Six Steps to Spring-Clean Your Pantry

Between hearty winter meals and holiday cooking, your pantry can get cluttered quickly. Spring is the perfect time to clean it out, and we’re here to give you a hand. Check out the six steps you need to tidy up your kitchen pantry.

  1. Keep the good stuff. There are quite a few items that last longer if they’re stored properly. Foods like rice, cornstarch, flour, sugar, and salt can last years in a moisture-free zone. All types of vinegar stay good (even if they look a little discolored—that’s normal). And if it’s sticky, save it. Honey never spoils (lucky bees!), and maple syrup can last for years in glass containers but only a few months in plastic containers.*
  1. Save the date. Spices, nuts, and oils don’t have a very long shelf life. Determining the shelf life of a spice can be tricky because it’s usually printed with a “best by” date, rather than an expiration date. If it’s unopened, it is more likely to retain its quality beyond the printed date. Nuts usually last about six months, while olive oil is good for two years after the harvest date.

  1. Put it to good use. Here’s a good rule of thumb: If a shelf-stable item has been sitting in your pantry for at least six months without being used, it probably never will be. Gather those items and donate them to a good cause.
  1. Tackle the ickiness. It’s easy to miss spills and crumbs when your pantry is full. After you’ve pulled everything out to sort through, treat your shelves to a good scrub. Keep an eye out for sales on your favorite cleaning supplies next time you stop in to your neighborhood Publix.
  1. Control the chaos. Save time during cooking and baking by having a nice, organized cupboard. Separate items by use, size, expiration—whatever helps your workflow. And give spices their own rack if you haven’t already—they’re easy to lose or overlook!
  1. Fill ’er up. Now that you have all this room in your clean and well-organized pantry, it’s time to fill it back up. Replace expired items first, then add extras of things you always seem to run out of (like cooking spray or garlic powder). To reward yourself for all your hard work, grab something fun like rainbow-colored sprinkles. You never know when you’ll need to make some emergency cupcakes.

*Gunders, Dana. “Waste Free Kitchen Handbook.” . Natural Resources Defense Council. Last modified September 2015. Accessed March 2017.