Saturday, May 1, 2010

Rotating Food Storage

I hear people talk about "rotating food storage." What does that mean, and how do you do it?
"Rotating food storage" means to regularly use and replace the food in your storage.

Isn't it easier just to buy a year's supply of food, then leave it in place? Afterall, many foods, such as wheat and beans, will last for decades.
It is true that some foods can be stored for decades, but here are some good reasons to rotate your food storage:
  • You eat the foods you've stored before they become outdated, and while they still retain their optimal nutritional value.
  • By "storing what you eat and eating what you store" your family (and your digestive system!) are used to eating the food you have in storage. If you store wheat for 30 years, or even 5 years, but never eat wheat, it will be a shock to your system, and your family, if you suddenly begin to eat large amounts of wheat out of necessity.
  • If you store food that you don't regularly use, it will be much harder to know how to use it in an emergency. You may not have the skills and experience, or even the right ingredients, to prepare tasty, nutritious meals.
  • Food storage isn't just for emergencies, it is also part of a practical, economical lifestyle. By storing food, and regularly using your food storage, you have food on hand. This will benefit you in small, personal "emergencies" such as sickness, storms, sudden unemployment. You will also have less trips to the grocery store, and grow more accustomed to buying food on sale, or in bulk quantities, both of which will save money in your grocery budget. For more ideas on this, see the June 2009 posts on this blog.
How do I rotate my food storage?
There are many ideas for how to rotate food storage. Here are a few:

Idea 1: Replenish once a year
This has been the simplest method for our family. When we were first beginning our food storage, it took us a while to save enough money to do this. However, once we had established this pattern, we began setting aside a little money each month for food storage replacement. At the end of each year, we have enough set aside to purchase the majority of our food storage. In February of each year we purchase enough wheat, flour, other grains, pasta, beans, lentils powdered milk, sugar, yeast and oil to last our family for an entire year. We bring it home and store it in 5 gallon buckets in our basement. (For more information on storage containers, see the March 2009 post on this blog). The first year we did this, we purchased a two year supply. At the end of one year, we still had a year left. We then purchased a year supply, (so we again had a two year supply). We eat the older year's food first, and we follow this pattern every year. This is how we replenish the majority of our food storage. There are other items that we replenish more often. For example, we usually have a 6 month supply of these foods: canned goods (tomato sauces, fruits and vegetables, cream soups, broth, tuna, etc.), frozen goods (frozen fruits and vegetables, butter, meat, tortillas, chocolate chips, etc.) and other supplies (peanut butter, barbeque sauce, ketchup, jello, cake mix, crackers, chips, raisins, nuts, etc.). Throughout the year we watch for sales on these items and then stock up when an item is on sale, or if we have a coupon (part of our grocery budget each month is earmarked for food storage). Also, because we store these items on shelves in our basement, it is easy to see when our inventory is getting low. Initially, we took time to find which stores/brands we liked best and were most economical. Now, it is easy to know we are purchasing food that is the best food for our budget and tastes. (For more information on getting started and using food storage in a budget, see the March 2009 May 2009 and June 2009 posts on this blog).

Idea 2: Make a chart
This idea comes highly recommended from several people who originally followed guidelines that Kathy S. gave them. (She got her original idea from an article in the February 1996 LDS church Ensign. Click here for the link).

First, determine what food you store, and how much of each food you want to have stored.

, classify your food according to where you acquire it (grocery store, warehouse store, church Home Storage Center, garden). Choose a color for each place (example, grocery store could use a green recipe card, warehouse store could use a pink recipe card, etc.)

, purchase a card caddy, or make your own using a poster board and recipe cards. There should be one pocket for each food in your storage.

Fourth, label each pocket with the food, the type of package or unit that you purchase it in, and the number of packages or units that you want to have stored. For example, "Peanut Butter, 6 containers (18 ounces each)."

, use the colored cards from step two and label one card for each individual unit. For example, I purchase peanut butter from the grocery store, and I want to have six containers of peanut butter in my food storage. I have chosen green cards to represent foods I purchase from a grocery store. I will label six green recipe cards with this information: 1 container of peanut butter (18 ounces).

Sixth, I will place the colored recipe cards in the pocket with the corresponding label. For example, on my card caddy, I will have a pocket labeled, "Peanut Butter" and inside that pocket I will have six green cards, also labeled "peanut butter."

, Hang the card caddy in your food storage room. Then, tape an envelope on the inside of one of your kitchen cupboards. Each time you take an item from your food storage room, pull the corresponding card from your caddy and take it to your kitchen, then place it in the envelope. For example, if I remove one container of peanut butter from my food storage room, I will also remove one green card, labeled "peanut butter." I will bring the green card to my kitchen and place it in the envelope.

Eighth, When I plan a trip to the grocery store, I will look inside the envelope in my kitchen. I will see one green card for peanut butter. I will add "peanut butter" to my grocery list. When I come home from the store, I will take the newly purchased peanut butter to my storage room, along with the green card from my kitchen. I will replace the peanut butter on the storage shelf and the card in the caddy.

This is an excellent system for organizing food storage and keeping an accurate inventory of what is stored and what needs to be replaced. The colored card system is an excellent visual, because it is easy to look in the envelope in your kitchen and immediately see which items need to be purchased from which place. This system only takes a little time to set up, and it is easy to maintain once you are in the habit.

Are there shelves or other special helps for actually storing the rotated food?
Tutorials for rolling shelves for canned goods are forthcoming on this blog. The April 2009 posts on this blog give some examples of where/how to store food in your home.

Are there any foods I don't rotate?
Well, all foods need to be rotated, but there are some foods that need to be rotated less frequently. For example, I regularly use and replenish nearly all the foods in our storage, but there are two foods that I have stored, which I rotate less frequently. They are: dehydrated butter and dehydrated eggs. Fresh eggs only last a few weeks, and I don't own any hens. I use eggs in cooking, but I don't have a source for fresh eggs in an emergency. I purchased 4 cans of dehydrated eggs and keep them in storage for 4 years, until they are almost expired. Then I use them, and replenish them. I do this because they are expensive to purchase, so it's not economical for me to constantly be using them and replenishing them, but I want to have them on hand. (I purchased mine from Emergency Essentials at, but I am sure they are available from many other places).

Are there other exceptions to rotating?
Yes. I have written about special dietary restrictions and rotating food in the previous post on this blog (May 2010).

What about rotating water?
There is also a post about water on this blog (April 2010).

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