Rotating Food Storage is a Pain

My wife and I were planning our food storage room when we realized that rotating the food would be a pain. I had seen many techniques. People yank out the old food, put the new ones in the back, and then put the old food back in front. (It’s even how grocery stores typically do it.)

We didn’t want rotating food storage to take up our lives. First, we purchased an automatic rotation system, thinking that was the answer. The cans automatically rolled down with gravity as we removed cans. It was okay. We liked it. But it was very expensive. And when the system was full, I realized that it wasn’t space efficient. To top it all off, some of our food storage wasn’t cans. A lot of food wouldn’t fit in the system and certainty wouldn’t roll.

Want an easy way to rotate your food storage? Column Rotation to the rescue! You can watch the video below or you can download the printable Column Rotation instructions here.

Column Rotation

To make food rotation easier, my wife and I came up with column rotation! (For awhile I was calling it “Autry Rotation”, but that title wasn’t very descriptive.)

Adjustable Shelving

The solution came when we realized that strong Home Depot adjustable shelving units were way cheaper than an automatic rotating system. We started packing in our food into columns. It fit nice and tight. Then we would lower the shelf above it to maximize the space. (something the automatic system just couldn’t do.)

1 Extra Column

We had already calculated how much food we needed. Then we put them on the shelf into columns. In order to ensure we had plenty of food, we added 1 extra column. The reason for this will be apparent as we continue.


We made labels for each type of food. We would put the label on the left most column of that food type. The column with the label is the “active column.” Then we would only eat from the active columns of each food type.

Payday – time to buy more food!

When it was payday, we would simply walk into our food storage room and search for empty columns. Way easy. If it still had 1 can in a column, we would not replace that column. Only columns that were completely empty would we replace. (That way, there is never any pulling out of old cans. And remember, earlier we added an extra column so we still have the right amount in our food storage even when the column is empty.)

Move the Label

When a column does become empty, immediately move the label to the right. That way we establish a new “active column.” You continue to eat on that column until it is empty. Then you move the label to the right again. You keep moving the label until you reach the last column. When that column is empty, you simply move the label back to the first column again. So easy and smart!


To make moving the tag easy on a metal shelf, use magnets! You can also use an un-labeled clothes pin or office clip. You will soon realize you don’t necessarily have to have it labeled with text. You just need to have something that marks your active column for that food item.

Works for water too!… and anything else in columns.

At my home, we also use Column Rotation to rotate our water supply. Keeps the water fresh! You can use it to rotate food, water, mylar bags, #10 cans, Jars, pasta… anything that is arranged in columns!

Questions? Feel free to comment below.

You can watch the video above or you can download the printable Column Rotation instructions here. This makes a great handout in church or any food storage meeting.