What’s the best way to avoid temptation--- get it out of your house!
When I began the Paleo Diet, just about three months ago, the first thing on my list was to clean out the kitchen cabinets. My husband and I live in a 700sqft apartment and storage space is limited and therefore precious. The cabinets had long been a source of stress and contention. We moved in shortly before my Bridal Shower, and needless to say, the gifts I received were exponentially larger than our tiny apartment. Everything needed space in the kitchen cabinets, but they were so full of processed garbage that we did not have room for the good stuff (hello kitchen aid stand mixer, cuisinart food processor, and my prized molcajete!) It took me changing my diet and lifestyle to finally go through the overcrowded cabinets and purge all of the processed crap!
I donated all of my nonperishable items to a local church. I know some of you may find this questionable (if I am not willing to eat it, why give it to someone else?). However, I believe that my Betty Crocker cake mixes, Stacy’s pita chips, and 100 Calorie snack bags are better in a churches kitchen for those less fortunate than in a dumpster.
As I cleaned and purged I was able to reorganize and see everything I had. I had no need to buy spices- we are good on that front (I found 2 gigantic-- Costco size--- bottles of cinnamon- SCORE!). I found that I had cans of beets, pears, and oranges; I was able to use these as salad fixings for the next two weeks. I was also able to get my newly acquired almond flour, coconut oil, flax seed, coconut flour, coconut crème, and organic cocoa powder off the counters and into the appropriately organized cupboards (cooking/baking supplies)!
The first step is to get everything out of your pantry so you can see what you have and start sorting. Separate items into these four categories:
• Items you use every day
• Items you use less frequently
• Unopened items that can be donated to a food pantry
• Expired or suspicious items to trash
To find a local food bank, check out Feeding America
While you’re clearing and cleaning the kitchen pantry, take time to look at your inventory. Sort through the items, and get rid of any food or spices that are past the expiration date. (Spices don’t really spoil, but most tend to lose their flavor after about six month.) While you’re sorting, check open containers for bugs and toss out any items that you haven’t used in years. If you can’t remember when you bought it, it’s best to throw it out and replace it. Toss bulging or badly dented cans and expired goods at least once a year. (Most canned foods can last two to five years, but acidic ones can go bad much sooner) Also, don't let food marketers trick you! Just because something says: “healthy”, “natural”, “no preservatives”, or “no artificial ingredients” does not mean that there are no harmful ingredients in the product! READ! READ! READ! I cannot stress this fact enough, read the ingredient labels on everything! You’ll be surprised with most “natural” products! By law, ingredients must be listed in order of predominance and weight, from highest quantity to smallest. Some manufacturers cheat the law here by using, for example, three different types of sugars, so it appears at first glance that there is not much sugar used in the product, when in fact it’s loaded with molasses, brown sugar, and sucrose! To see more on the sugar topic, read my post: There’s sugar in my…
Now that your pantry is completely empty, take this opportunity to vacuum any crumbs off of shelves and the floor. Then wipe down each shelf with a damp cloth (occasionally I will put some lavender essential oil on the cloth) and let dry before reloading. If you need to buy extra containers or organizers to corral items like spice jars, now is the time to do it. Finally, dust off or wipe down spice containers and cans (Don’t forget the bottoms of sticky jars.) Before you put anything back in the pantry, every item should be clean.
With your kitchen pantry clean and sparkling, it’s time to put the food, and spices back. Refilling your pantry in organized zones is the best way to ensure you don’t have to do another pantry overhaul in a couple of months. Start by keeping like items together and put the items expiring first near the front so it will be the next one you pick up. Designate a shelf (or the right side of a shelf, for example) to spices. Keep another shelf for baking supplies, canned goods, and main course items (whatever categories of food you keep in your pantry). Separating food by type will help keep your pantry organized.
Keep heavy items, like jugs of olive oil, on the bottom shelf, and the stuff you reach for every day (lunch ingredients, pet food) at eye level. Put sticky or spillable products (such as oil, honey, and baking powder) on a lazy Susan, which can contain messes, and because it can be taken out, it’s easier to clean than a cupboard shelf. Make sure flours, nuts, and seeds are sealed tightly. I have purchased special canisters to hold my flours and put a bay leaf in each one to ward off pests. Alternately you can store your flours in the freezer (My freezer is not big enough!). If you have kids, set up a snack zone, keeping snacks in sturdy, see-through baskets, so they can find what they need easily and don’t rifle through the other shelves. If you’re ultra organized and like to know at all times what you have post your pantry list on the inside of the pantry door.
Finally, stash a stepstool in the pantry, if you have room, or nearby to make reaching high shelves easy. You’ll be amazed at how much time you can save by being able to locate something on the first try.