If you are so lucky as to have an actual pantry, you’re already ahead of the game. You have the space to stock up on often-used ingredients, and have all the supplies for cooking meals right at your fingertips. Of course, the downside to having room is that things accumulate and don't get dealt with. So, in the spirit of the new year, here are five things to target in your pantry, to pare it down and leave yourself plenty of room for the essentials.
1. Stale or Expired Food: Just because it’s a dry good or non-refrigerated item doesn’t mean that it won’t go bad. Inspect any containers or packaging left open, and toss anything that is no longer fresh. Nuts and oils especially have a tendency to turn.
2. Duplicate Items: Take a second to consolidate all those diced tomatoes, and get rid of anything that you have excessive amounts of. Donate to a food bank, or swap with a neighbor for something you don’t already have, and free up a lot of space.
3. Anything Unappealing: Everyone has random consumable gifts that linger, and that you have no desire to eat. It’s okay if you don’t like that vanilla jam you get from Aunt Edna every year. Again, donate to a food bank if you don’t see yourself using it at any time in the future.
4. Infested Dry Goods: This is the time to check out your bulk foods and flours for pantry moths and/or other kitchen pests, and throw away anything you suspect might be infested.
5. Old Spices: I tend to think that powdered spices have a longer life than Rip Van Winkle, but I’m also totally wrong; they definitely don't last forever. If you’ve had that cinnamon since before Y2K, it’s time to toss it and give yourself the gift of actual fresh flavor.
6. Random Non-Food Items: Pantry space can quickly become general storage, and is often overrun by cleaning supplies, ladders, and all the detritus that accumulates in our lives. Find another spot to stick this stuff, and make it easier to access what you really need. That broom will no longer hit you on the head when you reach for the pinto beans, and you’ll have free rein to find your nori sheets.
Re-edited from a post originally published 1.7.15-NT