Stock Rotation and Pantry Organization: A Guest Post

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One of the beauties of the blog world is the friendships that are to be had. I’m so amazed at today’s guest post. Lynn from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures was one of the first readers and commenters of this blog, almost two years ago. Today we have a long-distance friendship. Here Lynn shares a great tip for helping you organize your pantry and rotate your stock of groceries.

A close up of a salsa bottle and canned tomatoes with markings on the lids.

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One of the things that I struggle with in my kitchen is keeping my pantry organized and my stock rotated. It seems like a constant battle. My main problem is that I like to stock up on things when they are on sale. If I find tomato sauce on sale for 4/$1.00, I might buy 20 cans. My goal when I get home with my 20 cans of tomato sauce is to put them behind the 4 cans that I still have in my pantry, in order to use the older cans first. But, this does not always happen.

When I come home from grocery shopping, I am often tired and in a hurry. I also have a husband and three kids who sometimes help put groceries away. So, as hard as I have tried, the system of putting the new cans in the back does not usually happen.

I learned an tip from a friend that has simplified stock rotation. Not only is this a frugal thing to do, it is easy. Every few months, or even just twice a year, take a black permanent marker and put an X or a check mark on the top of all the cans and jars in your pantry like this.

You can even go a step farther and date them if you want. Once I mark all my cans, I can easily tell what cans are the older ones. If I have 3 cans of tomatoes, and I buy 2 more cans, I now know which cans I should use first: the ones with the mark on them.

If you have a very big supply of food in your pantry, it can be tedious and time consuming to mark all your cans. My solution is to give this job to my seven and nine year old children. I give them both markers, and they get the job done in no time.

–Lynn is a homeschooling mom of three. She loves to cook and try new recipes. She blogs at Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures, sharing recipes, tips, and ideas to help you meld a love of cooking with a busy life.

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  1. My local grocery store doesn’t always rotate their stock, so I write the ‘best if used by date’ on the top of the can or package in the YYYYMMDD format. This way, all that I have to do is to use the can or package with the lowest number first.

    I also arrange things in my father’s pantry and refrigerator so that the items with the lowest numbers are at the front of the shelf in his cabinet or refrigerator. Dad gets more forgetful when he doesn’t take his heart medication, and this helps make sure that he doesn’t have any expired cans or packages in either his pantry or refrigerator.

  2. Great tip, and also a good point about items purchased later actually expiring first, Shauna! Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. this is a great post thanks for sharing the thing that happens is when I get home the kids start putting up the can goods and they are always put up front rather than rotating

  4. I’m pretty new at couponing and I am just now (after a couple of months) starting to get a pretty good stash, so I’ve been wondering about this. My grandma has a great food storage, and she writes the date she bought the item (month and year) on the can or box before she puts the groceries away to help her remember what needs to be used first.

  5. When I first started paying attention to expiration dates (during the big Y2K scare of 1999), I discovered that the grocery stores sometimes stock past-expiration date food on their shelves. If we’re not checking the dates before purchase, the can of tomato paste we bring home today could actually be *older* than the same cans of tomato paste already stocked in our pantry.

  6. I used different colored markers that cordinate with the marker color on the calendar. Like this month is bright blue. I made a bright blue star on the calendar by Jan and then any can goods I bought was marked with bright blue. Feb is purple.

  7. That is a great idea. I found the most helpful tool to me in keeping things in rotation is my Canned Goods Rack ( I have 6 slots that I can keep in order by purchase, simply by pulling from the front. When I load it, I alternate if there are different varieties in the same row (i.e. Chicken Noodle Soup/Tomato Soup/Chicken Noodle Soup, etc or Corn/Green Beans/Mixed Vegetables/Corn/Green Beans) and then if I really want the next item, I can always remove one can to get to the one I want and place the first item back in position. Before I had this, I had a lot of issues with expiring canned goods.

  8. I’ve enjoyed several of your posts this week, and am just popping in to tell you so. Thank you for the tidbits of treasures.

    I am also enjoying doing the pantry challenge with all of you. We have spent $100 this month for the eight of us, and it was almost exclusively on fresh produce. We needed this! We’ll be doing it (a little less tightly) next month as well, and using our excess to restock our emergency supplies–the big restock.

    God’s blessings to your family.

  9. I try to remember to do this with things I open and put in the fridge. I have some ingredients in my fridge that I don’t really know how long they are “good” for, and I don’t trust my sense of smell to tell me when things are bad. I’m talking about things that last alot longer, like, for example, I have a bottle of Pina Colada mix that I bought to make a dipping sauce for coconut shrimp. Now as much as I love the coconut shrimp I don’t make it often because it’s time consuming. So that mix has been in my fridge for a over a year now and I’m thinking I’ll throw it out because I have no idea how long something like that lasts!

    Also in regard to wondering how long things last – I recently opened a can of pizza sauce, it has been there for over a year! I’ve been making my own pizzas lately but not all with pizza sauce. Anyway it looked fine and smelled fine but when I went to eat it… YUCK!

    So – this is where the pantry eating, the menu planning and the OAMC is really coming in handy, though I still have tons of stuff left from my OAMC in December. (I’m eating one of the meals right now!)

    I’m getting better at it though.

    Now if only I can figure out a house cleaning schedule that works for me!

  10. You could always keep a note on the fridge the indicates X means 1/20 then make a star and put on the list 2/23 or something like that having like a key for the symbols.

    Anyways, awesome tip! I am going to do this!

  11. I love this idea! I’ve been reorganizing my pantry, refrigerator, and freezer for the past few days and have reorganized most of my supplies according to expiration date, but this is a much simpler way to go about it. Thanks for the tip!

  12. What a great idea. The last time that I went through our pantry, I had items that expired in 2006.
    The next time that you organize the pantry (6-months doewn the road) and still have cans with an X, would you put a double X on the new ones?