Rotation in food storage

I was viewing another forum and came across a topic regarding using OOD stores. the OP was saying about how all the items used in a recent meal were at least 18months out of date. I know I am easily confused, but why on earth would you by choice consistently eat food past it’s best in times of plenty?

I would call that an epic fail! 

I practice rotation. Even my deep stores are rotated out to keep them fresh. It is well known, that the older preserved and packaged food is, the nutritional value becomes compromised. So with just this in mind, why on earth do it?

Now don’t get me wrong, I have eaten OOD food myself when a bag of flour has gone unnoticed or a tin of something has hidden, but it’s not something I want to do on a regular basis.  

Maybe I’m being too precious, but am I the only one who would put themselves in the naughty corner for allowing so much slacking?


  • Comments (24)

    • 3

      Generally we do a good job of rotating the food in our pantry, but just this weekend we had to throw out 2 big containers of peanut butter.  No doubt, we could do better.

    • 5

      Using items at or beyond due date but within the actual usable period is how you can keep the max amount in storage. If an item is marked OOD at 6 months and you never use anything past, the most you can store is 4 or 5 months worth. If on the other hand you regularly use the item say out to a year, then obviously you can keep a years worth.

      For items that obviously suffer, stale crackers for example, that’s fine, use em up and just keep some extra wheat berries substitute.

      Generally the dates are there for the manufacturers benefit, not ours. Look at it from their standpoint, they’re guaranteeing the item until a certain date, they aren’t going to do it any longer than necessary because there is little profit in guarantees and none if it isn’t unique.

      As an extreme example, I routinely use out of date insulin. It is guaranteed to be 95% effective for 2 years,. But, it doesn’t become worthless at 2 years, it’s still at least 95% effective. 

      A 2 years supply for me is about 18 vials, in order to have 18-20 vials on hand I necessarily have to use the oldest and it is sometimes out of date. I’ve never had a problem and in fact I haven’t been able to tell any difference.

      It is just the nature of FIFO . I try to make my hoarding as cost neutral as possible, not to say I never make a mistake. 


    • 4

      In college I ate a can of green beans 3 years past the expiration date because in my head the $0.49 for a new can was worth more than the risk for food poisoning I guess. 

      Thankfully I’ve been able to throw out more expired food as I have gotten older and make more money instead of cutting the mold off the bread and eating the rest of it. It still hurts when I waste food, but I now have the flexible income to not risk getting sick over 49 cents.

    • 3

      I do rotate when I remember but I do not worry about canned goods, why? because in the army we were often issued tins of cheese, stew, puddings, currys etc that were decades old. Rice is about the only thing I swap out frequently.

    • 1

      Hmmm answers surprise me. Can’t get my head round wanting to eat OOD food when there’s no need. Ah well, maybe I am precious then.

      • 2

        haha! You probably will live longer than the rest of us who die from eating some 20 year old can of tuna. Then you can tell us you told us so.

        I am trying to get better at using the first in first out method and our supplies are small enough that it has been working pretty well so far. But there is still room for improvement with my organization skills and document when things expire so I am sure to eat them before that date. Thank you for the reminder to improve. 

        What are some of the ways you are implementing your rotation to make sure things get noticed before they are expired? I’d love to learn how I can improve.

      • 3

        I use small clear 20Litre totes for deep storage. I can’t always afford to buy in bulk, so I store cans and packaged foods by type and year. I then write the year on the tote and stack them accordingly with the longest date lowest in the stack. These totes are used to fill gaps in my pantry as they appear, I then fill the empty tote and put it at the bottom of the stack. so the stack never shrinks and if I’m feeling flush, it grows. These totes are also filled with drinks and hygiene items. 

        I don’t have anything in storage that I don’t use in my daily life, cooking and baking.  I find this works for me, because it is easy to see what I have stored and it’s easy to see what I have and what I am running short of and it makes the stores easier to move around without damage.

