Tis the season to de-clutter. Out with the old in with the new. Spring brings about a freshness that takes us into cleaning mode and like scampering little bunnies in a meadow we begin the task of tossing and replenishing items in our home.
The weather today in beautiful Southern Califonia lends itself to a perfect segway into another The Food Athlete Spring Cleaning Tutorial. It is a little more than breezy outside, to say the least, and I take that as a sign to keep pressing on and ridding myself of unnecessary trinkets. The wind is blowing all the toxins and undesirables out of the sky, and we can fill our lungs up with fresh breaths of energy.
I would say that body restoration is at the top of the list before a real house scrubbing but wait before you go down that path of sugar elimination, juice cleanses and bailing on your morning coffee let’s take a peek in your pantry. A well-organized pantry zone is a foundation for living a nutrient balanced and tasty lifestyle. It is easy to stack stored foods in a cabinet, shut the door and forget about it, but, many canned, packaged and bottled substances do have a shelf life. Now if you are a mindful Food Athlete you are cupboards not stocked with product that contains toxic trans fats, but that does not mean some other goods are going to live forever either. Yes, the ones with a shelf life of ten plus years are the ones to stay away from altogether, but there are some go to's that we keep handy but unfortunately never get around to opening.
Staples that help your baked goods rise, spice up your stews and flavor just about everything do have a shelf life. If you are like me and are a preservative snob, you will have a constant rotation of pantry goods round the clock all year long. Ebbing and flowing with each season, taking advantage of what every new quarter year has to offer.
Do you qualify for a pantry make-over? Let’s find out.
- Do you have spices tucked so far back in your cabinets that you have not used or seen them in over a decade?
- Do you have cans that have rusted around the rim?
- Dents in the can?
- When you open the can the smell is not up to snuff?
- Flecks or bugs in packages of flour, sugar, grains?
- Experation or Use By dates have passed?
Time to ask yourself questions like, what recipe did I want to use water chestnuts? How come I have three different bags of whole wheat flour, but they are all the same brand? I bought dried rosemary for a roasted lamb last Easter but only used a pinch, is the rest of the bottle still useable?
Dried herbs are easier to identify as expired:
▪ Sniff test, take a pinch and crush up the herb with your fingers. You should detect the aroma of their variety and the oils in the herb will still exist when you rub them together.
• Color test, for example, red pepper flakes should be red, not brown
- Check for moisture inside and around the openings of the bottle (I talk more about this as you read on).
Dried spices are reported to last for up to 7 years, some packaged, and the “before sell” date is a few years before hitting a shelf. In general 3-4 years for spices and 1-3 years for herbs. My honest opinion? Well, since you ask, I would replenish after eight months, maybe even six. Being committed to a lifestyle of whole foods and cooking your meals you will be running on a consistent cycle using your spice stash for many fabulous meals. Same goes for pantry items. Buy in smaller quantity spices you cook with sporadically and bulk for the essentials like black pepper corns. I love buying whole and then grinding as I need to make each recipe, plus nothing beats the fragrance and taste of freshly ground condiments. There are lots of fun gadgets and tools out there to explore, but you can always go traditional and use a mortar and pestle. A good friend of mine just went to Cuba and brought me back this stunning set, and I got to crushing right away!
I am a teacher of food and health strategies, a nutritionist, and a purist. I love the versatility that spice adds to a meal. I am a big fan of the medicinal benefits that herbs and spices can add to our lifestyle. It is important to be aware that spices, herbs, and baking goods lose their potency after expiration and when your baking not only do you run the risk of your cake not rising, the flavor is subject to being not up to par.
Baking Staples: stored in a dry, dark area of the kitchen pantry.
- Baking Powder and Soda
- Vanilla Extract
Store spices and dried herbs in a cool dark cabinet not out on the counter. When I was a novice, I used to display all the varieties of herbs in bottles on the table and window sill shelves because it looked so lovely and added a nice visual to my “cooks” kitchen. Then I started to notice when I went to shake some spice out it was all clumped up in the jar. What the heck? Well, I was also adding them directly to a pan of whatever I was sautéing or to a pot of chili or stew and come to find; the steam would be seeping into the shaker holes, and the moisture would destroy the spice inside the bottle. These are just little things to help preserve spice life.
You can still have beautiful glass jars of your spices presented creatively in your kitchen pantry, or I like to put mine all on a serving tray and then in the pantry so I can just bring them all out at one time.
Label, label, label! Write the name of your product on the storage container as well as the date you packaged it. The more info the better. Taking the guess work out of your food means you can spend more time savoring the nourishment.
Canned Pantry Staples: These are some of my “never out of stock” pantry items.
⁃ black bean
⁃ white bean
• Sweet potato
• Tomato Paste
• Variety of Pasta, black bean spaghetti, quinoa pasta
I take the pasta out of package and store in glassware, just cut out the part with the nutritional stats and slip it inside the jar.
So, let's review. What we put in our mouths is one story. Another story about that food is how long it has been sitting in your pantry or fridge? I went over pantry today but The Food Athlete offers service that include the whole kitchen area, everything and the kitchen sink, check out my service page here.
Here is a basic checklist, questions, things to think about and ask as you scan your food storage areas more closely:
Storage: are foods stored in proper areas. Fridge vs. counter or cubord.
Expiration Dates: toss it or safe to use.
Preservatives: What's in your food. Do you want a product with a shelf life of 6 years?
Freezer: Label food and update experation.
Refrigerator: What foods need cool storage.
Veggie and Fruit Storage: Drawers, paper towels, tupperware.
Does your Kitchen layout suit your cooking habits?
- Are your utensil drawers organized?
- Knives and food processor sharpened?
- Plates and bowls up to portion code?
- Is there a kitchen tool you never use? Are you going to learn what to use it for or just maybe throw it out, make room for a new USEFUL machine or tool?
Co-create your eating habits to match your clean habits. A well-organized food strategy is only going to be as good as the execution, and smart use depends on accessibility. A pantry makeover is one of the most important foundations. In your home are where the behaviors begin, once you remove the chaos that could simply be your placement of utensils then you can get down to the business of planning, prepping, storage and the best part, eating delicious food!
Sounds like a plan to me! I hope I have inspired you to investigate your kitchen corners and even motivated you to try a new recipe with some new ingredients.
Happy Transformation Tuesday Food Ahtletes!
Be Happy, Be Healthy, Love Your Body,
xo Jessi (Your Food Athlete) xo