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Do you know how long a tube of toothpaste lasts you? What about your contact lens solution? How many rolls of TP does your family need for 30 days? How long will a pound of coffee last you?
Marking dates on your supplies can help you answer these questions, which is important for three reasons:
- It keeps you from having to guess;
- It gives you valuable information on how long certain supplies last for your family; and
- It aids you in knowing how much to buy for storage.
You should get into the habit of marking the date on anything that you consume on a regular basis. You’re either marking the date of the day you bought it or the date you opened it, depending on the item.
Food should be marked with the date of when you bought it because once opened, it’s usually consumed rather quickly.
If you use a can rotator, you only need to mark the last can you put in, as you can estimate the dates of the other cans. Also, if you buy supplies at the big box stores, like Costco, BJ’s, or Sam’s Club, you don’t need to mark the date on every can in the case—simply mark the case or box itself.
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Having dates on the cans becomes important when those “stragglers” get pushed to the back of the shelf and lost for a year or two. Or three. Or seven.
There has been more than one occasion when we have been clearing out the pantry for a periodic cleaning and found something that is older than half a decade hidden behind something. Finding that is a good reminder of how difficult it can be to do proper food storage rotation and illustrates how useful something like a can rotator can be.
Once you start marking dates, it will, of course, take a while before you start seeing answers to some of these questions on how long things last.
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For items that you consume at a faster rate or are in smaller quantities, you’ll probably start learning how long they last fairly soon. Other things, like toothpaste, contact solutions, or that 25 lb. of flour, will take longer to determine.
Keep a log of all these items and how long it takes you to consume them. There’s nothing worse than going through the trouble of marking everything with dates, only to forget how long something lasts.
Being prepared is a mindset. It’s not just about beans, bullets, and band-aids. It’s about looking at the signs and signals that are occurring now and being able to project or forecast how it might affect you and your family in the future, then taking steps to mitigate these effects.
This is an updated version of an article that was originally published on October 10, 2013.
Rob Hanus is the author of “The Preparedness Capability Checklist: A Planning and Evaluation Tool for Becoming More Self-Reliant,” an easy-to-read book that offers the absolute best method for intelligent and deliberate prepping. Rob is also host of the Preparedness Podcast.
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Marjory Wildcraft is an Expedition Leader and Bioneer Blogger with The [Grow] Network, which is an online community that recognizes the wisdom of “homegrown food on every table.” Marjory has been featured as an expert on sustainable living by National Geographic, she is a speaker at Mother Earth News fairs, and is a returning guest on Coast to Coast AM. She is an author of several books, but is best known for her “Grow Your Own Groceries” video series, which is used by more than 300,000 homesteaders, survivalists, universities, and missionary organizations around the world.