The Kitchen Spring Cleaning Everyone Should Do (But Doesn’t)



This is Kitchen Revamp, a new ongoing series about simplifying cooking in my house

I was reaching for a can of kidney beans when I had to pull out 5 different items to get to it.  As I was going to put them back, I realized I barely use any of them.  But here I was willing to let stuff I don’t use take up precious space in my kitchen.  I asked myself the question every home cook should ask:

What is in my kitchen cabinets and refrigerator/freezer and do I actually use it?

In my last post in this ongoing series, I sorted through my recipes and meals focusing on the meals I love to make.  Now it’s time to turn to what is actually in my kitchen to make sure it matches the food I make.  No more food clutter!

So here’s what I did in steps:

Step 1: Go through cabinets:  I have a bad habit of picking of items that I want to make someday that end up sitting in my pantry.  For some reason, I just never get to making couscous or using canned corn.  In fact, some items have been sitting in my cabinets so long they are past their expiration date.

So I tossed past date stuff and gave away anything that was still good but I hadn’t used it in the last 6 months. If this is hard for you to do, put items in a box and store just in case you want to use them later.  But the key is to only have on hand items you are currently using and add new items as you add new recipes.

Step 2: Go through fridge and freezer: Because it contains perishable items, the fridge should be gone through weekly (I never meet that goal but it’s a good one to have). Go through each level and throw out what’s old but pay close attention to all those condiments on the side.  Again be brutal and only keep what you use.  That three-year old relish probably isn’t that tasty anyways.

The freezer is trickier because that stuff never goes bad, it only loses its quality over time.  Hopefully most stuff is dated, so you can arrange in a way to use older stuff first.  But again, if you look at an item with dread, don’t be afraid to let it go.

Step 3: Match meals to what is stocked: Jot down the foods from your regular recipes and the items your family eats for breakfast and lunch.  These are the items you want to keep stocked at all times.  Your big weekly shopping runs can replenish your stash and other, shorter trips can be for fresh fruits and veggies (short storage times) or any specific items you need for a recipe or whatever.

Steps 4: Make handy lists: I got so serious about this, I made lists organized with how and what I store food. Each night before my big shopping trip (which has moved to Wednesday), I do inventory like they do in restaurants.  Then weekends are quickie trips so I’m freer to have fun.  It has helped me cut down on last minute grocery stops and the dreaded call to hubby to pick up something on the way home, followed by the frustrating call of him not being able to find it. (what do you mean you don’t see it? It’s right next to the enchilada sauce!)

Here’s my pantry one (taped on my cabinet)

And my fridge/freezer one (posted on fridge)

Step 5: Store properly from now on:

Me: Do you think it’s still good?

Hubby: (smells) Yes, it’s fine.

Me: I don’t know, it’s been in there a while.

Hubby: (Eats it to prove me wrong)

Me: I’m not convinced.

To avoid these fun scenarios, I’ve developed a comprehensive food storage list you can get by clicking this link.  As you can see below, I listed out commonly used items and suggested times for storing each food, that will help with spring cleaning and food storage in the future. If you can’t find something on my list, search at Still Tasty. This is my gift to you and me. Tell your friends!



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