by Susan Caplan McCarthy
March - Spring Cleaning
Your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry are some of the most straightforward locations in your home to declutter and organize. So, why might you avoid decluttering these areas? You may find yourself facing good intentions that fell to the wayside – food for the diet you were going to follow, the healthier meals you were going to prepare, the attempts to be more adventuresome.
And, while many other items around the house may tempt us into saying, “I might use this,” food has an expiration date that prevents us from holding onto it indefinitely. So, how can you psychologically deal with the embarrassment or disappointment of purchases that end up in the trash?
Instead of flipping the item into a trash bag as quickly as you can so to hide the evidence, hold the item for a moment and consider what you got from making this purchase. Was it the thrill of finding a bargain? Was it the feeling that you were making positive changes in your diet? You got that feeling by buying the items, not using them; so, in a way, the items served a purpose.
That thought probably doesn’t improve the frustration you feel from wasting money or resources by buying food that you didn’t eat. Use this knowledge. In the future, allow yourself no more than a single new- or unusual-for-you food item a week and make yourself use the item within a week (before it has a chance to slide to the back of the pantry).
How to Clean Your Refrigerator, Freezer, Pantry, or Spice Rack
Before you start, you’ll want a few things on hand. Grab a cleanser and cleaning cloths. Have a trash barrel (and a back-up trash bag) handy. If you wear reading glasses, have them or a magnifying glass on hand so you can see expiration dates.
Note what types of food you threw away. If fresh fruit and vegetables spoil before they get used, consider purchasing frozen fruits and vegetables, purchasing smaller quantities, or only buying these items when you’ve planned a meal.
Create Your Own Systems and Tricks
Half of my shopping list includes items that get purchased every week so when I return home from one shopping trip, I immediately start the next week’s list. Then, when I take something from the pantry, it is immediately added to my shopping list.
I limit myself to keeping one or two of different boxed or canned goods on hand. I know I don’t serve pasta more than once a week, so I don’t feel the need to keep more than two boxes on hand. The same with things like diced tomatoes, I keep one can.
Every two or three months, I shop at BJ’s Wholesale for proteins that get packed into my refrigerator freezer. When the freezer is empty, it’s time to shop again. To keep track of these items, I make a list because, otherwise, I’ll forget the chicken wings pushed to the back of the freezer.
These systems work in my home – my husband and I eat at home six days a week and our adult nephew irregularly joins us for meals. Notice how you actually plan and eat your meals at home (as opposed to focusing on an ideal that you don’t follow) and you’ll likely see less waste and lower grocery bills.
What's your favorite way to reduce food waste and keep your kitchen organized? Leave a comment below.
I help people focus on what's important to them by guiding them through clearing clutter and distractions from their lives. I teach decluttering and organizing skills through articles; books; courses; speaking engagements; as well as virtual coaching sessions.