With a new year, I’m contemplating a serious pantry cleaning. One of the joys of Christmas is a trip to the Dekalb County Farmer’s Market, which means a stack of goodies to integrate into the pantry. I also had to mail order millet, so I now have an excess, and there’s a jumble of cooking equipment in a dark corner of a weirdly shaped shelf.

Along the same lines, another blogger suggests a “Fiscal Cleanse”. Taking some inspiration, I’m going on a much less restrictive pantry diet following my pantry clean. Goal: use up staples that are over four months old. No limits on fresh or frozen food purchases. Expect to see photos of miscellaneous meals!

What are the essentials of pantry cleaning? My goals are always:

1) to use up food before expiration dates
2) to ensure I can find and reach everything easily
3) to review what staples are missing
4) to clean shelves
5) to reshelve things in an organized manner (or buy things like bins to improve organization).

While good practices (i.e. using up older staples before new ones) are always helpful to prevent food waste, an occasional pantry review is extra insurance. Also, for less frequently used staples (my can of chestnut puree, for example), it can help you keep an eye on when you should use it. Reshelving is also helpful, and you can assess whether something should be in a more accessible place.

I’m hoping my pantry cleaning will lead to all the benefits of a well-organized pantry: saving time, saving money, and being a happier (and quicker) cook! Do you reorganize your kitchen regularly, and if so, what do you think helps the most?