Cleaning Out Your Pantry and Freezer


If your pantry is anything like mine, it is a random assortment of canned goods, dry goods and frosting. While I never remember actually buying these individual items, they seem to multiply every time I enter the pantry to get something. Several times a year (like yesterday) I finally decide that enough is enough and I set out to find out exactly what is in there and I pledge to either use it for recipes in the coming weeks or donate it.

1. The first step to this process is writing down a list of every single things in the pantry. It’s marginally tedious and you’ll probably at some point say, “Why on earth do I have 5 open boxes of lasagna noodles!?!” but the exercise is worthwhile. Oh and this step is best accomplished before you’ve done your grocery shopping for the week.

2. Step two is to get creative with your recipes. I very much abide by a “Use it or Lose it” mentality when it comes to everything in my house and food is no exception. So, using my list as a guide, I challenge myself to incorporate at least one pantry item in every recipe for the next two weeks. Anything that doesn’t get used up within the month is going to find it’s way to the local food bank, although I’m not sure what they will do with 3 containers of chocolate frosting.

3. Step three is to warn everyone in your house to not complain about the stuff you make for the next handful of weeks. I realize that some of the canned goods have not made it into the regular food rotation for a reason (i.e. they are less popular), but remind your troops that (1) food is fuel and (2) there are children starving in Africa who would love to have a green bean casserole in the middle of winter.

4. Finally, stick to the plan and whatever you do, do not add anything new to your pantry stash until you’ve greatly reduced what’s in there already.

It goes without saying that the same process applies to your freezer. I toss freezer items if they fall into the following categories:

  • I cannot identify what the food is.
  • It is so covered in frostbite that it resembles an ice block.
  • It is WAAAAY beyond it’s expiration date.

If the food doesn’t fall into the above categories, I work it into the weekly menu rotation. Since it’s a bad idea to refreeze foods, if it doesn’t get eaten the second time around, it gets tossed.

Oh and one last thing. I actually do a refrigerator inventory every week before I go grocery shopping and my goal every week is to have a virtually empty fridge before I need to go shopping again. I have a severe aversion to random tupperware leftovers in the fridge, so if we have leftovers, I pack them in the Irishman’s lunch for the next day and if I have more than one day’s worth of leftovers, I try to label and freeze the remainder.

Well, I hope this little tutorial was of some value to you. If you’re anything like me, you’ll feel much better as you move away from being a borderline food hoarder (which is what I feel like when my pantry and freezer are bursting at the seams with randomness) and you only have what you need to last you a week or two.


One thought on “Cleaning Out Your Pantry and Freezer

  1. Jessica February 22, 2011 / 10:28 pm

    Good ideas, I like the writing down on – a couple of times a year, we have “eat down the pantry” time where I will only buy fresh foods for a couple of weeks (meat, bread, produce, yogurt, cheese, etc) and we have to use up what has multiplied in the pantry over the past several months. If I can find a recipe that uses 7 cans of tomato paste, I’ll be home free!

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