9 Food Rotation and Labeling Ideas

by LDS Intelligent Living

Weekly container method

This method works well if you organize your food storage with weekly menus. Create as many seven-day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) menu plans of your family’s favorite meals (personally I would use this method only for the dinner meals) as fits your families eating preferences (a minimum of two different menu plans is recommended). Label each different seven-day menu plan with a different letter (A, B, C, etc.). Place all the non-perishable ingredients needed for each one-week menu in a separate container (plastic or cardboard box). Label each container according to the meal it contains (A, B . . .). For a three-month supply, you will need twelve containers – 6 each for each of two different menus (A and B) or four containers each of three different menus (A, B and C). At the beginning of the week, empty the next container in your rotation and place all the food in the pantry closest to your kitchen so you can use it during the week. To rotate your storage, refill that container with the same foods you took out. Don’t forget to date the foods or the container so you know in which order to use each one-week box of food products. Do not include in these containers food items that last a long time after they are opened such as oils, condiments, spices.

two columns methods

Two Columns Method

The idea is to arrange the items to be stored in two columns. Every time you need to remove a product from the shelf, take it from the right (these should be the ones that need to be used first). When the right column is empty, you slide the whole left column to the right, and re-stock on the left. This method is more practical to use when you just have about 20 or less of a certain item(s) you normally store in your pantry.

Food rotation - color sticker method

Color sticker method

sticker method Select colored stickers to represent year or half-year expiration periods (the frequency depends somewhat on the foods you are labeling). Place a sticker on all or some items in your food storage to correspond roughly with when the food items expire  or should be used. This provides a quick visual  key to howfrequently or when foods should be rotated. Personally, I think placing stickers on every single can or box would require purchasing too many stickers to regularly use this method on all the products I store. This method works well for items stored in different areas of the house (under beds, tables etc.) where the expiration date is not easily visible. Place the stickers on an area of the products that can be easily seen.

Rotation method: Use 3x5 cards to keep track of items taken out of storage.

3×5 Card Method

1. List each item in your food storage on a 3”x5” index card. 2. Place all of the cards alphabetically in an envelope or recipe/index box. 3. Place the envelope or box in your food storage area. 4. Place another envelope or recipe/index box (empty at this point) in your kitchen. 5. Each time you take an item out of your storage area, take its 3”x5” index card from the envelope or box in the food storage area and put it in the envelope or box in your kitchen. 6. When you go to the grocery store take the 3”x5” cards from the box in the kitchen with you (instant shopping list). 7. After you have purchased the items from the 3”x5” cards place the cards back in the envelope or box in your food storage area.


** If you frequent several grocery stores color code your index cards by store. For example, put all items that you purchase at Fred Myer on pink cards,   put all items you purchase at WinCo on green cards, etc. Then when it’s time to go shopping you just need to take the cards that coordinate with the store you are going to. ** If you only shop at one grocery store consider color coding your index cards by department. For example, put soups/canned goods on green cards and put baking foods on pink cards, etc. Then when you are shopping you can find all of the items in each department before moving on to the next department.

Rotation method: notepads to record what needs to be replaced.

Sticky Notepad Method

This is simple, practical and easy. Place a sticky notepad on the cupboard door, or near the storage shelf where your food storage is kept. Every time you remove an item, write what it is on the notepad. When it is time to prepare the weekly grocery list, tear off the sheet from the pad and stick it on your grocery list or write the item’s name directly on it.


Update and Inventory food storage method

Be sure to have a place near your pantry, in the kitchen or where it is most convenient for family members to write the items taken out of storage so they can be added to the weekly shopping list. I use a blackboard on the kitchen door. A clipboard with a shopping list can be placed in the kitchen, or stuck on the fridge. Make sure all your family members understand what you want them to do. It is easy to forget to write down the food storage used throughout the week, especially if there are younger children or busy teenagers in the house. You should inventory your three months food supply regularly.

Food rotation opened on method

“Opened on” method

Products that take a longer time to consume should be dated the day they are opened, so you know how long it takes to use them, and how much you need  to purchase for your family for 3+ months.

Food rotation - elastic method

Rubber-band method

One practical and easy method I personally like is the rubber band method. I find this method to work well with items that take longer to use after they are opened such as boxes of  bouillon cubes, vanilla flavoring etc. Your food items should be organized in a row and a rubber-band should be wrapped around the second-to-the-last container in the row. As you use your supply you’ll eventually come to the container with the rubber band around it then you know its time to buy more.

Rotation method: Use slanted shelves for your cans.

Auto Rotating Shelves Method

This method is well known and liked. No detailed explanation is necessary for this method – the new cans go in the back, and the can you need to use is taken out in the front, and the next can will roll down. The shelves are quite costly store bought.

Detailed instructions to make the shelves available on the blog!

You need to find the method(s) that work best for you and your family. These ideas have been around for a long time. I have tried most of them and I know others who use them. Do you have a method you like that was not listed in this article?  Leave us a comment to let us know what rotation method you use.

Photos by LDS Intelligent Living

3 thoughts on “9 Food Rotation and Labeling Ideas”

    1. Well, I can’t say for sure, given the enormous variety of foods that are stored in cans. As for the “official” word on eating foods past their expiration date, I have never seen an “official” source say “go ahead and eat them, they’re safe.” This would be a very generic and careless statement to make.

      Here’s an article entitled Do Food Expiration Dates Really Matter? by Star Lawrence, from the WedMD website that provides some insight into why this is a hard question to answer and it may give you the answer to your question as well (depending upon which foods you are asking about).

      Here’s the “official” USDA version.

      Remember to always throughout cans that are bulging or have an off odor when opened, even if their expiration date has not arrived yet.

  1. I started a weekly storage process using free five gallon buckets from the grocery store bakery. I made a bed frame from pallet wood that has room underneath for the buckets. I also store clothing in them.

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