How to Rotate Food Storage Like a Boss
I am a stasher and a shover. My house looks super tidy and I can’t stand clutter, but don’t start looking around in my cabinets and drawers! My biggest embarrassment is my linen cupboard. You would think that keeping towels and sheets stacked wouldn’t be that hard, but mine look like I just shoved them all in there. Probably because I did. I am so ashamed…
For years I would organize my food storage only to have it fall to pieces. Blame it on being too busy or too lazy, it wouldn’t take long for my neat little rows to turn to chaos. Whenever I was brave enough to organize it again, I always had to throw away a ton of expired food. I looked into buying one of those rotating racks, but they were so expensive and they took up so much room.
Then one day I finally figured it out! It is so easy and cheap! And it keeps my pantry so neat and insanely organized! Sometimes I look at my pantry and think that somebody else must live in this house because my pantry has never looked this good for this long.
How To Rotate Food Storage
When you rotate food storage, you want to rotate months instead of individual cans. (Learn more about planning food storage by month so that you know exactly what meals you can make with it) Let’s say I need 20 cans of peaches for each month. Instead of putting all 60 cans on a shelf and then having to rotate them all when I buy new ones, I have three bins that hold 20 cans each. I then just have to rotate the bins. It is much easier to rotate 3 things instead of 60!
I keep the bins of food that need to be used first in my pantry. Once I finish off a bin, I take it out and replace it with a new bin of food from my food storage closet. I then leave the empty bin out as a reminder until I go to the store and buy cans to fill it up again.
Once I fill it up, I put it in my food storage closet in the place where I took the other bin out. I use a dry erase marker to write the expiration date on the front of the bin so that next time I can easily see which bin I need to grab next.
I have been using this method to rotate food storage for a couple years and my pantry and food storage closet are as organized as the day I first started. I can’t mess it up! It is totally “Angie” proof!
It is also incredibly easy to see what I have and what I still need to buy. For the first time in my life I feel like I have a handle on my food storage. I have found that I can also store more because it is much easier to stack cans inside a plastic bin than it is to stack them on top of each other. I even have empty space in my pantry and food storage closet!
If that totally didn’t make sense to you and you are more of a visual person, here is a video.
The system is pretty simple, but here are some additional tips that have helped me:
Finding the Right Bins: Lots of bins or storage containers have a thick lip around the top. This adds strength to the bin, but it also takes up space in your pantry. I looked around to find bins that were the same size on the top and the bottom so that I wasn’t wasting any space.
For smaller numbers of cans, I use the Mainstays Large Cereal Dispenser at Walmart. I can fit about 12 regular sized cans in it if I don’t use the lid. It is almost perfect; I just wish it didn’t have the handle. They are super cheap and I figure that if I do ever need to use my food storage, they would be handy for storing food. [NOTE: When I went to buy more of these recently, I saw that they are now designed differently. So I bought these containers instead]
For larger amounts I use the Sterlite Showoff Large Storage Containers. In an emergency I thought they would also be helpful with transporting water or as a washing bin.
It took me awhile to find just the right bins to fit my space. I had to do a bit of buying and returning before I got it just right. But it was totally worth it!
I wanted to use clear plastic bins so that I could easily see what was inside. But if you are under a tight budget, you can also use cardboard boxes. You can just leave them as is, or you could cover them with fabric or shelf liner. There are lots of cute ideas on how to do this on Pinterest.
Cheap Can Rotators: For some of the items I only needed about four cans per month. It didn’t really make sense to buy a bin for four cans, so I bought these super cool can rotators at Wal-Mart. They are made to hold soda cans in your fridge, but they work wonderfully with regular cans. They are also way cheaper than any other can rotator I have found! [Note: They no longer have these at Walmart. These dispenser racks are a good replacement.]
Finding Space: I am a visual person, so it was important for me to have everything in one place where I could see everything I had. I also didn’t want to store it in the garage because it gets super hot in there over the summer. So I cleaned out a coat closet to use. It was easy to put shelves in it and I was able to store two months of food in there. And who even uses a coat closest anyway? Instead I put up a wall coat rack in our hall for the kids to hang their coats and backpacks on.
I highly recommend finding a centralized place to store everything, but if you can’t the system also works particularly well if you are storing food in random places around the house. Grouping the food together in bins by month really helps you keep track of things. And the bins are really easy to stack up in a closet.
People often say that they don’t have enough room to store food, but you would be amazed at the amount of junk we store in our homes. Most of it we never even use! You would be surprised by how much room you can find by purging your house a bit. In fact, have a garage sale and then use the money you earn to get started on buying food storage!
Making the Most of the Space You Do Have: By getting a little creative you would be amazed at the extra storage space you can squeeze out of an area. In my food storage closet I used under-cabinet baskets, storage shelves, and bottle racks so that I could use the space along the wall and under the shelves. I was amazed by how much more room it bought me. They all came in the Mainstays 6pc Cabinet Organization Set at Walmart and it was a really good deal. I also love these stacking baskets.
Using a Shoe Organizer: Because I like having everything in one spot, I also bought a shoe organizer to hang over the inside of the door. I can then use it for smaller food storage items and things like batteries, candles, and water filters. Now when the power goes out, I know exactly where to find everything.
Food Buckets: For my flour, rice and sugar I bought five gallon food buckets and then bought gamma seal lids for them. I bought two buckets for each item and then just rotate between the two buckets.
The lids make them super easy to get into and they keep the food fresh. I bought a different color of lid for each item so that I could easily see what was in each bucket. I then also write when I bought the food on the top of the lid with a dry erase marker. It won’t just wipe off like on a dry erase board, but it easily comes off with a wet rag.
For my longer term storage I use canned or vacuum-sealed rice, flour and sugar, but it gets expensive. So for these items I have some that are saved in ways that will last 30 years, but I keep the stuff I use regularly in the buckets. And then I will rotate the longer-term storage into it as needed. It makes it a lot easier and cheaper to rotate food storage.
Labels: I use labels to mark where things go in my closet and how many I need. It makes it so easy to just glance in the closet and see what I am missing. I also did the same with my bins. If you don’t have a label maker or a vinyl cutter, you can just use adhesive labels and send them through the printer.
Shopping With Bins: Although I get some weird looks, I sometimes take my bins to the store with me. Especially when I have to buy a lot of a certain item. For example, with the peaches I just stick 20 cans directly into the bin from off the shelf. At check out the cashier just counts the cans and leaves them in the bin. I can then take the bin home and put it directly into my closet. I don’t waste any bags and I don’t have to mess with loading my cart, unloading my cart at check out, bagging the cans, loading the bags into my car, and then unpacking the bags again. It saves me a ton of time!