Establishing a cleaning routine for the pantry can be a sanity-saver. You’ll know what you have on hand, and you’ll know it hasn’t expired. Also, those of us who live in areas with severe weather know how essential a pantry is when storms knock out electricity for an entire town, closing grocery stores and restaurants. Provided you can find what you’re looking for, your pantry is a great resource.
Article continues below
Have you bought my cookbook? Autumn: A Season of Easy Cooking features 3 MONTHS of weekly dinner menus, 3 MONTHS of grocery lists, 3 MONTHS of cooking plans. You'll save money by reducing food waste, eat seasonally, and spend LESS THAN 20 MINUTES COOKING DINNER each night! Get it from Amazon here!
Start tossing: Move the trash can close to your pantry shelves and begin removing items, starting at the top. Toss expired and stale foods, including cereal boxes that weren’t closed properly and old spices that have lost their flavor. Make a note of items you need to replace.
Give away the good stuff: If you have canned goods you know your family will never eat (like the lima beans that sat on my shelves for 6 months), put them in a bag and give to your local food pantry. There are so many families in need!
Clear the shelves: As you work, separate items you use often (cereal, crackers, etc.) from those used less often (pickling spices, Christmas-colored sprinkles, etc.).
Clean the shelves: Carefully scrape up any sticky spills with a spoon. Sprinkle on baking soda to absorb the mess, then wipe clean using warm, soapy water. Let dry, then sweep off or vacuum away any crumbs. Be sure to look in the corners and under shelves for cobwebs.
Line the shelves: I am not a fan of adhesive shelf linings, which seem to peel up in the corners and attract dirt. I love using wax or parchment paper as a liner instead. Just cut it to fit, wrapping it over the front of the shelf if you like, and use push-pins to hold it in place. Now you’ll be able to easily wipe up messes, and next time you need to clean the pantry you’ll only have to scoop up the used paper and put down a new layer.
Corral the clutter: Gather small items like packets of oatmeal or dressing mix and store them in a container. I re-use pasta boxes by cutting them in half and sticking a label on their spines. (One day I’ll get fancy and cover them with pretty wrapping paper.)
Group by use: Keep your baking items (flour, baking soda, etc.) together so you can find recipe ingredients easily. Store multiples together so you know how many cans or boxes of an item you have left. If you have several things about to expire, place them together in a container so you know to use them ASAP.
Clean and restock: Wipe down items as you return them to the shelves. Place less often used things on the highest shelves, and more commonly used foods at eye-level. If you want your kids to help themselves to snacks, be sure to place them conveniently so they don’t rummage around.
Question: what’s the oldest or oddest thing you’ve found when cleaning out the pantry? I just discovered a jar of peach jelly I made during my first attempt at canning…fourteen years (and four relocations) ago. Guess I’d better start sorting through my stuff more often, eh?
Equipment I Used: