We’re “starting fresh” this January, completing 22 mini-challenges in 22 days for a cleaner, fresher and healthier kitchen and grocery budget. Just joining us? Read about the what’s and why’s on the mini-challenges, as well as the previous days tasks, and jump right on in!
Having an abundance of cabinet space is not necessarily a good thing.
When we first moved out to California nearly five years ago, we rented a small two-bedroom apartment with a kitchen so small that you had to look behind you – without actually moving – because the chances of physically running into someone who was in the kitchen with you were very high. So high in fact, that you were better off assuming you were going to get hit with something. A pan, a spoon, the dishwasher, refrigerator door… In a kitchen that small, a collision was inevitable.
The plus side of a tiny kitchen is very little cabinet space. By the time we put away our dishes, glasses, pots/pans, tupperware and cooking bowls, there were only six shelves left for real food. Four of those shelves were half-size (like a mini cabinet you would use for spices). Having six shelves to clean instead of 28 would make today’s challenge so much easier. *sigh*
Day 10 – Clean Out the Pantry and Cupboards
Today’s challenge is the last of the “clean out” series. The fridge was on day one, the freezer on day five and unless either of those have become a complete disaster since then, this should be the last challenge requiring soap.
Side Note: make sure the fridge and freezer are NOT disasters. If you are not willing to allow company to open either, reorganize and clean as needed.
Cleaning out the pantry is slightly more difficult than our previous cleaning tasks, although ditching trans fat should lift the burden a bit.
Starting with the top shelf, take every single item out. Repeat with the remaining shelves and when all the shelves are empty, vacuum out the crumbs and wipe the shelves clean.
Review the Food
Take a good look at each item and toss food that is a) expired, b) something you know you won’t eat and c) spoiled or rotten. Did a package weasel its way to the back of the shelf during our recent trans fat search? Now’s the chance to ditch them for good.
Take a look at the food that you’ve pulled out to the counter. Is there just a little bit left of anything? Can these items be used in your meal plan this week or next? Make it a point to not tiny jars with only one or two tablespoons left continue to merely take up space. Use them up!
What about those items that you bought for a particular purpose but no longer have a need for? If the item is a real food, not tainted with chemicals nor created through a crazy procedure in a lab, try to find another purpose for the item. Various nuts and fruits can become granola bars or toppings for an oatmeal bar. Turn cereal and stale crackers into breadcrumbs. Stale cookies can become crumbs too for dessert crusts or crumble toppings. Think outside the box and try to use it for something.
For the items that aren’t real food, highly processed or just plain junk, toss ‘em. Food can only do one of two things: help or hurt the cause of nourishing our bodies. If it doesn’t help, it hurts. With all the toxins that are in our food that we still don’t know of, and manufacturers that don’t care much about our heath, we need all the help we can get.
While browsing the counter contents, consider how you naturally store these items. Instead of putting things away based merely on the size, consider storing items together that are used together. It’s like the beans and corn example from my freezer. Right now you can find sunflower seeds, pepitas, almonds and coconut oil on the top shelf of my pantry. These don’t sound like they’re related, but there’s rarely a time when I pull out only one of these. More often than not, I use all of them together (like in this seed salad recipe). Storing items with their usage in mind helps to make better use of the time spent in the kitchen (like actually cooking, instead of shoving things around and searching for a hidden ingredient).
Also consider storing “like items” together. A few months ago I bought a 3-pack of large plastic containers with lids to store my flour in. While I usually buy flour in 25 or 50 pound bags, it’s much more convenient to have a 5lb or so container in the pantry. Having the bread, semolina, all-purpose and oat flours all neatly lined up is even more convenient when I’m in the middle of a baking bonanza.
If you use glass jars for storage, be sure to label them! Vital wheat gluten looks a lot like pastry flour, but switch those up in a recipe and your results will NOT be what you expected!
Putting Things Away
Try to put things away in such a manner that nothing can get shoved and lost in the back. Store extra glasses or plates or the once-a-year china in the back of these shelves so that the food is always towards the front.
When planning meals and creating shopping lists, always make it a point to check the pantry before buying anything. Either try to make a substitution with what you already have, or verify that the item on your list is really needed (and not already on a shelf!).
Day 9 Update
Fasting and last minute scheduling changes has made dinners this month slightly more challenging than normal, but there’s always a plan. Whether we actually follow it is a whole ‘nuther story! Here’s the plan for this week:
(M) Tortilla Soup with Rosemary Olive Oil bread
(T) Chicken/Vegetable Tacos with fresh pico de gallo, coconut rice, homemade salsa, southwestern corn and homemade corn tortillas
(W) Roasted Vegetable Penne
(T) Leftover Tortilla Soup
(F) Vegetable Pan Pizza (trying new vegetable combinations)
(S) Ribs, Greek couscous, Caesar salad, broccoli