By Shira Boss
Zero Cost Kids
It’s pantry clean out week!
It helps to have a clean-out week once a season to make sure foods are not forgotten and eventually go bad. Of course it also comes in handy when you’re especially low on money.
If you follow a monthly or seasonal menu plan, you notice the extra, 5th week once every 3 months. I use this as a regularly-scheduled pantry – and fridge and freezer – clean out week.
Purge, Declutter, Prepare!
This means planning a hodge-podge of meals around whatever happens to be left in the pantry, refrigerator and freezer. It’s also a time to take general stock, refresh condiments, and make sure everything is turning over at least once per season.
In our house, pantry clean-out week is the last week of each season, right after the equinoxes and solstices, which if you’re not on a menu plan is another way to remember it’s time for a clean-out.
Pantry Clean-Out Game Plan
I’m always trying to improve it (your input welcome in the comments below!), but here’s the process I’m following:
Start with the refrigerator condiment section, and purge anything that’s been there a while, isn’t being used, or just isn’t appetizing.
This should be more like a weekly habit, but…let’s just say we don’t all get to it every week, so it never hurts to put it on the schedule. Go through each shelf and purge. If there are bits leftover that can be used in a meal this week, note them. (We’re having pizza toasts tonight to use up some tomato paste.) If you don’t have Fly Lady telling you when to wash down your refrigerator, this could be a good time to make sure that’s getting done at least a few times a year.
Take everything out. Take note of what you have (assuming you’re not keeping a proper freezer inventory list – I always let that effort lapse), and schedule as much as possible that’s been lingering for this week’s meals. (I’ll be making cherry almond smoothies this week with frozen cherries and cranberry quick bread that’ll use both a half a bag of cranberries and some buttermilk.)
Even when we shop with a list and get what we need for this week’s meals, there are always some leftovers and sale items that were picked up and not used. At the very least, it helps to take a look and remind yourself what’s there. (I found some bean soup mixes that I’ll keep until the fall menu.) Also get rid of anything iffy, or that you really can’t or won’t use. Try to make a plan for odds and ends (we’re having a “mixed grain bowl” for a dinner this week to use some leftover grains and frozen lentils).
Write up the week’s menu:
I get depressed, or at least discombobulated, without a dinner plan, so I need to see the note cards posted telling me what to make each night. I frequently move meals around during the week, but at least I know what all the options are.
Prepare for the new season:
For those like us following a seasonal menu plan, this week is also a time to look ahead to the change of menu starting the following week, find recipes, write out note cards, and maybe even get a start on some of the cooking and baking for the next month (I know, filling the freezer while cleaning it out, kind of strange…but whatever works!).
After a regular pantry clean-out week, each new season begins with at least a feeling of being in control, knowing where you stand in the kitchen, and just a general fresh start.
You can do this!