If you’re like me, you go through cycles of squirreling away food like, well, a squirrel. Maybe you buy ingredients for a new recipe you never try. Perhaps you get a great deal on that “super food” that no one liked. Or it could be that you’re just in a rut from cooking the same recipes over and over. It happens. No biggie.
However, once you realize your pantry is stocked with food that’s simply collecting dust and your freezer contains too many items with freezer burn, it’s time to do something about it. It’s time to cook or get off the pot. 😉
No need to go overboard and make this a complete do-over. You don’t have to throw out everything that’s been sitting around for who knows how long. Here are some of the rules I use to purge our pantry.
Set guidelines. Of course, everything that’s expired needs to go directly into your garbage can. Next, if you’re trying to stay away from certain foods, set yourself up for success and get them out of your pantry.
Throw away the bad stuff. This is related to the guidelines above, but it’s not about getting rid of items you’re avoiding completely. It’s more about getting rid of food that just doesn’t need to stay. Like that larger than life container of cookies you bought in a moment of weakness at the big box store that tempt you every day. Toss them without guilt. I’m not a fan of throwing away food, but bad stuff isn’t food, so you don’t need to feel bad about tossing it.
Donate to your local food bank. When I volunteered at the food bank, I learned that the very best way to support them is with monetary donations. A cash or check for just a few dollars helps the food bank get incredible deals on the common food items they need most. Even so, non-perishable donations are helpful too. If you have some unopened, perishable items in your freezer that you’d like to donate, be sure to call first. Not all food banks have a way to store them.
Use your pantry to create your weekly menu. Rather than looking through cookbooks or websites to come up with what you’ll be eating next week, use the items in your pantry to inspire you. Chances are pretty good you already have recipes for ingredients right in your cupboard or freezer. If not, choose an ingredient you do have, and then narrow your recipe search by looking it up in a cookbook index or searching for it online.
Should you be at a loss for where to begin or what ingredients are best to keep on hand, look to the exceptional and inexpensive Weston A. Price Foundation Shopping Guide. It lists the best (and worst) choices for many food categories, so you can make a detailed grocery list right from the pages of this inexpensive pamphlet.
And if you want to become an overall better grocery shopper, check out the second edition of Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is! Guide to Healthy Food Shopping by Stephanie Selene Anderson. If you pay close attention to the “Four Steps” outlined in the book, you’ll be making the right choices for your family in no time.
A fresh pantry leaves you in charge of your family’s nutrition and health—which feels really, really good. Is it time to purge yours?
Image from iStock/ahirao_photo