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Food Rotation | The Dot System

21 February 2013

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Food Rotation Shelves

I am amazed at the expensive and complicated devices people are using to help in canned food rotation. Some companies are selling these big plastic feeder tubes that cans are loaded into, just like what is in most grocery stores now. The cans go down a chute. The last ones you bought go on top. Pull one out the bottom and the next automatically queues up. These can-feed tube systems rely on the first-in, first-out system. Therein lies the problem.


First-in, First-out

Many people use this conceptual system for food rotation. You don’t need a fancy plastic can loader to use the idea. That is, the first canned food you buy, you try to use up first. The theory is – that what you bought first will be older, and have a shorter expiration date, than what you just brought home. I have found this to frequently not be the case. Just because it is new to YOUR shelf doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been sitting on the grocers’ (or wholesalers’) shelves for quite a while. This is particularly a problem with some of the larger discount chains (you know who they are) or for items that may not turnover quickly in stores – Like that canned eel you got in the international section. So, what you bought first, might have a better/longer shelf life than what you just brought home…


Enter – The Dot System

Good news is – it is simple, it is cheap and the dots have other uses as well.

The bad news is – that it is a bit more labor intensive to start.

Start with some colored dots, you will need 4-5 different colors. I got these at Staples office supply and they have similar items at other places that sell office supplies.




Next step is to assign a “year” to a particular color. This is your rosetta stone, no more writing. Memorize it, stick em on an index card or on your shelves (like me) or stick em where the sun don’t shine. Just remember your system 😉



For me now, these represent the expiration year on the can/bottle/package. All yellow stickers expire in the year 2013, all blue stickers expire in the year 2014 and so on. I have found most foods have a 2-3 year expiration with only a couple products having expirations of 3 0r 4 years. So 4-5 colors of dots will do ya good. Expiration dates are not an exact science, the food doesn’t go bad exactly on the month and day of the listed expiration. To that end, it is simplest to treat an item expiring in March of 2013 the same as one expiring in November of 2013, they both get a yellow/2013 sticker.



So now, at a glance you can see what year your cans expire. The cream corns are more short dated than the potatoes, so on the menu they go first. New cans come in with an older (or newer) expiration? No problem. At a glace you know which ones can be moved to the back or towrd the fron. Getting close to the end of the year? At a glance you know which cans/packages need to get used up first.

No more finding cans that expired 3 years ago.

As I said, to get started, this is a bit of work. As the groceries come in, you have to be dilligent about stickering and getting them into the pantry. These stickers also make great targets, just stick them on a blank piece of paper an viola, a low cost target! Try the system out on a small scale to start and see what you think!

Link to a video on this system Click here for Youtube Food Rotation Video

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