Every once in a while I get a wild hair. I say it’s wild because I know most of the nation would think I was slap nuts to do some of the things we do as a family. This past months food servings fall into the “that woman is crazy” category.
I decided to do a pantry cleanout this May. It was triggered by the realization that the half of a grass fed cow we ordered will be ready at the butchers in June. That means I have to get the garage chest freezer empty and the refridgerator freezer organized. Plus, we have decided to get uber strict with baby girls diet to track down any possible issues we are missing. That means no eating out and having every thing on hand for from scratch cooking. So we need space to put all this food stuff. This was a pantry clean out with a deadline. The deadline is what made this a crazy endevour. It required planning and a stomach set for having an adventure.
So let’s define the game plan here. We are not talking about eating everything in your house then going back to the store. The bigger picture is for everything in your pantry to have a purpose, a planned use, or a mission statement. Yes I said it. Mission statement. Because food should serve us and our families needs. There should be foods set up for your planned weekly meals, general pantry items, and long term food storage for unexpected needs. Our goal is to cook the meals that have been planned ridding us of excess. Consolidate general pantry items to manageable sizes. I don’t need 10 cans of stewed tomatoes but 3 is ok. And rotate long term food storage for freshness. We always keeps two weeks of food on hand in a shelf stable way for disaster preparedness.
Knowing what you want in the pantry is important for determining what should stay and what should go.
With that being said…..
I cannot help it. I dream of a refrigerator and pantry that looks like its been in a commercial. All the labels turned the same way assorted beautifully. Luscious greens and assorted vegetables gloriously perched and ready for our enjoyment. But holidays and a busy family life have left us a bit bereft of any organizational standard since December. Out refrigerator looks like the graveyard where condiments go to die. And the pantry, well, I don’t understand how such a small place can haunt me. Inefficient use of space is my biggest irritation. (Why must every can and box be its own size and shape? It’s like playing Tetris every meal) So May was the month. Time to rein in this runaway horse and get it back on the path to righteousness. Ok ok that’s a bit dramatic, but you know what I mean. Let the cleanout begin! Well end really because we have finished the month and were successful, but anyway.
I don’t really know what that would look like in an average family. We are so far removed from the standard American diet I don’t know what is in a normal pantry. Our strange dietary concerns keep a plethora of odd ingredients lurking in the shelves. And finding a good use for all those bits and pieces isn’t easy. Like what do you do with nutritional yeast? Or teff flour? Several times baby girl has looked at me asking what have you served me for snack. :). But she ate it.
In saying all this, we have most determinedly uncovered many a new trick this last month. And I am proud to share my “pantry busting” tricks with you.
So revel, in no particular order, at how to eradicate the chaos:
1. You can put anything in a waffle. Animal, vegetable, mineral. It really doesn’t matter. To many onions. Mix it with cornbread mix and make savory “onion ring” waffles. It was much like a square hushpuppy. Canned Chicken and a few small veggies with a bread mix topped with canned cranberry sauce. Quick thanksgiving throwback. Just make sure whatever combo you decide on makes sense. That is the difference between crazy and genius.
2. Experiment – if you don’t use it by the expiration date it will be trash anyway. So just go for it. But since I haves little one I tried to save all that experimentation for nap time. That way little sweet heart wasn’t let down when the food didn’t arrive edible.
3. Shop for the cleanout. If you need something to pull a recipe together just buy it. Better to gain one item in order to cleanout four. Most of my excess came from recipes I never cooked but used half the ingredients for something else. Put your food to its original purpose by filling in the gap.
4. Go through your long term food storage and use anything that has a short shelf life. Better to eat it and replace it, than toss and replace.
5. (This is my most helpful tip by far.) Just choose one item a day from your pantry or fridge to use and make a meal/snack with it. Items go quickly when you task around one ingredient as opposed to the overwhelming variety.
6. Makes notes while you go through the process to see why the cleanout was necessary in the first place. Did you have many items that were to complicated for your cooking style? Were they items that caught your eye in the store and you never gave them a purpose? Avoid making the same mistakes in the future by knowing what it makes sense to have and what’s not serving you and your family.
7. Donate. donate. donate. Have a carton of soup that was an impulse purchase but you know in your heart you don’t want to eat it – just give it to a local charity. If you cannot bring yourself to eat it let someone else who can appreciate it have it.
8. Riddled with out of season still in date foods ie. Warm apple cider powdered mix or canned pumpkin in July. Check the company website. Or box even. Most post recipes for their products that span all seasons. Like apple pie milkshakes and pumpkin oatmeal cookies. Better to use it up than save it for many months to come where you will likely forget you have it and buy it in repeat.
9. Don’t forget the puppies and kitties in you life. Many unprocessed people foods are perfectly healthy for dogs and cats to eat. Do a little Internet research and see what you have that can benefit your animals.
10. Lastly, think outside the box. What can you smash up for breading, add as tasteless filler, or use to create a soup base. The nitty gritty truth is these items are in our freezers and pantry a because we don’t really feel like cooking or eating them. Bite the bullet so to speak, be thankful we are in a place where there is excess food we can choose not to eat and just eat it. As long as it is still edible, just eat.
There is only one exception to #10. The only reason I throw out edible food is if, post purchase, I see it is not a great choice for us dietarily. If it is not donatable because of perishability or the packaging is open I just toss it. An example of this would be the warm apple cider mix I mentioned earlier. We had opened the box already. The amount of sugar and other ingredients were ridiculous. There wasn’t much apple going on. So we made apple pie smoothies (copious amounts of healthy stuff added) for family movie night with half and tossed the rest.
So the month is over. And I am happy to report we have survived. The Children (and husband for that matter) are enthusiastic to return to the realm of normal food stuffs. I should mention that we usually do a pantry clean out every 3 months anyway just not in such an intense way.
How about you? How do you keep the kitchen chaos at bay?