Fresh Year, Fresh Kitchen
Happy New Year! Over the past year, we’ve all made our fair share of food purchasing mistakes. You’ve most likely seen your pantry grow and your fridge become fuller as you’ve accumulated some foodstuffs that sit in your kitchen unused. The new year is the perfect time to clean out your pantry and refrigerator. Here are a few helpful tips to get you started.
Let’s start in the pantry. The most obvious thing to do is go through all of your items and see if anything has expired. If anything is past its “best by” date, discard it. Easy enough, right? Now comes the hard part. Take a look and see if there is anything that might not have expired but has been sitting in your pantry untouched for a while. Like that extra-special Canadian cider vinegar you’ve never used. Or the Italian olive tapenade you thought was going to taste great but actually did not. The easiest thing to do is throw those items out, but as a cost saving alternative, you can also move them to the front of your cupboard and plan a meal around them. I recommend the second choice. Not only will you make good use of them but you’ll break out of your routine of preparing the same meals over and over again. There are plenty of websites that help you build meals around specific ingredients or you can just message me on Facebook.
Now let’s move on to your dried herbs and spices. There is a big difference between how long your dried herbs will stay compared to your powders and spices. You should not keep dried herbs for more than a year. In the drying process the herbs lose some of their flavor from their original state anyway. As they continue to age they will continue to lose more flavor. I recommend using fresh herbs when you can so you’re not stuck with a cabinet full of herbs. Spices and powders, though, tend to last a little longer so you can keep them until the container is empty.
Your pantry should also be free and clear of all olive oils from 2012. As a general rule you should not keep olive oils for more than a year, so now you should be working exclusively with 2013 oils. Also take a look at the color of your oils. If they have turned a different color from when you purchased them, usually a brighter yellow, the oils has oxidized and it is time to use a new oil for dipping, dressing and anointing. It is still okay to cook with the turned oils since the heat kills a lot of the flavor anyway.
Lastly, you should organize everything by date. The items that have the closest expiration dates should be in the front with the items furthest from expiration in the back. Just like the shelves of a grocery store.
Next, you can move to your fridge and freezer. Once again, start by discarding those foodstuffs that have passed their expiration date. Assess what you are discarding from your fridge and remember these items the next time you go food shopping. This will help you shop more carefully and not be fooled by large quantities on sale in your markets. Remember, although the cost per unit is going to be cheaper you are still spending more total money so if you end up discarding a lot of one item you will end up paying more per unit used
than you would if you bought a smaller quantity.
When placing the items back on the shelves. Think of your entire refrigerator as a desk. Shelves should be stocked with like items. Remember that the coldest part of the fridge will always be the back of the bottom shelf. That is where I like to keep my meat products. Plan accordingly.
I hope this will help to get you started cleaning your kitchen. Here’s to a happy and healthy 2014.