That winter really did it to us! We filled our coffers to the brim in order to stave off having to go out in the cold to forage. We could last for weeks pulling items out of the freezer, refrigerator and pantry to feed our hibernating bellies.
Well, the blossoms have come, a green canopy is emerging on the trees and the temperature is rising. Spring is here! Time to clean it all out and get your kitchen ready for a new year of making magic happen.
Here is my updated annual easy kitchen spring cleaning to do list:
- Pull out all of your pantry items—spices, canned goods, oils, condiments, dry goods, etc.
- Take written note of what you have and make a list of all the “holes” in your pantry arsenal. This is a great time to get new dried spices and herbs.
- Get rid of expired items.
- Wipe down shelves, jars and cans with a damp cloth.
- Return items to a place where it makes sense for you, keeping the most used and opened items toward the front for easy access, and do a quick inventory before making a grocery store run.
- Keep overstocked items in one location so you can shop first in your home and manage your inventory more efficiently.
- Start with the freezer. Move all items to your sink (defrost if needed) and wipe it down with food-safe cleaner.
- Take note of what you have and the dates.
- Discard old items. If not stored properly, most items are ruined by freezer burn.
- Return items, making sure to keep items with the nearest expiration dates toward the front so you are reminded to use them soon.
- Repeat the above steps with your fridge, paying attention to those condiments.
- This is a great time to get reusable fridge/freezer refreshing products to keep the smells down and contained.
- Pull out all of your cookware and utensils, including foil, plastic wrap and food storage containers.
- Take note of everything and assess your use of it in the last year. For example, could your kitchen use the space your unused bread machine is taking up?
- Get rid of broken, melted or warped items, scraped non-stick (Teflon) pans/pots, plastic non-heat-resistant utensils and non-functioning appliances.
- Store all remaining items in a place that works for you and with your flow through your kitchen. Cramped for space? Use your walls to hang pots, pans, knives and most utensils.
Important tools to have
- A good 6-inch to 10-inch chef’s knife or the Santuko Japanese knife—straight-edge knives. Block sets should at least have a chef’s knife, pairing knife, sharpening tool and serrated bread knife, along with extra slots to add additional knives you may buy.
- Measure your prep area/countertop in your kitchen—i.e., where you will chop the most—and try to get the largest board for that area. Short on space? Don’t overlook covering your sink or the top of your stove with the appropriate sized board. Wood or plastic depends on your taste, but if you are a meat eater, get a board that is a carving board on one side. Supplement your big board with flexible plastic cutting mats for easy daily clean up and transferring of chopped items to a bowl or pot.
- Throw out those flimsy and flaky “nonstick” pots and pans. Buy good quality now and you will have them for a lifetime. Buy a starter set then supplement as needed. Add at least one sheet pan and a lasagna/casserole/roasting dish too.
- Basic utensils: at least one 12-inch wooden spoon, a whisk and spatula for flipping (both nonstick), a silicon spatula for mixing, set of at least three mixing bowls (plastic or glass), hand strainer, colander, can/bottle opener, measuring cups (for both dry and liquid measuring) and spoons, a good vegetable peeler like the Y-peeler, box grater and microplane, hand juicer or reamer, a masher and tongs for nonstick surfaces (both short and long).
That’s it! Don’t fret and have some fun with it. Invite a friend or two over with a couple of bottles of wine or some good IPA beer, put on some music and go to town. You can even reward their help with a quick pantry dish like pasta or bean salad or order in! You’ll be done before you know it and feeling really good about it too!
Happy eating and thanks for reading!
Kysha Harris is a food writer, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service offering weekly and in-home entertaining packages. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations! Email her at kysha@iSCHOP.com, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @SCHOPgirl or on Facebook www.facebook.com/SCHOPnyc. For even more recipes, tips and food musings, subscribe to her blog at www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com.