• By Julie Stefanski
  • In 2018
  • December 26, 2018

Food Waste: Keeping a Clean and Organized Pantry

By Rosanne Rust, MS, RDN, LDN

While I don’t love the vaguely defined term “clean eating”, I do love a clean kitchen. Many of you may find a lot of leftover goodies in your chaotic kitchen this month, and soon you’ll be anxious to get back to normal eating.

Now is a great time to reorganize your kitchen. Start with the refrigerator, and then move on to the pantry and cabinets. Finally, clean the whole room.

  • Literally empty the refrigerator, one shelf at a time, then doors. Wipe shelves down with a kitchen disinfectant spray, working from top to bottom, including doors.
  • Sort the food you removed from the refrigerator, check dates, determine if it should go back in or not (or on another shelf). Continue this process until you’ve emptied everything out, checked, sorted, and put back.
  • Move open items to the front. If there’s only a few tablespoons left in a jar, it may be worth pitching now. Or you can figure out a way to work it into a recipe. Take note of any cheese or cream cheese that’s expiring and plan a meal around it before expiration.
  • Keep in mind that “sell-by” doesn’t mean “use by”. According to Registered dietitian Judy Barbe, author of Your 6-Week Guide to LiveBest, Simple Solutions to Fresh Food & Well-Being“, “The sell-by date is a suggested date for the grocer to sell food with ample time left to enjoy it. With milk that may be up to 7-10 days or even more depending on how cold you keep it. I often see women complain that their husbands insist they throw out milk on the sell-by date.”

Waste Not Want Not

Judy also has some great tips for reducing food waste at home, and here are some of mine:

  • Do you have a leftover veggie tray or the bag of broccoli you never got around to cooking? Now is a great time to use up those leftover veggies and whip up a stir fry or a vegetable soup. This soup recipe makes a vegetable puree for the soup base. Or use them up in a healthy veggie omelet. Omelets make a great quick dinner.
  • Have leftover shrimp cocktail? Chop it and make our salsa for the next football game.
  • Chop leftover ham or roasts into bitesize pieces and freeze. This can then be pulled out of the freezer for a quick dinner, stew, or fajitas.
  • Did you get too many candy gifts or have leftover cookies? Take unopened packages to your local food bank or freeze them for a future gathering.
  • If you overbought canned goods or other pantry ingredients, consider donating them to your food bank or church. I’ve often kept items in the pantry, and after all of the cooking over the holidays, they end up staying there too long. Make the donation now while the “best buy” date is still good.
  • If you have leftover chips or other tempting junk food, send it into your child’s school for the teacher lounge, or send it back with your college student to share with friends.

Rosanne is owner of Rust Nutrition Services. She began freelance writing in 1994, created her virtual nutrition practice in 2000, now bringing 30 years of experience to what she does. As a nutrition communications consultant, Rosanne translates nutrition data into well-reasoned dietary advice so people can enjoy eating for good health. Visit her blog for more information about her books, including DASH Diet For Dummies®.