You use the pantry every day, but it is easy to overlook when you are cleaning. It may seem like a daunting task but it really doesn’t take long. When you get the pantry clean, be sure to re-stock with some healthy staples.
Spring cleaning is not complete until you have cleaned the pantry. I recommend you start by removing everything from the pantry and putting the food that has expired directly in the trash can.
Spices don’t always have expiration dates on them. You can keep some spices for two to three years but just know that they start to lose their potency after six months. If you want to get the most out of your spices, you should replenish them regularly. As a rule of thumb, whole spices such as cloves and nutmeg can last up to two years.
When all of the food is removed from the shelves, wipe them down with warm, soapy water. If shelves are sticky with jelly or honey, sprinkle that area with baking soda and cover with a hot wet paper towel. The sticky spots will wipe away after just a few minutes.
As you put things back in the pantry, arrange them in a way that will make your life easier. Things such as taco seasoning packets should go in a plastic bin so they are less likely to get lost. Put dry cereal on a lower shelf so children can help themselves. Arrange things together for easy access when you are cooking. For example, put all of your baking staples on a shelf together.
When you re-stock your pantry, it is the perfect opportunity to change some unhealthy habits. You can do that by re-stocking with healthy choices. Be sure you stock a variety of whole grains, such as cereal, rice and pasta. When possible choose low sodium versions of canned vegetables and sauces.
Choosing healthfully is all about how you arrange your food. Research shows that we tend to choose the foods that are easily accessible so put those healthy choices front and center.
To motivate yourself, set a timer to see how fast you can get your pantry clean. Most likely, it will take less than an hour. That one hour can also be the beginning of a healthier lifestyle!
For more information, call your local county extension office.
• Jennifer Russell is an area child and family development agent for the Mississippi State University Extension Service. You may contact her at 453-6803 or email@example.com.