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Create Food Rotation Labels With Automatic Relative Dates Teaser Image

Create Food Rotation Labels With Automatic Relative Dates

Most foods perish at different rates, and some foods have multiple dates that need to be considered. This poses a challenge for both humans and computers.

Keep the spreadsheet as simple as possible.

With Label LIVE, you can easily import a spreadsheet of your food items along with relative expiration dates using natural language. This data can be printed on your Mac or Windows PC using using common label printers from DYMO, Brother, Zebra, ROLLO and more.

Spreadsheet Data

Let's design a custom food rotation label. Using Label LIVE, we want to import data using Microsoft Excel or CSV (comma separated value) document.

For best results, ensure that the spreadsheet has short and simple header values. The text in the first row will be referenced later as a variable. Label LIVE will remove any punctuation or spaces and will change all of the letters to upper-case.

Our example uses two columns:

  1. ITEM - The name of the food item

  2. DATE:EXPIRES - The relative date the food item expires

The column header "DATE:EXPIRES" tells Label LIVE to automatically create an "EXPIRES" variable and format it as a DATE.

Once you feel good about the spreadsheet data you are ready to import.

  1. Click on the "Data" tab

  2. Click "Import"

  3. Choose your spreadsheet or CSV

  4. Verify that your data rows look 👍

Follow Along

Try Label LIVE right now by downloading in the Mac App Store or Microsoft Windows Store.

Designing the Label

Label LIVE makes the easy things easy, and the hard things possible.

First, let's add the item as a text object from the Data tab.

  1. For ITEM, click the green ➕ button

  2. Click "Add as Text"

  3. Click on the new text object and place it in the center of the label. Click on "Align" and choose "Center." This ensures that when the text changes, the label text stays aligned in the center of the label.

  4. Optional: If you want your text to automatically wrap to multiple lines, click on "Word Wrap" and select "Automatic" and adjust the width of the text object to use the available label space.

Test how the text changes by selecting a different row on the Data tab. 💯

How does this work? It's not magic!

The green ➕ button offers shortcuts for utilizing variables created from spreadsheet imports. To create new variables by hand you just create text and barcodes in the Design tab and add your own formatted {VARIABLE} text.

How Variables Are Made

Go ahead and try yourself.

  1. Create a text object with the text "Hello {NAME}"

  2. Jump back over to the Data tab – Label LIVE created a new NAME variable 🙌🏼

  3. Type your name into the NAME field and it displays in the label

Now you can easily change all of the label's dynamic text from the Data tab.

Add a Relative Date

Adding the expiration date is almost identical to adding the item name.

  1. For EXPIRES, click the green ➕ button

  2. Click "Add as Text"

  3. Click on the new text object and place it near the bottom-left edge of the label.

  4. Double-click the text object and change the text to read: "EXP: {DATE:EXPIRES}"

  5. Click on the Data tab, and click on "EXPIRES"

  6. Change the "Printed Format" to something shorter

What about now?

Some labels require multiple dates. One common date is the pack date. You can set this easily by using "now" as the variable input.

  1. Create a text object with the text "PREP: {DATE:NOW}"

  2. Jump back over to the Data tab – Label LIVE created a new NOW variable 🙌🏼

  3. Type "now" into the NOW field and it displays the current date in the label

  4. Click on "EXPIRES"and change the "Printed Format" to something shorter

A few things to note:

  • Prefixing a variable with "DATE:" causes Label LIVE to format the variable as a date.

  • If you forget to prefix with "DATE:" the variable input will be displayed as-is. For our example above, this might be useful to display the text "In 3 days" on our label.

  • Label LIVE dates are very flexible. These are all supported: now (current time), today (midnight), tomorrow, yesterday, 48 hours from now, in two weeks, July 1st 1980, next Monday at 9:41am, or 12/31/1999.

A Word on Style

The label at the top of this page took me about 5 minutes to design. Here are a few tips and tricks to add a bit of style to your labels.

Most thermal label solutions offer only two colors:

  • White - The label's color

  • Black - The label's color when heated by the printer

With that in mind, you can add a black square and then change the {ITEM} text's "Color" from "Black" to "Label Color."

However, since the square was added after the text, it will be "above" the text object.

To fix this, click on the {ITEM} text object and repeatedly click the up arrow until it is on top.

Alternatively, you could move the square down until it was at the bottom. The resulting label would be the same.

Some shapes offer additional configuration. The square object allows you to change the curve of the corners.

Search Label LIVE, Not the Fridge

Let's get printing! We made Label LIVE easy to navigate and easy to print. To search for an item just click the ROWS dropdown menu and start typing.

Select an item by pressing the ENTER key on your keyboard. If you press it once more, a single label will print. You can immediately start typing again to begin another search. You hands never have to leave the keyboard!

But Wait, There's More

To learn. Label LIVE has many other features that, by themselves, are nice and simple and easy to use. When you begin to learn the different features, you can start to fit them together to build powerful label designs with ease.


Label LIVE supports many different kinds of barcodes. You could, for instance, encode all of the expiration information in a QRCode. Doing this would make it easy to quickly audit your food inventory. Perhaps the scanner application could do a special beep when it encountered an expired item. Sky's the limit!

This QRCode contains all of the information on this label: "CVL prepped Tomato on Sat 1/26 expires In 3 days on Tue 1/29" - Try scanning it with your phone's camera app.

No Label Constraints

The point of this post isn't to sell you labels, or a certain kind of printer. You get to choose what labels you need. Small? Big? Your choice.

Same Goes for Printers

We believe that most printers on the market are truly great machines. Be sure to check out our current list of compatible printers. And remember, if your printer isn't listed – just drop us a message and we'll try our best to add support.

That's it!

Thank you for learning how to create food rotation and expiration labels with automatic relative dates using Label LIVE. We trust our software is going to save your business time, and let you and your staff do what's most important: cooking great food!