        Home canned and preserved food is in a separate pantry stored in the traditional way on shelves. HTH. 

      • 3

        So your food is grouped in totes by type and year rather than all the green bean cans together or all the pasta boxes together?

      • 3

        I store items in the following way in each tote, or multiples thereof; pasta, rice, flour, oils and fats, vegetables, baking ingredients, dried beans and other legumes, vegetarian protein, tinned meat and meals, fruit, sugar, salt, cooking ingredients and tinned tomatoes have their own tote as I use so many of them.

        I get that food is still safe after BBE date and if I do find things out of date, we still eat it, depending on what it is and how far out of date it is, but nutritionally it starts to degrade and the whole reason we eat is to fuel ourselves, so surely it make sense to not only have those all important calories, but nutrition as well. 

        We all prepare in different ways, this is how I do it as it works for me, it may not work for others.

        Have to admit, I don’t have much in the way of tinned vegetables, I’m not a fan. I do dehydrate a lot of veg and make a lot of pickles, sauerkraut and other preserves.

      • 3

        I bought the Shelf Reliance “pantry organizer” recommended in the FIFO article on TP. It took a while to put together (the built-in shelves in my pantry are not really well configured for it so I had to modify) and get used to using it but it’s helped immensely in terms of keeping the oldest cans accessible.  I absolutely recommend it.  I keep 5-6 cans of each product in my “main” pantry and then backup stores of my most frequently used products in the basement, and I’m confident that I’m always using the can with the most imminent expiration date.  As I use up cans upstairs I rotate the basement ones and add those products to my shopping list so I constantly have a fresh supply.

        A good thing about this method is that it helps me see what I never actually eat.  Fruit cocktail seemed like a good idea but I never eat it. Canned mangoes seemed like just a luxury item but it turns out I eat them at least once a week.  This has also helped me in donating to food pantries – they will not take items that are expired, period. So if I see something that is about to expire in a month or so, I both donate it to a pantry and remind myself to never buy it again because clearly it is something I don’t eat often enough to justify keeping in my kitchen!

      • 1

        Super glad to hear that you have liked the pantry organizer. Hope you don’t mind but I copy and pasted your comment onto the FIFO article discussion to further help people who read the article. We love hearing people’s feedback of articles, things that work for them, and their own product reviews of items we recommend.

        How are canned mangoes? I have frozen ones in a tropical medley blend that I sometimes throw into smoothies.

      • 1

        I’m looking into getting those can rotation stacker thingies but what has worked best for me is simply stacking the cans. My pantry has about 3 regular can high and 4 or 5 deep shelfs so I stack up and then when I buy new I just push the row up and add to the back. Helps with what I need to get too as my children have favorites. I’m kinda anal about my pantry so it’s all organized by what kind of food, row of corn row of peas, then on my children’s shelf can food they like like soup. I also got these clear trays from the dollar store for our easy to go to breakfast foods (poptarts or grain bars) which I rotate the same. I also have baskets for like our ramen and other snacks I portion out and do the same. 

      • 2

        No not really Mon Cheri its just some folks simply cannot afford to throw food away.  I wonder if we need a thread on  Best By Dates versus Use / Eat by dates versus Freeze by dates etc

      • 4

        Also over here there are charities who collect food from supermarkets close to their best by or use by dates and make meals for the homeless and needy. The thing with canned goods is the USE BY date or Best by date often only means the food inside begins to lose its colour / texture / taste or vitamin content after that date. but can remain edible for years afterwards.  Though NEVER eat from damage cans even if within the use by dates. if dented, rusty or swollen throw it out.

      • 3

        Yep, I’m in the can’t afford to throw food away bracket. Maybe that’s why I’m so anal about stock rotation. 

        Another thread is a good idea! 

    • 3

      Someone who is prepping for long-term survival might have more than 18 months worth of food.

