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Chew On This

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In this regular feature, dietitians offer healthy advice toward eating to be our best.

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Pantry

Spring has sprung! This past weekend was full of spring cleaning fun in my house. I organized my garage and cleaned out my closets donating clothing items I haven’t worn in some time. One area of your house that you may not consider tackling, but should, is your kitchen! Just as that dress you thought you would wear may still be sitting in your closet with the tags still on, a box of vegan crackers you thought you’d like to try may still be sitting in your pantry. Follow these 5 simple tips on how to declutter your kitchen pantry.

  1. Check the date
    Sometimes food items get lost in the black hole of my pantry and I don’t know I have them until they are expired. Remove everything from your pantry and check each date. For labeling and dating tips for the refrigerator and freezer, refer to this handy chart from the FDA to know how long foods should be stored:  http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/UCM109315.pdf
  1. Freezer Safety
    The freezer is an area that many people probably forget about. It is still so important to assess what you have and how long it’s been there. If an item is completely frozen over to the point that you can barely decipher what it is- throw it out! When you put something in the freezer make sure to label and date the items, especially when items are in unidentifiable containers. This will prevent you from selecting an item that may be long past its shelf life.
  1. Love it or Lose It
    Really think to yourself, how often have I used this item and do I plan on using it by the time it expires? I am guilty of buying obscure ingredients for a new recipe but then deciding not to make it. If you don’t foresee using it, donate or discard.  Anything non-perishable you find that is not expired but know you will not use, collect in a box and drop off at a food pantry donation center. Someone else will truly benefit from your items! Locate a local food pantry via the following website: http://feedingillinois.org/need/
  1. Organize
    To help use some of the items that may get lost or forgotten in your pantry, organize your cabinets so you are certain where items are. Put your soup on one shelf, spices on another, etc. Come up with an organizational system that works for you. One way I organize my pantry is by purchasing different sized baskets at the dollar store and allocating certain things to certain baskets on my shelves.
  1. Inventory everything you have
    Organize your pantry and keep an inventory of what you have and how much you have of it. I personally like to keep two jars of marinara sauce on hand at home. When I’m down to one jar I make sure to add this item to my grocery list. This practice will help prevent over-purchasing items or thinking you have an item when you actually don’t. Also, make sure to keep your inventory/shopping list handy for quick reference

– by Shannon Franchi, RD, LDN