Cleaning Out the Cupboards

I have found that spring is a much better time to make New Year resolutions and goals than January.  It is really nature’s “New Year” and everything about the season supports us shedding off the old and bringing in the new.

The month of March is a funny one, in like a lion…out like a lamb.  Since the fullness of spring won’t be felt for about a month-take these next few weeks to slowly and intentionally clear out and take stock of different areas of your life because then you’ll be prepared to embrace all the newness and lightness of the coming season.

Clearing out the cupboards is a natural place to begin our “March Journey” to Springtime.

The challenge?  A complete sweep-through of the cupboards, pantry, refrigerator and freezer in order to use up as much of the food you currently have in your home as possible.   Far too often the foods that are right for one season simply get passed on to the next and then we miss out on all the benefits of eating with the seasons.  Stored foods can also find their way to dark crevasses and back alleys of cabinets and shelves if we don’t search them out where they often spoil before they are eventually found.

Consider joining the Great Kitchen Sweep and going through your food inventory this month…I’ll take you through 5 simple steps.

1.  The Detailed Inventory
  • Take out a good ole’ pen and paper and write everything down.
  • Go shelf by shelf and jot down your complete food inventory.   I do this for everything that is edible in my house, with the exception of the dried spices (all the flavorings, sauces and condiments get written down).
  • Don’t worry about it being organized (that’s next).  The key at first is to get your whole inventory down as quickly as possible.
2.  Organize the Master List
  • Once you have your inventory list, the next step is to categorize it in the most useful way.
  • Your goal is to USE UP all of this food (or as much as possible) in the next month.
  • Organize the list so that you can easily brainstorm meal ideas and so that you can easily find items on the list that you use up to cross them off. Keep it simple though, you don’t want to get bogged down in too much detail.
  • I make 3 major sections.  1.  Centerstage ingredients,  2.  Condiments,  3. Baking staples, etc.
  • Centerstage Ingredients:  I would list all the food that I could form (or be inspired to create) a meal around…this includes all the fruits (fresh, frozen, dried, canned),  veggies (fresh, frozen, canned), the beans, the grains, the canned goods, the meat, the dairy, the sauces or spice packets that would be the key part of a meal (like simmer sauce or taco seasoning).
  • Condiments: I list all the condiments that I have – from ketchup to ancho chile paste to smoke flavoring.  I want them all listed so I can especially work my way through the ones that haven’t gotten much action lately.  I’ll also include my oils and fats here.
  • Baking Staples:  This is where I list the flour, baking soda, nuts and seeds, yeast, sugar, salt, corn meal, ect. Things I generally use as staples or baking supports.
  • If you can’t figure out where something fits- don’t get stuck!  Just add it somewhere and keep going.
  • Keep this list where you will see it OFTEN— maybe on the refrigerator, taped inside a well-used cabinet or on a message board.
3.  Brainstorm Meal Ideas
  • The benefit of having your master list is that you can use it at the beginning of the week for weekly meal planning, but it also helps with spontaneous meal ideas
  • When you find yourself asking “What should I make for lunch?” — take a look at your list and think of something that will use up what you have.  The goals is to have to purchase as little as possible while you are working your way through this list by utilizing the food you already have in every meal.
  • Keep working to cross foods off your list and you’ll be surprised at the difference it makes in your grocery bills this month!
4.  Start Replenishing with a Spring-time Pantry
  • Obviously we can’t work our way through our pantry without replenishing it.  Hopefully most of your food shopping in the next couple weeks will be for perishables to round out a meal, but of course, purchasing new food items to replace the ones you are going through is a part of the process.
  • Stay tuned for my next post in this series that highlights some of the Springtime foods to start emphasizing in your diet.  This will help rebuild a pantry read for the new season!
5.  Keep Improving the System
  • Take advantage of this process to fine tune your kitchen storage and meal planning systems.
  • Note what worked well — and what hasn’t — over the past couple months.  Use this as an opportunity to reorganize and streamline your kitchen.
  • In regards to meal planning, ask yourself:  Do I need to experiment a bit more with different ways to meal plan?  Could I use some new ideas for meals to liven up our routine? Would I benefit from making meals in advance to save on time?  Stay tuned… I’ll be posting some ideas on how to cook once, eat twice soon as well as recipes to bring in this season’s harvest, and some of my favorite sources for meal inspiration.
  • In regards to kitchen organization ask yourself:  Do my storage areas have a flow that works with how I cook?  Are there ways I could organize ingredients on my shelves in a more intuitive way?  How about my refrigerator?  Do I often throw out old and unused things?  Could I organize in a way that left overs or highly-perishables were front and center?

One last thought…

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting different ways we can take stock of where we are, clear out things that weigh us down and move into a lighter, fresher place for Spring.

Before setting out to do any of the ideas, pause and consider: is this something that I want to do?  Will it be edifying?  Does the thought of it energize me, or weigh me down?

I have found myself too often in the past trying to make too many changes too fast, without being ready for it, and it never works out. Then, I feel a sense of letdown and disappointment.  It is much better to pick and choose what things you are ready and excited for as you prepare for the new season…and go with those.

Think of this as a MONTH long process. There is no rush!  Enjoy this!  Take it meal by meal and work toward your goal.  I’m excited to be joining you for the journey.

What’s the state of your “cupboards”?  Do you have a food inventory that could use an overhaul?  Is this something you’ll take on this month?

Read more from the Spring Cleansing Series, here!