Start Spring Cleaning With The Pantry!
Although we got about 20+ inches of snow this weekend here in Colorado, spring is still on my mind, and it’s probably on yours too! So with that momentum behind us, it’s a great time to start annual spring cleaning. It’s such a good feeling to get into all of those nooks and crannies that get neglected throughout the year. Open all the windows and let the air circulate through your whole house (once it’s warmer, that is!). I suggest starting by making a checklist, and then completing one area at a time. Here is what my list looks like so far:
Spring Cleaning Checklist
- Living room
- Storage closet
- Bedroom closet
- Winter clothes
- Outdoor space
Clean Out The Pantry
I am starting with the pantry at my house. The first step is always to take everything out. Take out every can, jar, spice, basket, snack, etc. and lay each item out on your counter, kitchen table, or on the clean floor. Then group by category so all the food items are together, all of the storage items are together, and then group by spices, snacks, grains, tea and coffee, etc. Once you can see everything you have, it’s time to do the purge. Go through group by group and toss out anything that is no longer fresh, and donate or gift anything that you don’t see yourself using, but is still good. Then properly store and organize the things you are going to keep so your snacks and cooking essentials are at your fingertips.
What To Keep vs. What To Toss
First check for expiration dates. Anything that has expired should be discarded. As for the things without dates that can be more challenging to decipher, I always go by Martha Stewart’s recommendations for how long most items stay fresh in the pantry. These are the rules I follow:
- Coffee beans – go by smell, if they are still strong, they should taste good.
- Dried fruits – need to be plump, if they are dried and hard, toss them out.
- Oils – last about three months, go by smell and taste, store nut and seed oils in the fridge because they spoil faster.
- Herbs and spices – best for six months, so buy in small quantities, especially those you don’t use frequently.
- Flours & grains – six months for whole grains, one year for white flour.
- Nuts and seeds – three months, you know they are bad if they taste bitter.
What To Do With The Items That You No Longer Need
Donate non-perishable items to an organization in your community such as a food bank or homeless shelter. Here in Colorado some great organizations to donate to are:
Pass items that are still good to someone you know would use them, or even re-gift unopened ingredients with a recipe that includes them. A bottle of olive oil or a new spice makes a great hostess gift for your next dinner party!
Now Organize Your Pantry!
Once you have gone through all of the items in your pantry and decided what you are going to keep, now it’s time to organize them to be properly stored and put away. I like to use glass jars for things like grains and snacks because they are air-tight and you can see what they contain. If it’s not obvious, label them with a label-maker or just handwrite on a white sticker. These are also great for bulk items like flour, sugar, oats, and things you generally always replenish.
Contain small items, such as spices, tea, packets, etc. in tins or baskets so they aren’t loose on the shelves. If you need extra space for cans or spices, get a shelf divider from the Container Store or Target. Finally, categorize! I keep a bin of all my baking supplies, a bin of all my snacks, and the top shelf for canned goods and jars. You can add labels to the shelves and containers as well so you know where things are and where they go back. If your pantry is organized, you are more likely to actually use the items that you have before they go bad, and can easily see what needs to be replenished. It’s a great way to help with meal planning and to cut down on waste and cost of throwing away unused food. So tackle your pantry this week or next weekend, it should only take a couple of hours, and then you can move onto your next spring cleaning project!