Are you familiar with FIFO? No, not the international governing body for football teams (or soccer for us Americans). That’s FIFA. FIFO is a simple principle that every prepper should be well aware of, since it’ll help you preserve your hard-earned money and valuable emergency supplies.

FIFO stands for First-In-First-Out. This concept applies to storage of any perishable item you may be stockpiling for an emergency situation — MREs, bottled water, canned food, life-saving medications, car tires, fire extinguishers, batteries, gasoline, or even condoms. All of these items expire over time, and the moment they’re produced or packaged, that clock starts ticking.

The First-In-First-Out principle reminds us to keep perishable items organized in order from oldest to newest. With a FIFO stockpile, you’ll keep the oldest supplies on top or out front where they can be easily accessed. When you replenish your stockpile with new items, you’ll place them behind or beneath the older products. This way, any time you need to use a can of soup or a bottle of aspirin, you’ll be using the item that’s closest to its expiration date.

This rotation principle has been applied to inventory management in retail stores, and it’s used to reduce losses due to spoilage and obsolescence. FIFO is the reason the milk you grabbed from the back of the cooler isn’t months old and rancid, and the reason the candy bars in a vending machine are restocked from the back of the rack to the front. The system can have the same benefits in your home as it does for businesses.

Rolling can racks, such as this one from Amazon.com, make FIFO organization easier.

Can racks, such as this one from Amazon.com, make FIFO organization easier.

Of course, organizing the cans in your pantry from oldest to newest isn’t enough. If you have items that are rarely used, they may expire before you can get to the “first out” item at the front of the queue. So, it’s essential to make sure all items are clearly marked with expiration dates — many products will have these from the manufacturer; for others, you may need to write them down.

Temperature, light exposure, and pests are also important to consider, since failure to control these variables can cause items to expire faster.

FIFO food storage medical supplies organization prep 3

It’s also critical to check these dates frequently and discard any items that may be dangerously spoiled or far beyond the marked date. Note that some items may remain usable after the listed expiration date, so do your research before throwing anything out. Fortunately, a proper FIFO system makes checking the oldest items’ dates easy — they’re right out front.

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