The pantry can be a clutter paradise. Just think about how many trips to the supermarket you make, even if you only buy one item each time which doesn't get used that week your pantry can end up overflowing with food you're not using. Getting rid of all the food which was purchased because it was on special or just in case you might need it, will free up your pantry for the food you actually use and your family will actually eat.
Once again, clear off your kitchen benchtops, ensure your sink and drainer are free of dishes and start with an empty rubbish bin. Happy days, the kitchen looks great already. Grab a box to collect anything from the pantry that can be donated.
If you have enough bench space remove everything from your pantry at once, if not just do a shelf at a time. Totally empty the pantry (or shelf), don't leave anything in there, decisions are made on the way back in not before the food has even made it out.
Wipe the shelves and the sides of the cabinet while the pantry is empty. Warm soapy water should move most marks but if you have rings from the bottom of cans, oily marks or any stubborn spots a light rub with a soft cloth and a cream cleanser will get your cabinet looking great and smelling lovely. Now you have a fresh base to start to rebuild your pantry supplies.
Before placing food items back in the pantry use this check-list to work out if it really should go back in.
1. Use by date / Best before date
Ever wondered what the difference between these two are? The 'best before' date is an indication that from this date the food item may begin to lose some of it's qualities such as colour, flavour and texture. If the item has been stored correctly it can still be OK to use even after the date.
The 'use by' date on food items marks the date when the food will become unsuitable to eat. Consuming the food after this date can make you sick. Even if the food looks fine it may have built up dangerous levels of bad bacteria.
Anything from your pantry that has passed it's 'use by' date needs to be thrown away in the bin. No, "It looks OK" or "She'll be right", throw it away, it's not worth the food poisoning. Anything after the 'best before date' needs to be an item by item judgement call. That said, ask yourself why it is still there past the best before date? This leads to check point two.
2. Will you eat it/ use it/ cook it?
Be realistic. If you and your family have a low tolerance for spicy food that jar of harissa is probably not going to get added to a dish. The half bag of lentils is not likely to get cooked if the last time you made dinner with them it took 3 days to air the house out. Don't keep things because they are in a cute jar, cost a bomb or just in case you learn to cook haggis, etc.
Place food that hasn't been opened and is within the 'best before' date into the donate box. Throw anything else out.
Before you replace the food which has cleared step one and two back into the pantry, think about how you can sort it to group similar items together. An organised pantry will keep everything on hand when you need it, and lower the chance of buying double ups.
Group tins and dry goods such as pasta and rice on one shelf or area, and baking supplies such as flour, sugar and cocoa together on another. The items you use every day like salt and pepper or peanut butter, Vegemite, etc need to be easily accessible so use an easy to reach position for these.
As your benchtop empties and your pantry restocks (with food you and your family will actually eat) enjoy the sensation of being able to see everything in the right place. Well done! Don't forget to take the bin out and put the donate box in the car or near the door ready to go out so you don't just add another bit of clutter to your home.
Stay tuned for decluttering tips for the glassware and crockery cabinets. If you missed our post on Decluttering the drawers and plastics cabinet we have some great idea's on tackling those tricky area's of your kitchen.