If you read my blog regularly, you know that I consider cooking an important part of living more creatively. Why just use salt and pepper when you can add a dash of nutmeg or cardamom?
No, really, why?
So I collect recipes, subscribe to about 10 cooking/foodie magazines, have a dozen recipe-related boards on Pinterest, and rarely make the same recipe twice.
The thing is, this leads me to hoarding items in the pantry that I’ve only used once or twice in the last few years: Piquillo peppers in adobo sauce? Need them. Wheatberries? Got ‘em. Yellow Jell-O? Ewww—but afraid so. And I also have a habit of picking up certain “staples” EVERY time I’m in the store—coconut milk, fish sauce, green curry, Calabrian pesto, fig jam—because once I made a really delicious dish with one of these ingredients and what if I decide to make it again at 2 a.m. on a whim? MUST HAVE THEM IN THE HOUSE.
So, over the course of five years in my abode, I’ve managed to stock my pantry pretty well. Unfortunately, I haven’t been as good at emptying it out. The result? I may have eight bags of instant Uncle Ben’s jasmine rice in the back of the third shelf, but crashing my way through seven types of vinegars and several back-up bottles of olive oil just doesn’t seem worth it; it’s so much easier to just run to the grocery store and pick up one more bag.
Well, that all ends today. Today is THE day—the day I get organized! It’s the day I ruthlessly throw out the package of gourmet breadsticks dated 2011, the box of Apple Jacks dated 2009, and the can of cling peaches (no sugar added) from 2005. I will not be dissuaded. If you’re expired, out you go.
It’s quite liberating, actually. No more guilt about waste, no more pressure to find ways to use Kraft Instant Mac & Cheese (since I prefer homemade to boxed). And did I mention the amazing sense of self-realization?
Cleaning out your pantry can be a wonderful learning experience. In fact, let me share with you a few of the profound life-changing thoughts I’ve had over the past few hours:
- My name is Patricia and I hoard Progresso soups. I can’t really explain it, but whenever I see those giant blue cans on sale, I find myself in a frenzy to bring home every last can of Chickarina that’s available. It’s a sickness.
- Just stumbled across several Hostess Snack Packs from 2009/2010. Are these collectors’ items now???? Have I unknowingly invested in antique rarities that will allow me to retire early????? Do mini Twinkies lose their street value once they’re solid as rocks?
- Well, Mom, I DID have whole-cranberry sauce in my pantry that night you needed it to go with the turkey. However, it was about three years too old.
- Are expiration dates suggested or definitive (i.e. Will I die?)?
- Just because you got it free from couponing, it doesn’t mean you’re actually going to ever eat it. I’m looking at you, Chef Boyardee.
- If you have to wait until AFTER the next pick-up to make enough room in the trash bin to resume the pantry reorg, you’ve waited too long to start.
- It’s just poor planning to clean out the magazine mountain, er, pile, during the same week as cleaning out the pantry.
- Therefore, do not even TOUCH the bedroom closet or the bra drawer until next week.
- It’s not weird to have an entire shelf for vinegars/oils/cooking sauces, right?
- Shut up.
What can your pantry teach you? Feel free to let me know about the most interesting item you unearth if you undertake this challenge.
As for me—this is probably a three-day job. (I haven’t even started the baking shelf or the pasta/canned tomatoes shelf, both of which have been accumulating overflow from the soup/cereal/canned vegetable shelf and the snack/cookbook shelf for at least a year. And is that my toolbox on the floor in the back??)
The other pleasant after-effect is remembering some yummy meals I’ve cooked over the years, and promising myself I’m going to make them again. Except–wait! Now I’m out of Torani raspberry syrup! The pickled jalapenos are gone! The Israeli couscous has been tossed!
Excuse me–I need to run to the store for a bit. Just in case…