Tidying up my kitchen turned into a delicious cheese board! Read on to see how long food lasts and how to repurpose it to reduce food waste.
I had 20 rubber spatulas. But the same 3 end up in the dishwasher time and again.
There were 17 wooden spoons. I rarely use wooden spoons.
How do I know?
I’ve been tyding up with Marie Kondo. The organizing phenom whose book, The Art of Tidying Up, and Netflix show are causing shortages on storage trays and overflowing trash bins. The Konmari method, as she refers to it, is among other things, to ask yourself if what you’re holding in your hands sparks joy. If it does, keep. If there’s no joy, get rid of it.
How’d I get 20 rubber spatulas? Some were gifts, some were giveaways. My favorite, the snowman, I won at an office party. The good news is I’m down to five. There was no joy in 20 spatulas.
After removing those and a food processor cover that was still in original packaging, herb strippers, and cookie cutters, everything has a place and the drawer is organized and closes without things hanging up. That was one drawer. The results did spark joy! Order calms you. It’s hard to feel relaxed when things are in disarray. I know that, peeps! That’s soul food. I write about the importance of soul food in my book, Your 6-Week Guide to LiveBest, but it took Marie to remind me to do it.
Then I tackled my baking cabinet. One of the hazards of being a recipe developer is you try lots of different foods and bring food home when you travel.
How long do foods last?
So what do you keep and what do you toss? Of course, we want to eat safe food. If a food smells bad or has mold growing, throw it out.
- Foods you don’t want to use beyond the Use-By date is baby formula and foods with a higher Listeriosis risk, such as deli meats, hot dogs, smoked seafood, raw sprouts, and soft cheese made with unpasteurized milk. Otherwise, here are some tips to help you decide what goes and what stays.
- Generally, you don’t need to throw out food because the Best-By date has passed. Those dates are set by food manufacturers and have less to do with food safety but more about quality.
- Unopened condiments, such as mustard and BBQ sauce, will fade over time with changes in flavor, texture or color, but are still safe to eat 8-12 months after the Sell-By date.
- Oils become rancid over time so smell them to see if they have an off odor. If it does, it’s time to toss. Store oils in a dark cupboard away from heat or refrigerate for longer storage. Nuts are rich in oil, so can become rancid. Nuts are best stored airtight in the freezer or refrigerator.
- Egg pasta may develop an off flavor after 18 months. Whole-wheat pasta has oils than can get rancid, but otherwise, pasta can be used 3 years after the Best-By date.
- Sugar, salt and flour don’t really have a shelf life. If you have bugs or notice an off flavor, toss.
- Dried beans, lentils and split peas, honey, tea, cocoa, rice can last for years.
- Vinegar lasts indefinitely though the flavor may mellow. Unless they are bulging or dented, canned goods can last for years.
- Baking powder becomes less effective over time so does baking soda but it can still be used for cleaning.
- If you have questions, StillTasty is a website devoted to food safety and shelf life.
Here are more ideas. 59! 59 ways to reduce wasted food
How to store food
Moving forward, you are more likely to use food you see so store food so it’s visible. If your shelves are deep consider adding shelf racks, tiered racks or door storage.
Group similar items so they have a home.
- Before shopping, scan your shelves to see what you have on hand.
- After shopping, as you store food, bring older food to front of fridge and cupboards to avoid cabinet castaways because forgotten goes rotten.
Food Challenge: Use what you have
I’m challenging you to use what you have or donate it. Food pantries will happily accept your extra food. I’m fridge foraging and freezer diving to menu plan (made one for you!). I made a cheese board for a neighborhood party. It felt good to use the food I had and even better to have more space in my cupboards. Can you make a cheeseboard for Friday dinner or Saturday potluck?
How to make a Cheese Board
Use what you have to layer, mound and stack on a platter, slate tray or cutting board. Like to mix fresh, salty, crunchy, creamy, tangy, crispy, chewy, sweet, and savory. In other words, a little of everything. That makes eating fun!
- Fresh or dried fruits, such as pomegranate seeds, apples, dates, dried pears or apricots
- Jams or fruit butter, chutney, tomato relish, tapenade, roasted peppers
- Sardines, smoked salmon, pickles, okra, olives, mustards
- Nuts, crackers, and bread sticks, and of course,
I made these dips from my cupboard castaways:
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Check out this seacuterie board with sardines and smoked salmon. Let the party begin!
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