Friday, December 7, 2012

Food Storage Friday #16: What is Food Storage Rotation?

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

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?


Anonymous said...

First, I appreciate the information on identifying the year of production! I had no idea when they would expire, so I used a Sharpie pen and wrote the date of purchase on each can (knowing that the expiration date should be approximate). But there are still some #10 cans that I cannot locate any type of stamp, lot #, etc. I also write the type of food in the can onto the metal part in the event the label gets lost or damaged.

However, now that I know what the lot # means, I'm upset to find out that the majority of my 10# cans were manufactured over a year before I purchased I lost over a year of shelf life right off the bat. How can I ensure the products I buy haven't been sitting in a warehouse for 1 or more years?

Second, I wanted to share some of my tips for starting and rotating food storage. Initially, each time I went to the grocery store I would buy a few extra cans/jars for my food storage... and within a few months I had a sizable stockpile! (And I love the Honeyville buckets w/gamma lids for storing my rice, beans, sugar, flour, etc.). Only purchase food you know you/your family likes and uses on a regular basis.

Next, when I run out of something in the kitchen, I grab it from the basement (which I keep at a cool, dry, 55-60 degrees) and immediately put the item on my grocery list. When I get back from the store, my new purchases go directly to the basement into storage (at the back of the line), bringing the item stored in the front upstairs for later use (as mentioned in the blog). Also, due to the small size of the print of the expiration date, I write the date on the front of the can/jar with a Sharpie pen...this makes it much easier to see when an item expires! I try to plan my meals around the expiration dates so I don't have to throw anything out.

I keep about 4-5 months of canned/jarred food & dried goods in storage - then I also purchased ~6 months worth of freeze-dried food in Mylar pouches and #10 cans because I've found that most canned goods from the grocery store will expire within 1-2 years, so if you stockpile too much, you might end up having to toss it before you can use it.

Food rotation seems like a pain at first, but before long it becomes second nature! I feel so much more secure knowing that I can feed my family in an emergency (and it came in handy last year when we lost power for a week!).

Thanks again for all of the great tips and ideas!

D M said...

I have been thinking about food storage a quite some time and finally decided to get started. Just this week I received the Meals In A Jar Handbook and also my first #10 can of fettuccine alfredo. I have searched every inch of this can and there is no lot number stamp nor does the label say how long the food will last. There is a stamp on the bottom of the can with a string of numbers and letters but they don't mean anything to me.

I tried using the "Contact Us" form on Honeyville's website but I have yet to receive a response. did not get any response. I picked up the phone and called during business hours and got voice mail.

The link in this post says to visit Honeyville's website for product shelf life. I combed the website but couldn't find that information. Lastly, your link to "Reading Lot Numbers" in this post is broke.

I am not having a very good start at this. Honeyville, you need to step it up a bit. Amatuer, looking for some help.

Cookin' Cousins said...


Thanks for the comment. We're sorry it has taken so long for you to hear back from us. You're right, the shelf life is not printed on the can, but it is on our website, under each products description. Our Fettuccine Alfredo has a shelf life of 10-15 years sealed in the #10 can you received it in. The numbers on the bottom of the can are the lot numbers, and they are a bit difficult to read. We've transferred over to a new website since this post was created, so the link must have been broken from that. We'll fix it now and this should help to explain how to read the lot number. Sorry for any of the confusion that has occurred. Please feel free to give us a call at 1 (888) 810-3212 and we'll answer any other questions you may have. Thanks DM!

Thomas Venney said...