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Tiss the Season to Clean Out Your Pantry!

Ever been attacked by flying spices when you open up your kitchen cabinet or clawed your way through mountains of miscellaneous cans in your pantry? And, what about that opened jar of pesto crammed in the back of your fridge that you used for who knows what…who knows when?

With the flurry of holiday entertaining about to get under way, it’s a good time to take get organized, throw out unused, space hogging items, make a little donation to a local food pantry and take control of your kitchen! Here’s how…

Refrigerator – If you can’t remember when you opened it or used it last throw it out. As a Personal Chef, I’m always experimenting with recipes, using a little of this and that, then putting what’s left away and never using it again. Not only do these old refrigerated items harbor all kinds of lively bacteria, but they take up precious space and we waste our time having to weed through them.

In a perfect world, we’d put little dated stickers on top of each, but since that’s not happening in most households, mine included, your best bet is to take 10 minutes to clean out and organize your fridge at least once a year.

Start by taking everything out and wiping down shelves and drawers. Then throw out anything you can’t remember opening and put back what’s left in a logical way. For example, jams, jellies, and syrups on one shelf, ketchup, mustard, relish and mayo on another. You’ll save yourself energy and wasted trying to find things and help avoid getting sick by eating something that’s past its prime.

Pantry – Pretty much the same advice goes for the pantry as for the fridge. Empty it, wipe down/vacuum out crumbs and debris, toss anything that’s open and stale like cereal and crackers, set aside items that you aren’t likely to use in the near term and take them to a food pantry or donation center, and then put what’s left back in a logical way that’s easy to maintain. I like to keep baking things together, cereals together, crackers and other snacks together, etc. And to avoid the issue of almost empty boxes wasting space, I use baskets for similar items like granola bars and similar snacks.

For your pantry, it’s a good idea to take advantage of organization tools like lazy Susan’s, stacking shelves, risers, baskets and storage containers. Target, Wal-Mart and the Container Store are all good places to find these kinds of things.

Spices – Spice storage is a subject near and dear to my heart. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve opened spice cabinets and been startled by something popping out. And, unless spices are properly organized, determining what you have when you need it can be a problem.

My favorite way to store spices is alphabetized in a drawer in some kind of divider like the Variera available at Ikea. It might seem a little obsessive, but I know exactly where my oregano should be and I avoid having spice projectiles shooting from my cabinets. The Valiera dividers are perfect for Keurig cups too!

One you’re kitchen is properly organized it’s easy to keep it that way. And if you stumble and it gets out of whack, it only takes a few minutes to put everything where you know it should be.

You’ll find that having an organized kitchen makes cooking a little bit easier. And, with proper organization, the lack of storage space many of us have becomes less of an issue.

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