What the Heck is FIFO?

Published by Table for One

Let me paint you a picture:

Girl wakes up at 6:15 am. Grabs her phone, shuts off the alarm, and goes to every social media site she has an app for to do some pointless scrolling to kill time before she absolutely HAS to get out of bed at 6:30 (6:35 if she’s pushing it). Girl gets ready for work, knowing she has to be out the door by 6:45 am (but usually, she isn’t really out until 6:49 am). Make-up is definitely out of the question — all she has to do is put on her work uniform and brush her teeth.

She comes out of the bathroom; it’s 6:41. She takes her dog out so he doesn’t have any accidents in the house while she is away at work for the next 11 hours. Girl comes back inside with her dog. It’s 6:47. “Crap,” she thinks, “I gotta go”. She is out the door and in her car by 6:48. She hopes she will make it to her 7 am shift in time as she hits a red light. 7:01 she is pulling into the parking lot. “Oh crap,” she thinks again, “I didn’t even eat anything”.

This is my struggle 3 days out of the work week. I schedule myself for 7-5 shifts every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday – and I find myself always skipping breakfast. It’s not because I am not a morning person, but because I always put everything off until the last minute. It’s an awful habit of mine, but I’m sure most of you in your early 20’s out there will be able to relate (at least I hope so, if I was the only person, that would really stink!)

The remaining 2 days in my work week are the longest. I work 10-8 and 12-11. Needless to say, these mornings are more of an opportunity for me to prepare a decent breakfast at home. Unfortunately, with the extra meetings or projects I am involved in, I still don’t allow myself time to make a hearty meal.

Now, let’s talk about my time in the evening. The three days I get off at 5, although I lack the most important meal of the day, I am able to cook a pretty good meal for myself. Most of the time, I also cook for my boyfriend who comes over after he is off at 6 pm. I find it pretty difficult to cook for only myself, so you usually won’t find me cooking if he isn’t here. See my solutions for cooking for less than a few.

If you put it all together, I have 3 days of actually cooking meals and 2 days of making a quick breakfast during my work week. I have learned that, especially with this schedule, I am VERY BAD at keeping track of what is in my fridge/pantry and when it expires. It has taken me a few years of living on my own and a LOT of trial and error (by trial and error, I mean throwing a LOT of food away due to what I like to call, “kitchen negligence”) to figure out a solution to this. It seems like the easiest thing to do, especially since I manage this DAILY at the restaurant I run — FIFO!

FIFO? What the heck is FIFO?

For those of you who have not worked in food, or have worked in food but still don’t know this term, I will break it down for you:

  • F — First
  • I — In
  • F — First
  • O — Out

This is a common system that prevents newer product from getting used before the older product, and avoids having to throw away expired food. It’s the reason why when you are shopping at the grocery store, you clever-minded folks always reach in the very back of the shelf for the newer product. It’s pretty simple and fool-proof, as long as the items are being dated properly.

I have been using this system for YEARS, even before I was a manager. As I was putting groceries away from my most recent shopping trip, it clicked! Why wasn’t I doing this at home, in my own kitchen? So what did I do? I searched my condo like a mad-man for something to label all of my products with. Voila! I found a pile of adorable little Post-It notes that I never use and a Sharpie, and I went to town.

foods with labeled expiration dates
Bam! Expiration dates.

I took everything that I bought plus whatever was still salvageable from my fridge (yes, I did throw some food away again… and it will be the last time — promise!) and marked them with the dates that they expire. Keep in mind, I know that the expiration dates are already on the packaging, but if you are like me with 20 different things going through your brain at once, you are more likely to miss those tiny little stamped dates when you go in your fridge (if you are REALLY like me, you’ll miss them every time).

I did mention adorable Post-It notes earlier, and I haven’t forgotten about them. I use those for leftovers! Yes, you read correctly — leftovers. I am not a giant fan of leftovers if they are from a restaurant, and I avoid taking them home because they will just sit in my fridge lonely and forgotten, but if I have some extra food leftover from something I’ve cooked, you better believe that is what’s feeding me tomorrow!

tupperware with labeled expiration dates
These dates pop out. They are big, and in red — the color of POWER. That is exactly what I need to remind myself of what is going bad soon. Successful food storage — what a powerful thing!

Let’s not forget about the stuff that goes in our beloved freezer. It’s a little different with this. Since things in the freezer last a fairly long time, I find it easier to write the date it was put in there, rather than how long it will last. Here’s a list of foods that freeze well, found on my Pinterest board.

portioned and dated meat

I’d like to note that when I purchase meat of any kind, I immediately portion it out due to the fact that I am always going to be cooking for less than few. This makes it way easier and quicker to grab what you need and thaw it to cook.

There you have it! I’m glad that I finally made the connection to apply a system I have been around for several years at work to my kitchen at home. It sure took long enough for me to figure it out, but I hope this will help other fellow kitchen newbies save some food, money, and stress!

Am I missing something? Please, feel free to list your suggestions in the comments below! I’d love to try some as I find my jive in the kitchen!