Food Rotation: 7 Things To Consider When Planning Your Food Storage

Tops of several food cans, showing Use By dates

Honestly? We're all preppers. It just depends what we are "prepping" for. Some of us prepare for winter by preserving the produce from our garden. Others prepare for power outages, a possible job loss, natural disasters, or even more serious scenarios.

Whatever the reason you have food on your shelves, it's important to use that food before it spoils and was a waste of time, energy and money. But there are even more reasons to rotate your food, and today Conrad Novak of Survivors Fortress is discussing the seven things we need to think about when we store food. 

When planning food storage, there are a variety of factors that you must consider to ensure that you will not run into any issues in the future. Making sure that each food item is stored not only in a stable temperature and climate but in the proper one is clearly first on the list. 

Many foods that get either too hot or too cold will either suffer from quickened spoilage or may actually change in chemical composition - like freezing meat causes ice to disrupt and break the muscle fibers.

However, an all too often overlooked consideration to food storage is how you plan to rotate your food. This is actually made all the more complex due to the fact that you need to consider food rotation in terms of the viability of the product as well as the effects it can have on your health in general. 

That is why we have made a list of the biggest 7 things to consider when planning your food storage.

1. Expiration dates:

In terms of the functional rotation of your foodstuffs in your food storage, the most obvious reason to do so is to make sure that you are not eating food that has spoiled. Of course, that is simply the most obvious pieces of information that these labels could provide. 

What is is often far less known is the fact that many of those labels are more or less manufactured by the company with little to no scientific evidence. Instead, those labels are simply prescribed as a means to ensure that you keep purchasing more product.

That said, the labels themselves are not without merit altogether. It is more an issue of knowing exactly what those labels mean. 

For instance, did you know that there was a difference between the slight and often unnoticed difference is diction between “expires on X” and “best if used by X.” The first generally designates a more hard date such that the product in question could potentially be hazardous to your health should you consume it after such a date.

The latter, on the other hand, has far more to do with the general quality of the food but does not actually indicate anything specific in terms of health. For instance, many of the labels that use the “best if used by X” format will still be good for a week after that date has passed. 

However, the food company which processed the food cannot guarantee that the food’s flavor will remain at the expected level when purchased. Keep in mind, as much as food is given a date for safety, it is also given a date so consumers can feel comfortable in the experience that they will receive.

2. Freshness:

This factor can actually be related to the previous one but, for many foods, it can extend well beyond it as well. The whole point of a consumer culture is that your purchase provides a predictable, consistent experience. 

With food, this generally relates to the health benefits or risks as well as the flavor. While we have already described the latter a bit, the former bears a bit of mention as well. This could even create a situation where you become slightly malnourished if you are not careful.

Essentially, as food ages, it begins to slowly break down, and this means that all of the different molecules that make of the food slowly begin to synthesize into other molecules. 

For the most part, this process is harmless to a certain point and should not provide an undue degree of concern. However, when it comes to foods which may not technically go bad for an extended period of time but are still expected to provide a specific nutritional value, this consideration should be watched a bit more carefully.

Nuts and legumes and other similar foods are not known for going bad quickly - especially if you keep them sealed and in a temperature and climate controlled environment. Moreover, these foods are often noted for being high in nutritional value including protein and a number of different vitamins depending on the specific food in question. 

Yet, once one of the foods have been sitting around a bit too long - though not long enough to be dangerous for consumption - there is a good chance that many of their vitamins could actually have broken down into other molecules that do not provide the 
same or any nutritional value at all.

3. Restocking:

While the first two entries on our list dealt with the process of foods going bad and the different phases during that sequence, the next two are far more practical and related to the everyday element of food storage. It is only a matter of time before you run through your food stocks. 

Granted, part of the point of self-sufficient homesteading is to stay ahead of that curve so you never find yourself in a desperate situation, but this still requires knowing when you need to restock your supplies.

Jars of dehydrated foods such as orange slices.

There is probably a good chance that you provide some of your own food already. Whether you raise chickens or rabbits, grow a wide variety of your own vegetables in a garden, or have various trees or bushes that provide nuts, berries, or other fruit, the point remains that you still likely have stores and reserves of other foods that might not be so easy to make on your own. This is especially true of foods that are out of season or not native to your region or climate.

In this instance, you are going to want to make sure that replacing those foods comes with some built-in reminders - especially if your food storage sees a wealth of different foods as well as large amounts of each different type of food. 

While it is certainly possible to regularly check and make sure the foods stored are plentiful and up to date, using a sliding storage system that loads in the back and automatically shifts the next product with the earliest expiration date to the front will help ensure that you do not have to worry too terribly much about the first two factors on our list. This can even serve as a signal that it is time to restock should you keep records of the different foods and their expiration dates- and you should.

(Note from OHH: You can find directions to build a can rotation rack at Backwoods Home.)

4. Convenience:

When taking all of the previous factors into account as well as the various tips on how exactly you should go about organizing your food storage, the ultimate result is one of convenience that provides a stress-free solution. 

That said, there are still a few tips that will ultimately allow you to reduce the effort involved in proper food rotation even further, and efficiency is actually a big part of proper homesteading. Considering all resources are more limited in this circumstance - especially space, energy, and time - making the most of them is paramount.

With a proper food rotation plan, you will not have to waste time looking for the foodstuff necessary for whatever meal you had planned for that evening’s supper. Still, where to place the different foodstuffs can determine whether this process is quick and painless or a grunting chore. 

