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You have heard it before, probably a hundred times during your prepping journey, but it is important to remind you again: Prepping is never done! It is a weekly task that shouldn’t be neglected. You can’t buy a bunch of food, water, and other supplies and leave it in the basement or the back of the pantry, forgetting it is there for years on end. You have to keep rotating your food storage.
Why, you ask? Well, we are going to talk about 10 things you should be doing on a regular basis to keep your food storage neat, tidy and fresh.
1. Proper food rotation is the key to always having somewhat fresh food on hand. You don’t want to eat the freshest items first and leave the old stuff to get older and possibly spoil. Follow the old restaurant trick of FIFO. First in, first out. Decide up front how you are going to rotate your food. Will you be going front to back or left to right? It doesn’t hurt to put up a little note reminding you and the family which side to pull from if they are taking from the food supply. If you have a lot of canned food, install some slanted shelves or racks to make this even simpler (see the image above).
2. When you are regularly rotating your food, you are also able to inspect it for signs of spoilage. If you see bulging cans or home-canned food that is seeping liquid from the seal, you need to throw it away immediately. Those are almost sure signs of botulism poisoning, which you absolutely do not want to mess with.
3. During the rotation process, you can inspect your food storage area for signs of pest infestation. Catching a mouse or ant infestation before it becomes a huge problem and your food storage is gorged upon is important. Mice, ants and roaches are wily critters and can get through walls, ceilings, and vents without much trouble. Every home or food cache is susceptible to pests. Stay on top of this one to save yourself a lot of trouble.
4. Rotating your food storage gives you the chance to do regular inventories as well. It is very easy to forget what you have on hand when you haven’t looked at it for a month or longer. Keep a running checklist or tally sheet of items as you add them to your shelf. Reference your inventory sheet from time to time to make sure your food is all present and accounted for. There will be times you need to borrow from your stash, which is fine, but you want to make sure to update your inventory sheets.
5. Which brings us to regularly using the food from your food storage. If you found a great deal on an off-brand of pinto beans and couldn’t resist picking up a couple cans or cases, you want to give those beans a try. If the family likes the beans, you will know to pick up more the next time they go on sale. If the beans are atrocious, don’t waste your money buying them in the future. Only store what your family eats today! Their taste buds are not going to change overnight.
6. When you add items to your food storage shelf, be sure to date cans, boxes and other packaging with large, bold numbers. Use a Sharpie to make it easier for you to see in low light. This will make it easier for you to rotate your food storage. Those little tiny “use by” dates are nearly impossible to see, even under bright kitchen lighting. Save your eyes and write the dates big and bold.
7. Store like items together on your shelves. You want to keep all your tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce and diced tomatoes in one area. Imagine your food storage as if it were a grocery store. When you go to the grocery store and you are looking for one specific ingredient, you know you can find it next to other similar items. Beans stick together, tomato products stick together, soups go together and so on. This makes it easier for you to inventory and when you need something, you won’t waste time searching for that can of food you know you put on the shelf a while ago.
8. Consider labeling your shelves to make adding inventory a breeze. You don’t have to do all of the work yourself. If you have amassed an inventory that covers several shelves, labels will allow family members to add stock without asking you where things go. It also makes it more organized and much easier to grab and go. When you are doing weekly or monthly inventory checks, you can also quickly identify what you don’t have if there is an empty spot on the shelf with an easy-to-read label.
9. Do yourself a huge favor and store the heaviest items on the bottom shelf. If you have invested in bulk cans of soup, chili or other heavy items, store them below waist level. You don’t want one of those cans falling off the shelf and either seriously injuring somebody or exploding and wasting a lot of good food.
10. When you realize you have some items that have been sitting on your food storage for a while, pull them out and put them in your everyday pantry for quick use. Make a note to replace the items you pulled from your food storage. This method ensures you are not wasting food or buying more groceries than you need to for the week. Don’t leave them on the shelf with the intention of using the items at some unknown time in the future. The out of sight out of mind phenomenon will kick in and the food will wasted.