| By Jamie Stolarz |
Happy spring! When we think of spring cleaning, we usually think of emptying out the sock drawer, thumbing through the clothes hanging in our closet, and finally getting to that big pile in the corner of the garage.
This year, let’s break the norm and spring clean our food space!
Ready to get started but not quite sure where to begin? Check out my top tips to simplify spring cleaning your pantry, refrigerator, freezer, supplement cabinet and spice rack.
- Remove items one shelf at a time from the pantry, refrigerator, freezer, supplement shelf and spice rack. While you’re removing each item, check the expiration date. Toss anything that has expired in a large trash bag. After you’ve considered the food safety aspect, consider the nutrition factor — is this something that is good for you? Lastly, consider if you still like the food item? Are you tired of that pumpkin pancake mix or unique marinade?
- If you have the energy, consider lining up the items from all shelves in that space (e.g. the whole pantry) on the counter top. If you’re looking for spreading out the project over a few days, work shelf by shelf. Next, clean off the food shelf (with soap and water if it’s in the refrigerator or freezer, or a cleaning spray if it’s in the pantry. Towel dry or allow to air dry.
- Now’s your time to reorganize your food space. The nutrition goal is to sell yourself on the most nutritious foods when you open the doors. Consider placing fruits and vegetables at eye level. Move any candy or desserts to the highest shelf or lowest shelf, or behind other foods to make them harder to reach and to make them “out of sight, out of mind.” We also want to make sure that raw meat or poultry is on a low shelf in the refrigerator to make sure any juices do not drip on the foods below.
- Also consider how to attractively arrange the nutritious food items to make them appealing. A colorful bowl in the pantry can hold single-serving raisin boxes, granola bars, fruit-and-nut bars, and nut mix packages. A decorative bowl on the counter can hold fresh fruit and vegetables.
- If you use filtered water, double check your filter status to see if it’s time to replace it.
- For food safety, it’s also important to check the temperature of your refrigerator and freezer. The refrigerator should be at 40°F or below. The freezer, at 0°F.
- And while you’re in the spring cleaning mode, toss that sponge and replace it with a fresh one. Sponges harbor bacteria just after a couple uses. Here’s more on Dos and Don’ts of Kitchen Sponge Safety.
Now that you have an attractive and safe food space, celebrate with some active time outdoors followed by a nutritious, balanced meal shared with family or friends.
Jamie Stolarz, MS, RDN, LDN, CDE, is a registered dietitian, a lifelong cook and a frequent gym-goer. She’s also a proud dog mom and is currently planning her wedding.