Otherwise known as a larder, a pantry is defined as a small room or closet, usually off a kitchen, where food, tableware, linens, and similar items are stored. The first known use of the word “pantry” was in the 1400s and was derived from the French word for “bread room”. While not everyone is fortunate enough to have a separate room or entire closet devoted to food storage, cabinets dedicated to stocking comestibles are commonplace in most kitchens.
For some people, food shopping is a highly anticipated event, almost an adventure. For others, it ranks on the displeasure scale with a 2 week vacation in a small cabin with the in-laws or a visit from an IRS auditor. Regardless of whether you find a trip to the supermarket the highlight of your week or a non-negotiable necessity, food finds its way into your home. This CRUD blog is not about criticizing your food choices or how to eat more healthily. It is about the portion of your purchases that go to waste by dying an unnecessary and preventable death in the recesses of your pantry. Allow us to illustrate by example.
Your pantry or food cupboards are no different from your refrigerator or your freezer. They all require a certain modicum of maintenance, as they all contain perishables. While a piece of raw fish that’s gone off will announce its presence by its odor whenever you open the fridge door to grab a soda, spoiled dry foods like those that live in the pantry can hang on for a mighty long time without detection. Occasionally you will get a visual cue as when a container of flour, cereal, rice, and other grains spawns a battalion of moths or worms that infest the entire food supply. Or, sometimes the discoloration in an old unopened bottle of ketchup will alert you to the presence of bacteria within. But, most of the time the canned soups, chips, microwave popcorn, crackers, cookies and gourmet mustards are concealed in their packaging offering no clue to the changes occurring within.
You may tend to over-buy on occasion, whether you are stocking up for weather emergency or dinner party. You may be guilty of impulse buying, especially when you stop for a sample in the grocery aisle and wind up with 3 giant bags of Greek yogurt trail mix bars and it is just you and the cat. Or, someone recommended a new green super food to add to your shakes, but then your blended died. There are a combination of factors contributing to overloading, including no time to cook.
A big problem associated with overcrowded pantry shelves is the inability to see what is in the rear. There are perfectly edible foods that are allowed to expire simply because they lack visibility. This means more trips to the store and more money squandered on replacing food you simply forgot you had.
We have some suggestions if you decide to grapple with this challenge. Grab those rubber gloves, a package of heavy duty garbage bags and prepare to make extensive use of your kitchen garbage disposal. There should be unopened boxes of pasta or containers of cake mixes that are fit for human consumption that can be donated to food banks , if their presence to is excessive.
Now, what absolutely needs to go? Begin with the dregs. Examples include the bottom tenth of a bag of chips that now has the consistency of crumbs; the vestiges of rock- hard brown sugar that requires dynamite to dislodge; and the remains of a packet of onion soup mix from your last bout of late night munchies involving potato chips; and a single teaspoon’s worth of balsamic vinegar left in the bottle. Once those have been dealt with, turn your attention to expiration. Many food products display a “best before” date somewhere on their packaging, although it not always obvious. Yes, we realize that you spent good money bringing in all that high-priced food, nevertheless, you need to dispose of whatever is out-of-date. Now you are ready to re-organize your pantry so that it is no longer dysfunctional.
Activities like these do take time, so expect to be there a while to do it properly. Once you have emptied jars and cardboard boxes you need to recycle those too. If we were doing it, we would start by hunting down the chocolate and eating it as a reward for good behavior.