I believe a kitchen purged of old ingredients, tired dish towels, and crumbs is a more peaceful place to cook. Perhaps 2009 will be the year you cook more at home, thus saving money and enhancing your nutrition. If so, I applaud you. To prepare yourself, and your kitchen, for more cooking pick one item to complete each day and by this time next week the difference will be noticable.
1. Investigate your freezer and throw out any food that has been stored for longer than one year. Food stored in the freezer dehydrates or suffers from “freezer burn” perhaps compromising the flavor and texture of the food. If you can’t bear to part with the pack of chicken breasts then make plans to use them for a meal over the next week.
2. Look through canned goods discard any that are really old. Try to use canned good you’ve perhaps forgotten about in your meals over the next week. I have a can of artichoke hearts in my pantry that I think I need to use. It’s been there a while.
3. Sort through sponges, dish towels, and dish clothes. Discard any that are seriously stained, shredded, or smelly. Now’s a good time to stock up on a few fresh, new cloths and towels in splashy colors. A friend of mine only buys white dish clothes and towels. There’s no hiding dirt in them.
4. Do a refrigerator dive paying particular attention to the produce bin, and the meat/cheese drawer. Make plans to use up any excess produce in a soup or salad, and the meat or cheese perhaps in a grilled panini sandwich. Wash out the drawers with hot, soapy water and put back in the fridge only fresh meats, cheeses, and produce. I’m making a serious effort this year to focus on keeping up with the contents of my refrigerator and create less waste (like a forgotten bunch of cilantro, if you know what I mean).
5. Pull out the vacuum cleaner and using the detail brush vacuum out the utensil drawer, silverware drawer, and storage areas for cookies sheet and other pots and pans. The edges of my cabinets and drawers tend to collect crumbs and I find great reward in getting rid of those little crumbs. (Weird, I know.)
6. Rid your toaster or toaster oven of crumbs. Our toaster has a little tray that we pull out to shake out the crumbs. Do it. Shake them out. I also like to store the toaster on a small tray to keep the crumbs off the counter.
7. Spices and herbs lose their potency when stored for extended periods of time. Throw out old cans of herbs and spices and if you need replacements buy small portions when you need them. The large cans of chili powder aren’t such a good bargain if you don’t use it.