Purge Your Pantry

We put a lot of pressure on starting things right away with the new year. However, you have 365 days to accomplish your goals, and goals need to be addressed in small bites and little steps. Before we are able to bring in all of these new ideas and big aspirations, we have to take a look at what we already have. What is already going well? Where is there clutter? How can you make space for all of the new things that you are going to usher in during the new year? Whether you are trying to create time, earn more money, or make better decisions, all of these things require space both physically and mentally.

During the first week of the new year, think about all of the things that have built up during 2017. Are you going to do 2017 laundry this week? Are you still eating 2017 food? Will the 2018 you thank you for making some changes right away that create space for new growth?

Purge your Pantry

Here we are talking about your literal pantry, but you can apply these principles to any area that you are trying to clean up and make ready for new possibilities. Grab the trash can & a box or bag that you plan to use for donations.

1 – Open the pantry all the way up. Can the doors open? Is there anything blocking you from your food stores? Remove that first.

2 – Take everything out. If this sounds scary to you, you need to lean into that discomfort. You could be scared because there is a lot there or you could be scared because you feel like this will take you a long time. If you are worried about time, just take out a laundry basket and put everything in there – the floor and the counter work too, use whatever is easiest for you. Make it fast and painless on yourself.

3 – Clean. Once everything is out, you have the opportunity to chase down those stray noodles, those dust bunnies that are hiding, and that spider that you have an agreement with. Evict the spider, capture and re-house the dust bunnies, and thank the noodle for its services and see it off. As a side note – all of the things mentioned above are compostable. If you don’t have a composting bin, the trash works.

4 – Keep your dust cloth handy, and start reshelving things. The order doesn’t matter, but if your brain craves organization, start with the stuff that you know you are keeping and the things that have a particular spot in the pantry. Dust them off, check the expiration date, and reshelve them.

  1. Things that are expired, use your best judgment. If you know you are going to use it, and it is a canned item, it is probably safe. If it is 6 years old, please toss it. You weren’t going to eat it when you bought it, chances are you’ll never eat it and, at this point, you should be starting to worry that the food has gone rancid.
  2. Things that are not expired, but you do not intend to eat, go in the donation pile. If it is a sealed container it can go to the food shelf or your favorite charitable organization. If it is opened, or a bulk item you’ll have to decide later. Some opened packages you may be able to give to family and friends who will use them. But, likely you will have to put some of these items in the trash.
    1. Tips for the trash.
      1. Recycle cans, cardboard, and plastic where you can. This makes your process take more time, but it does reduce the guilt when you are heading out to the trash can during step 5.
      2. Compost where you can. Maybe this is the one time that you make a compost container and you drive it out to your local compost pile. Maybe you already have a compost service set up or you are an at home composter.
      3. Terracycle where you can. Certain chip bags can be saved and terracycled. This is an added prep. Step, but if reducing your waste is important to you, it is worth a look. https://www.terracycle.com/en-US/
      4. If it is difficult or cost prohibitive to take these steps. Forgive yourself. Needing to use trash services is okay.
    2. Tips for composting
      1. Stainless steel, ceramic, and glass receptacles work best because these receptacles won’t be stained or damaged in the process. If you don’t have any of these, just choose something that you don’t mind becoming tomato stained.
      2. Check your local composting rules. If you have a service that can take paper towels, tissues, and bones, everything can go in one big bowl together. If not, compost where you can. https://www.ci.northfield.mn.us/336/Compost-Site-Yard-Waste
      3. Get it out of your house ASAP. If you have a big bucket full of compost, drive it out to your local site that same day. If you compost in the backyard, bring it out there right away. Or, if you have a service, plan your pantry purge the day before a compost day.
    3. Tips for giving stuff away
      1. Know the gift recipient. Will they actually want or use what you are giving them? If you don’t want smoked oysters, ask yourself if they would.
      2. Make arrangements to give it to them right away. Start texting them while you are making your piles of stuff to donate.
      3. Don’t try to give away something that is garbage. Dented or destroyed items, out of date items, and open items should be judged on an individual basis. When in doubt – ask the potential recipient and be okay with them telling you no.
      4. Maybe this can even be a trade. If your friends are all doing this on the same day, you can set up a grocery swap with all of the things that you would like to trade out. Just make sure you have a plan for the leftover, unwanted items. Donate or dispose of those as well.
    4. Tips for donating.
      1. Most donation places only accept non-perishable, in-date items. And some places only accept food products. So check your local place learn what their rules are. https://communityactioncenter.org/donate/
      2. Make sure that you are able to donate the day of your project. You want these things out of your house, so pick a day that your donation center is open.
      3. Learn what items are in high demand. This changes throughout the year. This could allow you to purge a few extra items that you may or may not use and get them to people who do need them.


5 – Now that you have your pantry filled with only the things that you know you want to keep, make all of your trips. Take a trip to the garbage can with the things that couldn’t find a better home. Bring your recycling to the bin. Compost your compost.

6 – Then take your bigger trips. Bring all of the donations to their drop off points. Meet up with the person or friends that you are trading with or gifting to. Drive the composting to the drop-off point.

7 – You should take a day or two to enjoy your new, clean pantry.

8 – Make a list. It is likely that you will start feeling like you have no food in the house and you can’t make anything if you wait too long to restock your pantry. But, I would suggest taking a clear inventory of what you still have and what you need before you go to the store.

  1. Consider your eating patterns and goals for the year. If you cut out processed foods, don’t put those on your shopping list. If you are low on coconut oil, and you use that everyday, put that on the list.
  2. Can any of your things be purchased in bulk or with less packaging? Set up your grocery kit with jars that fit in your pantry and will work well for those items. You can actually set your jars in the pantry and see where everything is going to fit before you shop. Then, remember to put them all back into your car or grocery bag so that they make it to the store with you.
  3. Are there new recipes that require ingredients that you don’t have? This is the time to add those items to the list.

9 – After you shop put everything away in their intended spots. You may want to snap a picture of your pantry so that you can remember what goes where and what you have for the next time you shop or are meal planning.

10 – Enjoy and Assess. New plans and habits take time to mature. Does this layout work for you? Do you feel like you keep running out of flour? Keep changing things and adjusting until it is working well for your lifestyle. A fresh start is just that, a start, a place to begin and build from.

Written by Vicki Scott, Social Media and Creative Coordinator

2018-01-15T13:46:30+00:00January 15th, 2018|Community, Local|