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Archive for January 11th, 2010

The Pantry

It was a productive Saturday!

I spent Saturday cleaning out my bedroom and kitchen. I sorted out clothes I haven’t worn for two years to give to charity, and a few nice pieces to pass on to a person who has lost a huge amount of weight and some pieces in my “in case I lose weight” pile might fit her.

The reason it is important to clean out my bedroom closets – aside from the fact that last time I went out it took me over an hour of trying on clothes to find something that looked good and fit – is that I have food stored in one of the closets. I have 20 pounds of rice, and sealed containers of flour and sugar and extra bottles of water, jars of jellies and stored in there, and I needed to rotate some of this.

The next order of business was cleaning out my pantry. Now, I am fortunate that I have a fairly large pantry with deep shelves for food. I do not have a walk-in pantry, as a friend of mine does, but, alas, we do what we can. I have put in additional shelves so I can make the most out of the space I have available.

Shelf by shelf I went through my pantry and threw away items that had expired. One that had never been opened but had expired in 2005, one a box of pancake mix that had expired in 2007 and something that did not have an expiration date on it, but it didn’t look quite “normal.” Also to go, a bag of sugar that never made it into a sealed container and had formed itself into a rock.

Then I placed like items together. The higher shelf had “baking” items on it. Things like sugar, flour, corn meal, brown sugar, oils, boxed brownie mix (I know, bad for me, but I love chocolate and it is easy to make) and my back-up coffee (mostly because there was space and it is not something I grab on a regular basis.)

The next shelf is for pasta and other starches. Since pasta has a long shelf life (up to seven years in air tight containers), I have purchased a large amount of it during the 10 for $10 sales at a local grocer. I have several large food grade storage containers and in each container I have placed a different type of pasta – at least the kinds I use a lot. I can get 20 boxes of spaghetti into one of the containers, and all the containers stack well, so it is a real space saver. I also purchased pasta sauce on sale, and it has another year until it expires. Also on this self are containers of rice, barley, beans, split peas, dried tomatoes, and cheap storage boxes filled with packaged items like roman noodles, cornbread mixes, and other easy to make items I have acquired over the years. I could probably live for two months on the food on this shelf alone!

The next shelf contains canned soups – all purchased on sale (50 cents a can). I can easily store 88 cans of soup on this shelf. This shelf is where I keep the canned tuna and cranberry sauce (the shelf is for shorter cans) and a long thin box where I keep tons of microwave popcorn. OK, perhaps you see a trend here – Julia Child I’m not!

The next shelf is for canned veggies, tomatoes, broths, and all things that were “canned” and are in jars.

Finally, there is the misc. shelf that has all things tall – like jars of peanut butter, oatmeal, containers of powdered hot chocolate, individual packets of flavored oatmeal given to me by a friend who decided she didn’t like it, and other misc. “boxed” food things.

Once I organized these shelves, I began making notes about what I needed to better use some of these foods, or items I was running low on. I also noted that I could free up space for things I really like once I ate things that I had forgotten I had (perhaps because they weren’t my most favorite food.)

This cleaning project also got me thinking about the foods I eat and how much processed stuff I still have in my kitchen. I’m slowly learning how to fix foods that use more fresh foods, but it is a matter of changing habits – and that takes time. Now, let’s not get crazy here – I’m never going to part with my macaroni and cheese in a box, microwave popcorn, or powdered hot chocolate mix. But, there are other items which I hope to eventually have fresh or fresh frozen rather than from a can.

Next I cleaned out my spice drawer. Yes, I think it is funny that I have a spice drawer when I don’t cook – but I have lots of them, and actually found two or three of some items I’ve never used. I tossed all but one of each spice, and checked expiration dates and tossed those that had expired years and years ago. Now my once full drawer now has a single row of spices, names facing up, so I can see what I have and perhaps learn how to use them.

When all that was done, I fixed myself a bowl of microwave popcorn, a mug of hot chocolate, sat in front of my fireplace and watched a little television. I figured I had earned the break.

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