Do you know what food is in the back of your pantry? Do you know what exotic flavors you have back there? Are you aware what sauces have already expired and have become a petri dish for bacteria, mold and germs?
Like most Chefs out there I am sure you forgot to include your pantry on the annual list of “holiday” cleaning, didn’t you? Well, it’s a new year and the perfect time to get down and dirty. Let’s clean the pantry, shall we?
Step 1. Take out all your spices, oils and sauces and lay them all out on the kitchen counter placing them in some organized fashion (spices, oils, sauces, specialty items).
Step 2: Go through each one. Smell, taste and visually look at the quality of each item.
Check the expiration date to evaluate if they are still fresh and good to consume.Write an inventory of what bad products you have thrown away and what products you have left. Knowing what you have in your pantry will help you when you are creating food in your kitchen .
Great Tip: As you start throwing stuff away, put the breakables into a sturdy box. Throw everything else in a garbage bag.
Think Green – can you recycle any of the spice bottles? They are wonderful to keep for your own herbs that you may be growing in the garden or a leftover stock, vinaigrette, etc.
Step 3: Organize your pantry
One good idea is to organize your pantry by ethnicity – Asian , Italian , Mexican, etc. This will make it easier to cook on those nacho nights or when you have an unexpected company. As you reorganize, keep the ingredients you use the most up front and eye level. The ingredients you use the least go up high and in the back. Remember to keep your favorite few spices that you use all the time handy. I keep mine on top of my stove.
Step 4: Take an inventory
As you are placing your spices, oils and sauces back into the cabinet, take an inventory. When finished, stick it to the inside of the pantry cabinet as a quick reference sheet. The sheet will help to remind you what flavors you have in the pantry. More importantly, it will get your creative juices flowing even before you decide what you will cook.
Great Tip: Take a picture of the inventory on your phone. Anytime you shop, you can refer to it and replenish what’s missing.
Follow these 4 easy steps to a better pantry and to be a better Chef in your own kitchen. If you follow them and keep up with them, you will SAVE money! How? By shopping only what you need to replenish and by not having to throw away expired food. That’s a win win situation in my book!
Onto the next conquest the pot and pan cabinet!
How do you organize your pantry? Send me a note, I’d love to hear from you!
Twitter: www.twitter.com/rockytarantello (@chefrockyt)