Step 2: Out With the Old
After tossing your junk food, check your pantry for foods past their prime. Go through each and every item (yes, this will take a bit of time), and toss food past it's expiration date. Pay special attention to spices, oils, nuts, seeds and grains—items that go rancid over time, but typically do not have expiration dates. The best way to determine if these items are still good: perform a good old-fashion sniff test.
Spices: Most dry spices stay fresh for six months to a year. Every kitchen I have ever worked in has had spices easily ten times older than the recommended life span.
The easiest way to know if your spices are past their prime is to smell them. If they have lost their strength, or they don't let off a strong odor, it is safe to toss them. When replacing your spices, purchase the smallest container or bag of dry spices available at the market to reduce waste.
Oils: Unsaturated oils like olive, canola, grapeseed, vegetable and peanut are perishable and turn rancid over time. When oil is bad your nose will know. It will smell a bit like crayons. Just smell, and if you question it, toss it.
Rancid oil forms harmful free radicals in the body, which are known to cause cellular damage. So be sure to check your oils frequently so you are not consuming ones that may be harmful to your health.
Nuts, Seeds and Grains: The oils in nuts, seeds, and grains can also go rancid. Take a bit of time to taste and smell your supply. Heat, light and oxygen are the enemies of these foods. If you want a longer shelf life for expensive nuts and seeds, store them in your fridge or freezer.
Once you've cleared your pantry, move on to your fridge. Tackle the vast array of condiments, ancient leftovers and spoiled produce that live there. Check expiration dates, open and sniff. If you can't remember how long you've had an item, it is most likely past its prime.
Then move on to your freezer. Since you are already in spring cleaning mode, do a little foraging and reorganize its contents. You should always rotate the food in your freezer, so you eat what's in there. I have a one-in-one out rule. If I am putting in a batch of vegetarian chili, I need to take out a batch of carrot ginger soup—and hopefully heat it and eat it—if it hasn't been in there too long.
It feels so empowering to rid your kitchen of the old and unhealthy stuff, and make room for wholesome, delicious, and healthy food.
Step 3: Make it Shine
At least once a year, give your pantry a good solid cleaning. Your fridge should be cleaned much more often. Because you are working in an environment where you consume food, it is extra important to be conscious of the type of cleaner you are using. Avoid using commercial cleansers with harsh chemicals. You can disinfect and with homemade, natural cleaners just as well. Try this recipe for a natural cleaner that will have your kitchen sparkling:
Vinegar and Water: Fill a bucket with warm water and add 1 cup of white vinegar.
White vinegar is mildly acidic and will dissolve dirt, hard water deposits and grime. It is a natural deodorizer, meaning it absorbs odors rather than covering them up. Don't worry. The vinegar smell disappears once dry.
Lemon and Baking Soda Scrub: For tough stuck-on goop in your fridge or stove top, cut a lemon in half, sprinkle with baking soda, and scrub away. Baking soda has mild abrasive action and natural deodorizing properties.