after the best by date. The biggest problem with things like high acid foods or bottled water is that the packaging starts to break down and leach into the product. It’s not really an exact science, I hope this helps you a little =)

  2. Be careful of juice boxes. They can get mold. Like Capri Sun, etc. I wouldn’t store that.

  3. I have eaten foods as much as 10 years past expiration will no ill effects. I should say canned goods. I get a little leary of things in plastic as I know plastics start to break down at some point. Although I again have used foods stored in plastics 3 years beyond the date on the bottles. I would definately be careful of high acid foods as we had several cans of saurkraut where it started to eat through the can. All the seams started to show rust so we discarded them.

  4. So this brings up a question about water. I’ve bought a few gallon jugs of water. I think the water probably doesn’t really go bad, but what about the plastic container it’s stored in? I’m worried about chemicals getting into the water. I plan to filter and purify it when it’s needed. Would that make it alright to drink?

  5. Be careful with the store bought gallon jugs. I bought a couple just so I could bring water to work and leave there. When they are empty, I bring them home and refill from my well water (as I like the taste better anyway), after doing this for about 6 months the containers start to leak and I find myself having to buy another one. I have been doing this for about 8 years now and they seem to last anywhere from 6 to 12 months before the containers start to leak. So yes I believe the containers break down over time. So if you can afford it you might want to invest in a more permanent container.

    1. I too, have noticed this. It seems to be the ‘engineering’ of modern day… design it ‘just enough’ to hold the weight/stress of whatever, etc…, barely any margin.

      1. Absolutely.

        If you spend more money on packaging, you’re wasting money. Most people don’t store things, so the value of a good container is wasted on them – and if you ignore the marketplace realities (ie: charge too much), then you’ll shortly be out of business.

        The goal in packaging is to not spend more than estimated lossage would cost you.

        So you specifically make packaging that you know will fail some of the time during the shipping/warehousing process, but not often enough that replacement costs outweigh the benefits that shaving a dollar (or a penny) off of every package will save you.

        Yes, we could package everything in stainless steel boxes that could be driven over by 10 ton trucks, and weigh 20lbs apiece – but then we’d have to pay for making, shipping those containers (gasoline costs!), and municipal waste fees. Packaging already takes up 1/3 of all MSW space.

        If you want good containers, then buy a good container.

        Don’t expect to get it for free. TANSTAAFL

        1. I can tell you this:

          For example, when it’s my bag of groceries that rips open and falls all over the parking lot due to the bag having one less micron of ‘hold-me-together’ material, I’m pretty pissed-off at the decisions made up and down the line which enable an acceptable amount of ‘loss’ and customer dissatisfaction.

          I know what you’re saying though – I’m just not happy with the way it is (every last fraction of a penny squeezed out at the sacrifice of ‘x’ amount of failures).

          I understand the financial logic, but I would rather a better margin on the customer side rather than the bean-counter side. ;)

  6. Well, thanks for the answer although it isn’t what I wanted to hear. I suppose we can water the garden, make Kool-Aid, etc, to start rotating the water.
    Thanks for the site and all the information.

  7. I have found a pretty fool-proof rotation system myself. Instead of grouping items by type I group them by expiration. After all it doesn’t do any good to know where all the tomato sauce is at a glance if you have to spend time checking dates and using up that time that keeping the sauce together saved you. I use containers that are about a cubic foot in size and label them by what quarter of the year the item expires in. Jan-Mar, April-June, etc. and the year they expire. When that quarter is coming up those items come out of the SHTF box, I relabel the box for the next round that’s getting stored, and the expiring items go into the pantry (I then organize them by groupings of the exact month they expire in so I know what to grab first, but then again I’m one of those overly organized types). It’s worked pretty well for me, easy, at a glance method of knowing what needs to be cycled out and used.

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