I can still remember the day. I was about 14 years old and was searching the shelves of our family food storage pantry for a jar of raspberries that my mom had canned the summer previous. As I perused the shelves for my desired item, I accidentally knocked into one of the many buckets that lined the bottom shelves. As the bucket tipped and the contents spilled out onto the floor, I noticed that I had never seen such a product before. As I ran upstairs to tell my mom of my discovery, she simply informed me that what I had knocked over was a bucket full of potato flakes, to which she also responded: “They’re what I use to make mashed potatoes for dinner.” I was stunned! This was not an emergency. We were not in any financial struggle. And yet, for nearly my entire life, I had been eating from our food storage!

What my mom taught me that day was one of the most important, yet most overlooked, principles in regards to food storage. Rotation! Today, we’re going to talk about why we should be rotating our food storage into our daily cooking activities and ways that we can better rotate the food we’ve had and the food we hope to have through our food storage pantries.

What is Food Storage Rotation?

Food storage rotation, in a nutshell, is rotating the food storage you have now into your daily cooking and baking needs, and replacing it with newer items. Rotation helps you cycle out and use the products you’ve had on your shelves and bring in newer products to replace what you’ve used.

One of the biggest mistakes that people often make when purchasing and building up their food storage is not using it everyday. Though we are storing food over a longer period of time, it is important to use it regularly so that we don’t end up with expired, unusable food when the real emergency comes. Believe it or not, proper food storage rotation actually helps your food storage pantry grow instead of shrink. With that said, here are three steps you can take to properly practice food storage rotation.

Step 1: Push Older Products to the Front

It’s a little trick I picked up in college working as a food delivery person. It’s also one that grocery stores do everyday without you realizing it. When an item is placed on a shelf, it is placed in line according to how long it’s been there. Those items that have been on the shelves longer are pushed to the front, while items that have just arrived or have longer expiration dates, are placed behind them. Products that have been on the shelves longer are more likely to be purchased first because they’re the first thing you see on the shelf.

This same idea can be incorporated into your own food storage. Did you just purchase a couple new cans of Honeyville Powdered Whole Eggs? Just place them on the shelf directly behind the cans of Powdered Whole Eggs you bought last month. That way, when you go to grab a can, you know that your using the item that has been there the longest. You also know that what is currently on the shelf is less likely to expire quickly. Doing this with all your products ensures that your food storage is staying fresh and not in danger of expiration.

Step 2: Know your Shelf Life

Always check the shelf life of your products

Though many Honeyville products are designed and packaged for long term food storage, the dates from product to product can vary greatly. For example, a can of our Honeyville Freeze Dried Strawberries has a shelf life of 10 to 15 years, but our Honeyville Buttermilk Powder has a shelf life of only 3 to 5 years. This means that each product must be rotated in and out at different times. You can find the shelf life for many of our products on the back of the label or on our website at shop.honeyville.com.

The lot number gives you the date it was packaged and batch number

Once you know the shelf life, the next step is determining the date it was packaged. This can be done by reading the lot numbers located on the product packaging or bottom of the can. Each product contains a unique number specific for the product. This number typically contains the year, month, and day the product was packaged, along with the batch number. For instance, if I was looking on the bottom of my Honeyville Freeze Dried Apples #10 can, and the number read 10188-01, the first two numbers would be the year it was packaged, so 2010, the next three numbers, 188, would represent the Julian date (or number of the date in the year) it was packaged. According to the calendar, 188 would mean the 188th day of the year, or July 7. The last two numbers, 01, would be the batch number.

You can find lot numbers on all of our #10 and #502 cans, 25 lb and 50lb bags, bagged and zip pack products. Though the same numbers can be found on each package, the order is different depending on packaging and products. To know the best way to determine your lot number, visit our Reading Lot Numbers section on our corporate website.

Step 3: Get to Know your Food

One of the biggest advantages of food storage rotation is that it allows you to become more familiar with the products you have, how to use them, and how much of it you really need. Rotating your food storage into your daily living gives you a chance to see the best ways to properly cook and bake your food storage, what type of recipes and meal ideas you’d use them with, and what the right amount of each product is for you and your family.

Food storage rotation also gives you a chance to discover what products you love and what products you could do without. Maybe your family uses more of the Honeyville Rotini with Meat Sauce and not as much of the canned Hard White Wheat. If so, you’d want to buy more Rotini with Meat Sauce and not as many cans of the Hard White Wheat. Rotation is the opportunity you have to really understand, develop, and personalize your food storage before a major disaster or emergency occurs.

Honeyville Rotini with Meat Sauce and Freeze Dried Mixed Vegetables

Remember, your food storage is all about you and your family, so buy the products that you will use, and rotation is the best way to find that out. Now that you know a little bit more about rotation, what are some food storage items you could begin to rotate in your daily cooking and baking?