For instance, the conventional logic follows that the heaviest items should be placed at the bottom to prevent undue strain on the shelving above and mitigate any potential injury from a fall. While that is roughly true for the absolutely largest and heaviest items, the middle-weight items may not need to follow such a strict rule.

In this case, if the item itself is not all that dense and is simply a bit larger, you can actually store it above the bottom shelf without much worry. Because the weight is spaced out over a wider area, it will not place too much additional stress at a singular point on the shelves and will similarly not put you or others in as much risk of injury should it fall. Moreover, by not being on the bottom of the 
shelf, this makes it easier to retrieve.

5. Sensitivity:

As mentioned prior, the first half of our list discussed the practical and logistical applications of food rotation as understood from a storage perspective. However, now we enter the section of the list where we discuss the second type of food rotation and why it is just as important - if not more so. 

This type of food rotation has less to do with how the food itself is stored and has more to do with what kinds of food are being stored. The main point here is to constantly rotate the types of foods you eat as well.

All too often, people have a tendency to rely either on foods that are their favorites or foods that are easy to store. While there is no reason that you should not include both of those groups into your food storage plans, it is also extremely important that you make it a point to include foods which both may not be one of your favorites or all that easy to store. 

The reason is that eating the same foods all the time - even ones which are nutrient-rich and healthy in most circumstances - can actually be bad for you.

This is what is known as food sensitivity and it occurs when your body has to constantly use the same types of proteins and nutrients found in foods without variation. 

Essentially, when the body processes the same proteins and nutrients all the time it can cause inflammation throughout the body. While this can appear as skin rashes, there are many symptoms which are not altogether immediately visible and carry with them far greater health risks like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and even cancer.

6. Nutrients:

Anyone who engages in a labor of love like homesteading is likely already fairly well aware of the necessity of eating healthy. However, few people outside of nutritionists are actually aware of what truly healthy eating means. For instance, many people think that they can take a daily supplement and that will simply offset whatever less than ideal eating habits they may have. 

The only problem is that those vitamins and nutrients are often synthesized in a lab and are not broken down the same way by the body that vitamins and nutrients obtained by food are.

As such, many of these vitamins and nutrients are not absorbed efficiently - which is why you will often see these vitamins providing hundreds if not thousands of percents more vitamins than your necessary daily value. 

Beyond the poor absorption rate of the vitamins in the intestines, many of these synthetically created nutrients also generate harmful byproducts in the body when they are metabolized.

The solution then is to ensure that not only are you obtaining all of your vitamins from foodstuffs but that you are obtaining the same vitamins from different foodstuffs as well. Remember, eating the same thing over and over can have serious health implications. 

Not only should the foods with the same nutrients be different, they should be in different food families. B12 is an important vitamin, but if you always obtain it from fish instead of the occasional chicken, dairy, or even red meat source, you will quickly lose the ability to absorb it as fully or make as full use from it.

A man's hands holding dried red and pinto beans.

7. Variety:

The last reason to consider food rotation as part of your food storage program has less to do with the functional or practical concerns and also does not actually have too much of a health reason to justify it either. Quite simply, having a variety of foods and flavor experiences will make your life a more enjoyable one. As William Cowper said in his poem, “The Task,” "Variety is the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavor."

While this idiom was meant to be applied a bit more broadly figuratively, it can function just as effectively when applied to a more narrow and literal approach as well. This can open you to newfound favorites that you would have never discovered had you not taken the steps to expose yourself to a broader palette of foods and experiences. 

Keep in mind, this applies as much to foods you hate as foods you love. Remember, the human gustatory system - or our sense of taste - changes as we age in response to new nutrient needs, so a food you once hated might be one that a more mature you would love.

For instance, not everyone loves brussel sprouts as they are often used as an example of a food in our cultural milieu that children abhor and adults avoid. However, brussel sprouts will actually take on a wide variety of nuanced flavor differences depending on how you prepare them or cook them - let alone how you actually season them. 

You may hate plainly boiled brussel sprouts, but you might find their flavor far different if you first brine and then steam them.


As we can see, the purely practical reasons to consider food rotation in the logistical sense has to do with the integrity of the foodstuffs themselves as well as the simple act of dealing with the stored foods. 

While this is vital for health, it is mostly a matter of making your job easier. Of course, with homesteading already being nearly a full-time job - if it already is not - every little bit you can do to lighten the load makes the life of self-reliance all the more rewarding.

On the other hand, the second type of food rotation - the one that literally involves changing what foods you eat - is arguably more important than the first. While we all have our favorite foods, it is a little-known fact that too much of a good thing can be bad for you. 

Of course, beyond the sensitivity issues, it is also a good idea to ensure that you get a full range of vitamins from a variety of sources as well. Thankfully, with this list, your food storage should not only be safer and healthier, it too can become a point of pride.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

About Conrad:
Conrad Novak is a proud father of two children. His journey as a prepper began when Hurricane Katrina hit and he lost his job due to the 2008 economic crisis. That made him realize that everything can change for the worst in a very short time. This experience was the detonator for him to pursue learning and becoming better prepared to face the kind of unexpected disasters that may occur at any point in our lives. You can read more of his content at

Top of a can of food showing expiration date. Text: Food rotation.

Related Posts:
How to Prepare for Winter Storms
How We Prepare for Tornado Season


My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a simple, self-reliant, God-dependent life. You can join me at:
  Facebook | Pinterest | Instagram | Subscribe