Let’s talk expiration dates.
A friend and I chatted at a recent rainy soccer game. She had stayed up until 2 am the night before organizing her pantry. Most of her time was spent checking expiration dates and tossing expired food.
We discussed how frustrating it is when we review our cabinets and pantry, and have to purge expired food. It feels wasteful and lazy.
HOWEVER, getting down on ourselves about how we got to this point is neither useful nor productive. It’s better to learn from the experience (see the process below), and change our behaviors from here (stick with the article until the end).
A few months ago, I wrote about National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day (November, Click HERE). So let’s declare this week Clean Out Your Food Cabinet Week, what do you say?
- Grab a garbage can, a notebook and a couple of boxes or paper bags. Take a deep breath and begin.
- Clear off a counter for work space, near your food cabinets.
- Choose a cabinet. JUST ONE. Starting at the top, take everything out and put it on the counter. Then wipe down the shelf.
- Now, check every item. Yes, EVERY ITEM. Even the stuff you bought recently. It could be the newest, but still out of date. I was surprised to find my recently purchased canned beets were already expired.
- If the item is past its’ expiration date, toss it. I understand, that is the hard part. Yes, I know, it’s wasteful. And yes, I know, you spent good money on that. HOWEVER, the potential for food poisoning is much more important than a $3 can of tuna.
- If the item is open, but not past the expiration date, still check it for freshness. Foods like breakfast cereal or crackers get stale if open too long in the cabinet.
- If the item is not expired, but you don’t think you will use it, label one of those boxes or bags as “donate to food pantry”, or “send to preschool”, or “give to friend/family” and start a pile of items to leave your kitchen to go and grace someone else’s.
- Review everything, then place the keep items back in the cabinet.
- If you have time to tackle another cabinet – JUST ONE – go ahead. But DO NOT take apart more than on at a time! Otherwise….
- Take out the trash, and drop off the donations / items to share. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Repeat.
- Use a list. Post it on the refrigerator, and add items as you run out of them.
- If you have to shop, buy only what you need for this week.
- Stock your food like a store. Pull the oldest items to the front, and add new inventory to the back.
- Take advantage of sale items and stock up, but make sure to add those surplus items to your menu plan so that you use them up.
- Plan to do this a couple times a year!
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