Cleaning out forgotten, expired, mismatched, and flavourless items from your kitchen allows you to optimise storage in an organized manner. It also lets you give empty cabinet shelves and drawers a thorough cleaning before restocking them with fresh goods.
Here's a look at the things you should toss, relocate, or donate immediately.
Remove all cooking oils from cabinet shelves, check expiration dates, open lids to make sure the necks aren't chipped and give the oils a taste to ensure they're still good. Throw out or recycle chipped bottles, rancid oils, and those past their expiration dates. No matter how carefully a bottle top is tightened, oils tend to leak, says Clean fiend Mary Findley, who advises cleaning the bottles you are keeping and washing down the shelves with soapy water before returning oils to their spots.
Spices come with expiration dates, which should be checked a few times each year to ensure the seasonings you're sprinkling are at their flavor peak. Can't find an expiration date? Pinch the herb or spice between your fingers; if it no longer has a distinctive scent, it's past its use-by date. Findley suggests dumping out the expired seasonings, cleaning and drying the jars, and then refilling them with purchased-in-bulk organic herbs and spices. You'll save money, enjoy tastier seasonings, and reduce landfill waste.
Edit jumbled piles of plastic containers to free up cabinet space and make storage operations run more smoothly. Cleaning coach Leslie Reichert advises pulling out all your plastic containers, matching lids with containers, and tossing out unmatched components. Throw out or recycle plastic containers labeled 3, 6, or 7, which are made of hazardous plastics. Keep those coded 1, 2, 4, or 5, because they are safer for humans and the environment. Organise the containers by size to see what's what; store only those you really need and are likely to use.
Every kitchen has a junk drawer that stows masses of miscellaneous household stuff. Unfortunately, the drawers become holding areas for everything from keys without corresponding locks to outdated ephemera. Empty out each junk drawer, and sort through the contents. Throw out any item without a purpose. Recycle no-longer-needed receipts, takeout menus, and user manuals that are available online. Outfit each drawer with organizers designed to suit the goods returning to your "dejunked" drawers.
Empty food cabinets and use your sensory facilities to take stock of pantry staples, advises cleaning specialist Melissa Maker. "Smell pantry items (i.e. flour, nuts), or do a quick taste test and dispose of anything rancid," Maker says. "Keep a running list of items you need to replace ... get rid of items you didn't or won't use. Look for expiration dates on packages and cans, and dispose of anything that is old. Finally, be ruthless: If you have six cans of creamed corn and kid No. 2 has developed a corn allergy, you can safely donate the creamed corn." When restocking the cabinet, think like a grocer and place items with the nearest expiration dates in the front so you will remember to use those staples first.
Freezers easily suffer from overload; roasts and leftovers get buried behind other items to create a frozen wasteland of inedible foods. Foodsafety.gov, an outreach of the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, provides frozen-food safety tips that will help you clean out your freezer in a timely manner. First off, throw out anything that's been in the freezer for more than a year. Toss leftover cooked meat and poultry after 6 months; frozen raw ground meat after 4 months; and leftover soups and stews after 3 months.