I’ve gotten really up close and personal with my kitchen lately! Between COVID-19 social distancing and trying to save money in this uncertain economy, loads of us are cooking all of our meals at home for the first time in a long time. I heard some people on the radio the other day talking about some truly creative combinations of food they had scrounged together: I don’t think any of us honestly want to resort to ramen noodle sandwiches!
Since we’re at home and exploring those food stores we haven’t touched in a while, now is the perfect time to dig in and clean out. You’ll be surprised how good it will make you feel.
Methodically go through all your types of storage.
Start with your pantry and cabinets. This is where you store your non-perishables, so chances are the oldest stuff is here. I don’t even want to tell you about some of the items I’ve found! Then move on to your refrigerator and freezer. Things disappear into the back of these appliances and are never seen again! While you’ve got everything out of these locations, be sure to wipe them down or dust them out.
Know what the dates mean.
If you’re like me, just the thought of eating expired food is terrifying. But are you throwing out perfectly good stuff? There’s “best by,” “sell by,” “use by,” and “expiration” dates. What do they all mean? I was shocked to learn that the federal law doesn’t require dates on products except for infant formula and, according to the USDA, are not actually an indication of food safety. A direct quote from the USDA website states:
In an effort to reduce food waste, it is important that consumers understand that the dates applied to food are for quality and not for safety. Food products are safe to consume past the date on the label, and regardless of the date, consumers should evaluate the quality of the food product prior to its consumption.
Obviously you want to be more careful with some items. Milk and meat are more likely to spoil close to the date on the package, for instance, than canned goods. Read more about it here.
Think about what you will genuinely use.
Have you ever discovered something in your pantry and wondered “why in the world did I buy that?” I know I have! If you find something that is still good but you know your family will never eat, consider donating it to a food pantry. Go online or call to see how you can donate while still distancing. Many food pantries are facing extremely high demand right now. Or, look for a nearby Little Free Pantry.
Once you get a handle on what’s inside your kitchen you’ll be amazed at how organized you feel. Your decluttered food stocks will build your confidence and make cooking at home much easier.