      • 2

        Yep, you’re absolutely right, There must be a certain point when you have such an amount of food stored, that you can’t help but have some out of date stores. It’s something I hadn’t considered in the grand scheme of things, an epic fail on my part LOL. 

        I’m nowhere near that stage myself, funds and lack of space are the driver for how much I can store.

        I would imagine it becomes even more important to keep a handle on things when you have that amount. Thanks, 3p’s, something else to think about.

    • 3

      As a fairly recent “serious” prepper – particularly in the food department, I’d like to suggest to the less experienced that you may find stocking up may actually change the way you eat on a daily basis, so what you buy today may indeed outlive its expiration date because your priorities may change significantly  in the first twelve months.

      For instance, yeast was a big deal to me when I couldn’t get it.  But after learning how to bake delicious biscuits in a stovetop skillet, I find that making yeast bread is too resource-wasteful so the yeast can go but I need to bulk up on baking powder and soda.

      For me, I went much deeper into canning at the onset of the pandemic, partly as a way to relieve boredom.  However, I’ve discovered the extreme advantage of turning raw materials, say, canned tomatoes, fresh onions, bell peppers and mushrooms into ready-to-eat spaghetti sauce.  Or hamburger, chilis, tomatoes, onions and dry beans into RTE chili.  I frequently don’t have a number of fresh ingredients when the mood strikes to eat these dishes, nor would they be readily available in a winter power outage.  Plus, they take hours of cooking to make fresh.

      But all that is to say we are eating some really fine, hot meals out of storage, when I might otherwise just “slap something together”.  Now these storage foods are becoming critical preps because I’m cycling through them really regularly.

      I have a fairly elaborate inventory and storage system that allows me to see at a glance what I have, of what date, to assure FIFO, without having to go down to the cellar to look.  Because of the inevitable random way I resupply as I withdraw, I can look at the inventory sheet and see that I might have 7 jars of hamburger in Box 4A and four more in box 10A.  I just grab the jars with the earliest date on the inventory sheet and it doesn’t matter if the jars of hamburger are mixed in with jars of carrots in the same tub.

    • 2

      Can goods are heat treated at the factory. You can actually eat can goods because technically they are heated when cooked and pressure sealed.  The big question is how open are you to eating food that has an OOD that is beyond 2 years.

    • 2

      Besides what others have already pointed out about “best by” dates not allowing for extremely deep pantries, another reason for using older shelf stable foods is that many people (myself included) want to avoid a diet high in processed, packaged foods for both health and environmental reasons, yet still keep some on hand for emergencies.

      The canning process itself destroys a lot of the vitamins found in raw or lightly cooked fresh foods, so it really doesn’t pay nutrition-wise to significantly increase the percentage of your diet they make up, just to use them before the vitamin content declines below the level guaranteed on the label.

      Food storage isn’t even a significant aspect of prepping for me, but living in a remote area with long winters, we do store around 4 months worth of canned goods, just in case.  With fresh food available, we use and replace about 1 month worth every year.  There are twelve months in the year, so let’s call that 1/12 of our diet, with the other 11/12 being almost entirely fresh, healthy, organic local foods.

      Most canned goods have a “best by” date about 2 years out from the time of purchase, so in order to use and replace 4 months worth of emergency food every 2 years, that would be 2 months worth a year, or fully 1/6 of our diet.  I have zero interest in doubling the amount of processed food we eat, just to use up our emergency stores within the time that the manufacturer guarantees their color and texture will meet expectations.  So even with a fairly shallow 4 month pantry, we are routinely using up canned goods purchased 4 years earlier, or 2 years past their “best by” dates.  This is intentional, and not a result of lax rotation.

      By the way, the ONLY canned good where I notice any lack of quality after 4 years of storage are canned peas, which turn a duller shade of green, but still taste fine.

      Aside:  I once ate canned peaches that were a full 12 years past their “best by” date, but that’s another story.  What can I say, I like peaches!