New Year Pantry Clean Out {Tips & Tricks}

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Confession Time: When was the last time you went through and cleaned out your pantry?

If I'm to be entirely honest, this is something that I don't get around to nearly as often as I would like. Honestly, unless I'm looking for something particular, I just don't really give it much thought. But with the new year beginning, I am hard at work clearing out the old and bringing in the new... and that includes my pantry. You might be surprised once you look at just how badly you needed a clean out! So let's get started, shall we?

  • Empty. The best way to start is to take absolutely everything out of your pantry/shelves. Put them on the counter, the floor, the table... wherever you can easily sort them. 
  • Sort. Now that everything is in one spot, start sorting. For me, the first step in doing so is checking expiration dates. It can be tempting to toss out absolutely anything that is past expiration, but the reality is many foods are actually good past their expiration. Canned goods generally expire in 1-4 years, but in reality can be good for 3-6 if stored in a cool, dry place. Likewise, pasta is generally a food that can be used well past expiration (though I'll admit, pasta doesn't usually last that long in my home). Sort by order of expiration.
  • Donate. While sorting via expiration, also make a pile for foods that you don't believe you will eat before those expiration dates--- perhaps a brand you didn't care for or bought too much of, etc. Make a pile to donate to your local food pantry. Again, because canned goods are usually good longer, many WILL take certain items past those dates, so be sure to check with your pantry on these. This helps make room for items you WILL put to use, and helps families who can use them as well. 
  • Take Inventory. No, you don't actually have to take a true inventory and write down each item you have--- though if that's your thing, it certainly wouldn't hurt. Otherwise, having a mental inventory will do the job. Think about what you have on hand, and particularly those items that need to be used soon- expired goods or expiring soon. Create your menu plan around these items to get them used quickly. 
  • Put Away. Now that you've sorted, donated and know what you have, it's time to start putting things back. I like to sort by type of food, with those expiring the soonest towards the front so I'm most likely to grab them first. 
This is just my really basic way to sort and renew my pantry, but you could certainly go more in depth with it if you'd like... make an actual physical inventory to aid in shopping, invest in some organizational items to make it look great and be more functional (hint: Dollar Tree can be great for organization products on a budget), etc. Whatever helps keep you on track.

And while I tend to clean out my fridge MUCH more frequently, this can be a great time time to go ahead and get that done as well. I use the same general method here, but will freeze things that I know we WILL use, but might not use before expiration dates: lunch meats, refrigerated pasta, etc.
Are you planning a big pantry clean out? What tips and tricks have you found helpful? 

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