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Be Smart, Eat Well, Get Healthy

Spring Cleaning your Pantry

February—the month where we learn if Spring is around the corner. Whether you believe in the prophetic wisdom of a hibernating rodent (aka, Punxsutawney Phil the Groundhog) or in the reality that the earth is beginning to tip more towards the sun, Spring is coming! It is a great time to look ahead. Everyone gets a little restless in the Spring---the sap begins to flow, new babies are in the barnyard, even houseplants put on new growth. There is promise in the air of new things to come.

One thing I like to do with the energy of impending Spring is to clean house. An area we often neglect is our food storage. I teach a lesson on food budgeting where I suggest that you shop at home first. By that I mean look into those deep dark corners of your pantry, bend down into the caverness deep freeze and commit to using what you find. This year, instead of merely rearranging the items in your food storage, why not use them? Experiment with some new recipes, try new food combinations. Surprise yourself! Try it for a week or two.

I pledge to buy only milk, eggs and a few fresh fruits and vegetables this month. How am I going to do that? 1. I will take inventory of what is in my pantry and freezer and make a list. 2. I will systematically use the oldest things first. 3. I will use my slow cooker to have savory soups and stews ready for my family's evening meals. I think it will make me feel good that I am decreasing my grocery bill while using things that I might otherwise have to throw out.

Remember to look at the dates on your packages. Most of them will have a "Best if used by" date—that means exactly what it says. The product contained therein will be best by that date. It will not be spoiled. It will not make you sick. The items in your freezer, if not stored in an airtight manner might have some freezer burn. The food might have absorbed some flavors of other foods, this will not hurt you. But if the package is torn or if it smells "off" toss it. When in doubt, throw it out! When using items from your freezer, remember to thaw them in your refrigerator or under cool running water; NOT on your counter!

By month's end, I hope you have an empty freezer and pantry. This is a perfect time to wipe down the shelves and wash the inside of the freezer with a mild detergent. And when you replenish your freezer, make sure you double wrap items in foil or freezer paper. Another great tip is to label foods on the side of the package with the type of food and the date it was prepared, so you can see it clearly when the foods are stacked on the shelves. Organize your dry goods by kind to encourage regular use and always place the newer items in back of older ones. FIFO is a term used in the restaurant industry; it means first in first out. Food is an investment –take care of it!

Be Smart, Eat Well, Get Healthy

Use this Create- a -Dish chart from the University of Nebraska to produce tasty meals for your family!

Here is a video that shows you how to freeze foods.