Make Your Own Food Storage Rotation Shelves

Written by Brandon Garrett

When using your food storage, you’ll want to make sure that you are tracking your cans of food storage correctly. After all, no one wants to find a dusty old can that they purchased 30 years ago (even though with freeze-dried food, it still would be good.)

FIFO (First In First Out) shelves are an easy way to track your food storage and keep things organized if you use your food storage on a regular basis. You can pay a lot for a commercial shelving system or you could put in a little elbow grease and save yourself tons of money.

You’ll need:

Plywood
• Two pieces of 24 x 68 inches
• Three pieces of 31.5 x 17 9/16 inches
• Three pieces of 31.5 x 24 inches
• Two pieces of 24 x 32.5 inches
• Three pieces of 32.5 x 2 inches
• 15 strips measuring 17 9/16 x ½ inches
• 15 strips measuring 24 x ½ inches
Circular Saw
Wood screws or heavy-duty glue
Paint (optional)

Directions:

1. The first thing you’ll want to know about these shelves is that they’re designed for #10 food storage cans. A typical food storage can measures 7 inches tall. If you want to house smaller cans or customize your shelving for a different size, you can; but more about that later.

2. Start with your largest piece of plywood (24”x68”). Lay it down on the ground and begin measuring on one side of the board. Measure down 6.5 inches and make a mark. From that mark, measure another 10.5 inches down and make a mark. Measure down from that mark another 6.5 inches and mark. Continue this process until you reach the bottom of the plywood.

3. With the board still laying on the ground, move to the opposite side that you weren’t marking, begin by measuring from the top corner down 8.5 inches. Make a mark there. Measure from that mark another 6.5 inches down and make a mark. Measure 2 inches below that and mark it on the board. Repeat this process until you get to the bottom of the board. Your board should look like the figure below:

Homemade food storage rotation shelves

4. Draw a line from the top mark on the right side, down to the corresponding mark on the left side. Then draw a line from the next mark on the left side to the corresponding mark on the right side.

5. Locate three ½-inch strips of wood measuring 24 inches long. Locate the other three ½-inch strips of wood measuring 17 9/16-inches long. You can drill or glue these strips on to the lines that you’ve drawn. You’ll notice that the 17 9/16-inch strips won’t reach all the way across the board, and that’s fine. They will always be above the 24-inch strips.

6. Repeat steps 3-5 with the other large piece of plywood (24”x68”). You should however, draw your lines mirrored to your previous measurements.

7. Lay the two large boards on their sides and use the base and top boards to secure them together. Make sure that the two large boards (24”x68”) are placed in a mirrored way facing each other.

Fifo Racks

8. Stand up the large box that you’ve created

9. Now that we’ve created the basic structure of the shelving unit, we can move on to creating the shelves that will lay onto the 1/2-inch strips that we’ve secured. We’ll be creating shelves that will have 4 ramps of cans. Each can will roll down the 7.5-inch ramp that we create.

10. Begin by locating three boards measuring 31.5” x 17 9/16”. Measure from one end of the board to the other making a mark every 7.5 inches.

11. Now, glue or drill the 1/2-inch strips (measuring 17 9/16”) perpendicular across the board as shown below:

12. Locate three boards measuring 31.5” x 24”. Measure from one end of the board to the other making a mark every 7.5 inches. Lay the strips measuring 24”x1/2” on the marks.

13. Your boards should look like these images below:

food storage rotation shelves food storage shelves

14. Slide the shelving units into the large case that you’ve created. The boards measuring 17 9/16” should be placed on the strips measuring 17 9/16”. The 24” boards should be laid on the 24” strips. The 17 9/16” strips will probably need to be drilled into the holdings. They can also be glued into place.

fifo racks

15. Now that your shelves are in place, You’ll want to install the lips on the bottom of each rotation space so that your can doesn’t roll right off the shelf once you put it in.

16. Locate the three strips measuring 32.5” x 2”. Use glue or a drill to secure these lips to the front of the case in front of the bottom of the 2nd, 4th and 6th space.

food storage shelves

17. Now that you have your shelving and lips in place, the shelving unit should fit all securely together and allow for a can to be placed in the 1st, 3rd and 5th levels and rotate down to their corresponding shelving units (2nd, 4th and 6th levels respectively).

18. Paint and decorate your shelving unit as desired

Updated January 26, 2013

17 Comments

  1. zazzu wrote:

    An actual picture of the finished project would be helpful.

    January 28th, 2013 at 6:01 am
  2. Herb Clark wrote:

    Very nice article and design. Without actually drawing it out, it appears that I will need 2 sheets of 4×8 plywood.
    There is a reference to “more about that later”. Is there another article I can’t find for smaller cans?

    January 28th, 2013 at 8:53 am
  3. Sterling wrote:

    I think making custom racking is a great idea for storing your food… I just don’t like the idea of rotating racks ESPECIALLY #10 cans. I think rotating long term food storage is dumb.

    Think for a minute, you buy your families food storage over the span of a couple years. It has a shelf life of 20 years. You are going to let it sit and collect dust for 18-19 years before needing to rotate through it.

    Now if you only buy a tiny bit each year and it takes you 10-20 years to get your food storage filled up then I could see the value in it but in my case it is just going to sit and collect dust.

