It's a new year and my pantry is in desperate need of cleaning out. I've been buying so many groceries since Thanksgiving for events and special recipes that I am overflowing with random items of food. I have so many expensive flours, crackers and things from when I went gluten free for a few months. There is also the inherent new years resolution in eating more healthy, but I already told you what I think about those. So I am taking action and it's out with the old and in with the new, plus a little creativity thrown in for inspiration.
The pantry is always a work in progress and hopefully never truly "cleaned out" because no food is no good. I think the proper explanation would be pantry editing. My pantry isn't that big, basically just a small closet with a few shelves in the kitchen. So even though I thought I did this on a regular basis, when I went through my bulk good items I saw a moth hanging from the inside of some cornmeal. Mmmmmm. I don't think I had any expired items this time but aren't they fun to find? Have you ever tried to just eat it anyway...yes, I have (Cambpells cream of chicken soup) and I don't recommend it.
Part of my edit is noticing my "inventory" of several items that I like to stockpile because I hate running out of things at the last minute. It's one of my hugest pet peeves, but don't get me wrong, my idea of stockpile is three or four cans. No storage units were rented in this endeavor. My stockpile items are chicken broth, a few kinds of beans, rice, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and organic boxed soup for G's lunches. I created my list based on my favorite recipes. I go through these like crazy so I know that they won't be wasted.
So why edit your pantry? I think the answer is the same for why organize anything in your life, to make your life easier. Knowing what you have in your pantry just like knowing what you have in your closet is going to keep you from buying it again at the store. I know most people here have these amazing room-like pantries and I marvel at the quantity of food that can be stored. It is even more important for you to periodically go through and toss or use. Things can hide in there for years.
After you have found your food orphans, employ one of my favorite things to do in cooking which is to find new recipes based on what I have. I'm so easily entertained! Just google your ingredients and see what interesting things you can find. Back in the summer when we started buying organic fruit and vegis from the co-op, it was essential to use creative cooking methods because some of the things I had never bought, even seen before. One week I was perplexed by some curly kale and I found a recipe called Hearty Kale and Sausage soup that has become a favorite and staple recipe in our house.
You can find the recipe here. Apparently it's a Portuguese soup and it's divine! Let me know if you try it.
So, as part of my new year cleaning up, I'll be cleaning out the pantry and finishing up eating all these cookies I have. Just kidding as I sent my last bag of favorite cookies with hubby to work today. That was hard.
Maybe you haven't done this in awhile so here's my three step approach to tackling the job.
Out with the Old:
1. Throw out old or expired items. Obviously!!
2. Maybe it would help you to drag everything out and only put back what you want to keep.
3. Be serious about what you will never eat. Maybe you read that article about sardines being so good for you, but yuk! Just give them away to a food bank or put them out at work with a FREE sign at the coffee area. That's what my co-workers used to do and things always get taken.
In with the New:
1. If you are really ambitious, what a great time to re-line your shelves and clean them of any spills or dirt.
2. Organize as you put items back in. I like to put all like items together. If you have some random baskets, you can use those to corral unruly packages or spices. I bought two spice racks from Home Depot something like this to hang on my door which is where I like to store canned food and spices.
3. Get rid of excess packaging as you you organize.
A Dash of Creativity:
1. Take note of any food orphans that you need to use up. Google a recipe or use those cookbooks to find something fun.
2. Think about stockpiling certain items that you use often to avoid last minute trips to the store. You can always check on those before you are doing your shopping anyway. Over the holidays I made sure I had plenty of sugar, flour, butter and eggs for baking. It's so frustrating to be missing something important.
3. Cook homemade meals! I love cooking but I know that not everyone has time to take their time and piddle around in the kitchen. Find a quick recipe book at the library and see if something inspires you. Freezing meals for later can be a great "fast food" meal for another day.
What about you? Does the new year inspire you to start cleaning out the pantry and everything else in your house? I think any change of season or holiday, not just spring, makes me want to renew and refresh. What recipe gems have you found by googling?
Pssst...I'm not the only one cleaning out the pantry. See The Rich Life on a Budget for her post on how she cleaned out first and took names later. And if that isn't enough to inspire you, check out Just a Girl. Anyone who has to make a complete mess first before organizing is ok in my book.