Cleaning Out the Holiday Left Overs…It’s Time!

Holiday Leftovers throughout…Cleaning Out the Fridge and the Pantry…from leftovers to spices start fresh in the New Year!

The holiday’s always mean food, and lots of it.  If your family is like mine, we make large quantities of everything for holiday meals.  After all, you don’t want someone to go hungry, and you never know who might stop by unexpectedly.  By the time the football games are over on New Year’s day, your fridge is overflowing with containers full of leftovers, and your pantry shelves are stuffed with all those ingredients you thought you “might” need.  Now is the perfect time to clean it all out and get a fresh start for the new year.

A garbage can, a sink full of soapy water, counter space, a spray bottle of window cleaner, lots of cleaning cloths and an empty dishwasher are the tools you need to take your refrigerator from to cluttered to know what’s in there to clean and organized.  Start on the top shelf and work your way down.  Take everything off the shelf.  Holiday leftovers go straight into the trash, plastic food containers into the dishwasher.  Open everything.  If it looks funny, smells funny or you have any doubt about it, throw it.  Make sure to check expiration dates. The things you want to keep, set on the counter.  Take the shelf out and put it in the soapy water.  Wipe the walls down with the window cleaner.  Don’t put anything back in yet.

Once you have the shelves done, clean out the crisper and meat drawer.  Don’t forget to clean under the meat drawer!  Wash the drawers in the soapy water.  Next, tackle the shelves on door.  Throw out all the jars with a little bit of this and a little bit of that in them.  Now that you have everything out of the fridge, and clean shelves put back in, you can put what’s left on the counter back in.  Try to keep like things together – all the salad dressings in one area, jellies and jams in another.  That way you will be able to see at a glance what you have.

Now that you are done with the fridge, it’s time to move on to the pantry.  If you have an excess of items that you bought, or double bought, for the holidays and it’s unlikely you will use them in the next month or so, consider donating them to a food pantry.  Many people donate before the holidays, which helps ensure that the less fortunate have holiday dinners.  Food pantries often find their shelves depleted at this time of year and will be grateful for the donations.  Group all the canned vegetables together in one area, the soups in another.  Make sure that flours and sugars are in airtight containers.

Go through your spices. Open each jar and smell it.  We all have those jars of spices that we bought to make a specific recipe and have never used again.  If it doesn’t have a fragrance, toss it.  No smell means no taste. If it’s a spice you use often, write it down on your grocery list and replace it.  If you can’t remember the last time you used ground turmeric in a recipe, don’t replace it until you need it.

Besides being able to see what you have in both the pantry and the refrigerator, you’ll find that taking a couple of hours to give these areas a fresh start gives you sense of accomplishment.  And if, like many of us, you made the age old New Year’s resolution to lose weight, you’ll find it might just be a little easier to keep with an emptier fridge!