Cleaning Out Your Pantry: A Lesson in Economics

Will the shame never end? We are tackling the dreaded pantry in this blog entry. Sigh. I know, I know, but we all need to confront our pantry from time to time. Every three months sounds about right, speaking of timing. The reason it is so important to do this on a regular basis is that it saves us frugal types money. It really does. By going through everything in your pantry, you can pull out everything that needs using up, let yourself be inspired and even try a few new recipes or ideas. And a good pantry cleaning is also great feedback. Did you find seven kinds of flour? Unless you bake on a daily basis and for a large crowd, you probably don’t need that many types of flour (I am speaking to myself on this, of course). Canned foods that can feed the entire cast of the Walking Dead through a zombie apocalypse? Probably best to throttle back on buying so many tinned goods too (I am speaking to my partner on this, of course). Point is, you can learn a lot about your own food spending habits simply by cleaning out and reorganizing your pantry. For example, I am apparently an adventuresome consumer. I like a bargain of course, but I also like interesting food. I found a jar of savory Kalamata olives, wafer thin rosemary crisps, a fist full of whole cloves, more canned goods than I care to talk about, a curiously large jar of sauerkraut (which I never eat so my partner is suspect on this one), five kinds of chocolate all suitable for baking, bags of nuts, an impressive variety of dried beans and yes, seven kinds of flour.

pantry after.JPG As you can see in the before photo, organization is haphazard at best. The collection of canned goods are hard to see, there are lazy Susans taking up too much room and everything is simply hard to find.

In the after photo, the lazy Susans are better utilized, the canned goods are on display for quick and easy access and while things are still overcrowded, the baking goods are easier to come by. I deliberately did not edit anything out to show that my pantry, even after a good reorg, is still far from perfect. There are also things like Hamburger Helper which my partner loves and I would never eat. You know, not perfect. pantry before.JPG

My three Cs of pantry reorganization are: Clear, Combine and Conjure. 

Rule number one: Clear out anything you can’t recall when you bought it or if it is clearly past its use date. I found a German holiday cake in a can. I have not been to Germany in a few years and I recall I bought it there. Time to trash it.

Combine all the things you bought more than once. I found three half used boxes of cornstarch and combined them all in a clearly labeled contained. Whoops. You should also combine and group all like things together. In the after photo you can see that baking goods are in the lower two shelves and canned goods on top.

Conjure up ways to use up everything that needs to be consumed post haste. You can line everything up on your kitchen counter and use them up night after night or you can stage a marathon cooking session and make and freeze a bunch of meals for use in your phone it in weekly meal. Starches like rice or pasta can be combined with vegetables and a protein to make a meal. Dried beans can make a soup or stew. I added the Kalamata olives and nuts to my favorite panzanella salad, served the rosemary crisps up with a soup and salad lunch, and made a great freezer chili with some of the beans I had. I even used up some baking chocolate and made my daughter’s favorite desert, chocolate mousse. Leftover almonds helped make macaroons which I find very satisfying although always technically challenging. I even took leftover white chocolate and made little cups to fill with mousse, something I would never have done if I had not cleaned out the pantry and conjured up a way to use up some of my baking supplies. Not sure what I am going to do with the sauerkraut, I keep staring down at my partner over that one. 





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