My family has been practicing the FIFO method of panty and root cellar stock management since before I know what it was. My grandmother and mother before me were both very attentive to the organization of our shelves and the age of our foods, nowadays commonly known as the ‘use by date’ and commercial grocery items. Particularly, as we managed many pantry and root cellar items across multiple years. Property canned fruits, vegetables, and meats can be stored and consumed for several years. This is also true for some dried foods from the garden, fields, or even from local foragings, such as dried fruit (apples, apricots, plums), cereals (e.g. corn, wheat, barley), legumes (beans, bean britches, cowpeas) and so on.
What is FIFO?
First in, First out (FIFO) is an inventory management system in which, the first (or oldest ) stock is used first and the stock which has most recently been produced (canned, dried, etc.) and/or received (e.g. purchased) is only used after older items have been consumed. This ensures that the oldest stock is used first and reduces the costs and losses from spoilage. This rule should also be applied to your freezer and refrigerator, as well.
How to implement FIFO in your pantry and/or root cellar
Implementing the basics are simple enough. You really need to pay attention to a few things and be consistent.
- Store items in the same place, and put newer items behind older items, moving older items forward (please see diagram above), on the shelf or wherever you stored them
- Make sure you store only undamaged items and properly prepared items
- That you understand the relative shelve life of your pantry and root cellar stocks. Even within a class of food, some items have shorter shelf lives than others. For example, a cold stored acorn squash will, usually, only store a few months (3 or 4), where a butternut or neck pumpkin may last as long as a year.
- That you plan your meals and canning schedules in a way that takes into account when foods are likely to spoil and how much of a given food your family can and/or will eat in a given period of time.