    January 28th, 2013 at 10:11 am
  4. mrs julie a neary wrote:

    is ply strong enough or does it equate to UK MDF board coated or not
    depending on your budget

    January 28th, 2013 at 10:30 am
  5. Jack Hommel wrote:

    Rotation of stock on hand is always a good idea and these sorts of racks can help a lot. The only drawback I have found with them is that they are space hogs. I prefer a manual, scheduled rotation.
    The hands-on method helps to highlight bulging or leaking cans. The really critical issue is to KNOW with certainty what you have and what its condition is.

    January 28th, 2013 at 11:11 am
  6. Brenda wrote:

    Thanks for the step by step instructions for the shelfs. Sounds like a great way to rotate your stock. I am looking forwaed to seeing the instructions for shelf for the smaller size cans.

    January 28th, 2013 at 3:20 pm
  7. Kent wrote:

    Excellent article that should provide a great start for #10 cans or easily adjusted for smaller cans. I don’t have a lot of space for the size presented. But, I’ll adjust mine down for a smaller unit. Thanks for the design!

    January 29th, 2013 at 5:30 pm
  8. Brian wrote:

    I agree with Jack, manual rotation is the best way to know what u have on hand and any condition issues with the cans. Also, I have entered all of my goods, can and bulk, into a spreadsheet, and I sort the items by expiration date, then sort by if its a veg or meat, then sort by what type, ex corn, green beans, tuna, chicken, etc. The spreadsheet also has the quantity of each item ex. cans of corn = 50, cans of Tuna =125. I, also, make a hard copy to keep track of items added and removed in case the computer and backup dies.

    January 30th, 2013 at 7:42 am
  9. Bill wrote:

    Thanks for the specs/instructions. Maybe there should be utube video? Am I correct in my estimation, in that the design presented will hold 128 #10 cans?

    February 1st, 2013 at 10:33 pm
  10. Adrien Brody wrote:

    Sounds like a great way to rotate your stock. I am looking forward to seeing the instructions for shelf for the smaller size cans.

    February 6th, 2013 at 3:37 am
  11. Cheryl N. wrote:

    Sterling, the idea of food storage isn’t that you only store it. The idea is that you actually buy and use the food in your every day cooking. That is why you need to have a system to rotate the cans.
    I have always wanted a good rotating system because just writing the date when I purches it isn’t enough to keep the old in front.

    February 12th, 2013 at 2:47 pm
  12. Sterling wrote:

    Well Cheryl I agree with you on some points (use your food storage) but #10 can racks are pointless. I would get a rotation shelf for tuna cans and other small cans (since they have a shorter shelf life) but again to rotate through #10 cans of food that was designed for 2 decades of shelf life seems counter productive.

    In my storage I simply place cans with the estimated expiration date with each other. Grouping them makes it easy to see which ones I will need to use first when the time passes.

    February 13th, 2013 at 9:15 am
  13. Elle@Food Storage Jars UK wrote:

    Storing canned food in your kitchen cabinets is an inefficient use of space and you will often find old cans in the back. You idea on easy-to-build rotation shelf system will solve the problem by rotating the cans. The cost is a small fraction of the price of retail canned food systems. There are many variations which can do to this idea and will modify it to suit my needs and abilities. Thank You!

    February 15th, 2013 at 6:18 am
  14. 610Alpha wrote:

    @Sterling — are the #10 cans of food the same as your smaller cans of food? Unless the food is the same you will need an adjustment period. Same goes for storing up a bunch of grains and legumes. You need to incorporate what you are storing into your meals otherwise the first few days on Wheat berries is going to have you sitting on the crapper because you aren’t used to that much fiber.

    March 27th, 2013 at 1:51 pm
  15. Jack wrote:

    Did you use 1/2″ or 3/4″ plywood?

    January 10th, 2014 at 9:19 pm
  16. Doc wrote:

    I have built several versions near this design using building material from cardboard to oak slats with great success. Whatever would work for as long as I needed it or until the proper material was available. Bulging cans can be a problem rectified with a sharpened basketball inflation needle or a large animal hypodermic needle to relieve the pressure for removal (have a towel ready). When my twin boys were teenagers we would go through 20 to 50 #10 cans of food a month (tomatoes, beans, applesauce, pineapple etc.). We used a horizontal non-gravity feed version during their years of feeding frenzy. With the changing of materials over the years I realize plywood is the king, but would some of the less expensive sheeting be comparable for strength in this situation? I would add stiff rubber triangle wedges to direct and soften the drop of the cans when the remaining stores are past the dropping point. My favorite sheeting was core-pine sheeting (high grade particle board no longer available in the southwest) sealed with polyurethane then hand polished. The ones I painted had friction and sticking problems. Good JOB, useful information, thank you for your time

    January 31st, 2014 at 11:20 pm
  17. debbie e wrote:

    The type of food you are storing will dictate your materials. Freeze dried food in # 10 cans is relatively light weight and can be stored in a rack built from lighter materials perhaps on a wheeled base. Wet pack cans need the most solid shelves you can manage and the rotation system shown would worry me. When in doubt over build.

    May 1st, 2014 at 3:49 pm

What Do You Think of That?