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, 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 up 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 your 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 anyway.
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 take an 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 the 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 help I developed a comprehensive list of different food and their shelf life. You can get it here.
We all deserve a kitchen that works, is full of food we love and actually use, and is stocked with food that is stored safely and properly.
Anyone up for this spring cleaning challenge?
Want to spring clean your family meals and develop a rotation of dinner meals? Check out my book The Family Dinner Solution: How to Create a Rotation of Dinner Meals Your Family Will Love
Sarah Remmer says
This is fantastic Maryann (love the food storage list!)! I am going to share this on my FB page.
Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD says
Thanks Sarah. I appreciate it!
Can I offer another suggestion? To clean the actual freezer, refrigerator, cabinets and oven too or your other large appliances. Sometimes things spill in the cabinets or around the oven etc.
Awesome! Thank you! Sharing on FB and cleaning out my house this month!
Jenna Donovan says
Thank you I agree on everything! This is definitely a great article and I will make sure my friends check it out as well 🙂