Washing windows, scouring floors, thumping out cushions, switching from coats and winter clothes to the warmer weather versions… spring is the time of fresh starts and deep cleanings. As the sun comes out and the temperatures start to rise, we tend to have more energy to make some changes. For me, it is also when I like to do a reset in the kitchen—when I feel the urge to clear out my pantry, fridge, and freezer and to look through my cooking tools and utensils to see what is serving me and what isn’t.
Spring Cleaning in the Kitchen
If getting a fresh start in your kitchen sounds appealing—whether it’s to make it a place where you want to spend more time, to build up your motivation for some healthier eating, or to get rid of the clutter—then try some of these simple steps to spring cleaning in your kitchen. Each task should take between 30 and 60 minutes to complete, so you can do them all in one afternoon or spread them out over time. Either way, the change will feel great!
Pantry Clean Out
Pull everything (and I mean everything) out of your cupboards. Set it all out on a table or even the floor and see what you’ve got.
- Items that are still closed that you realize you will never use: Donate to a food pantry or share with a friend
- Food that you will still use: Put to one side
- Items that have gone bad: Toss them (if possible, rinse and recycle containers)
- Containers with small amounts left in them: Put to one side and then, when they are all together, group items together to see what you might be able to combine
- Combine small amounts of grains with similar cooking times to create grain mixes that can be used as side dishes.
- Crush up small amounts of leftover crackers and chips and use them in place of breadcrumbs on top of a casserole
- Group small amounts of different pastas by similar cooking times and then, when you are ready, you can cook them together to make your favorite pasta dish or a pasta salad. If you don’t have enough pasta in a specific cooking time group to make a dish, then cook pastas with different cooking times together, just adding the ones that require shorter cooking times to the pot later.
- Chop up small amounts of different dried fruits and add the mixture to scones or oatmeal, or leave the dried fruits unchopped and use them in a homemade trail mix along with any leftover nuts you find.
- See if you have some empty containers that you could now use to hold different items so that things are better organized and more appealing
- Wipe off the shelves and/or put down new contact paper
- Return everything to the pantry, organizing it as you go
Freezer Clean Out
Like you did with the pantry, pull everything out of your freezer(s). Set it all out on a table or even the floor and see what you’ve got.
- Anything that is too freezer-burned to recognize: Toss it (if possible, rinse and recycle containers)
- Items that you know you won’t ever eat: Offer it up on your neighborhood listserv, to friends, or toss it (if possible, rinse and recycle containers)
- Check the dates on things: Make it a priority to put anything that is close to the end of its shelf-life onto your meal plan in the next week or two
- Wipe off the shelves
- Put things back in, grouping like things together: Either use different shelves or bins for different types of foods (frozen vegetables and fruits, baked goods, proteins, prepared meals, flours, scraps for stock, etc.). Make sure that the items with the oldest dates are at the front/top so that they get used soon
Refrigerator Clean Out
Yet again, pull everything out of your refrigerator. Set it all out on a table or even the floor and see what you’ve got.
- Anything that is moldy or has otherwise gone bad: Toss it (if possible, rinse and recycle containers)
- Condiments that you are never going to use: Toss them (if possible, rinse and recycle containers)
- Leftovers that are going to go bad soon: Use for a leftovers dinner tonight or tomorrow night (you’ll deserve the break from cooking after all the work you are doing!)
- Small amounts of vegetables that will go bad soon: Either cut them up for a vegetable platter to be enjoyed today or combine to use in a pureed vegetable soup
- Fresh herbs that will go bad soon: Chop them up and add them to softened butter. The butter is perfect for spreading on crusty bread or tossing with cooked vegetables
- Small amounts of fruits that will go bad soon Turn into a fruit salad for dessert tonight or freeze for smoothies
- Wipe off the shelves
- Put things back in, grouping like things together
- Try to include any foods that are on the verge of spoiling in your meal plan for the week
Cooking Tools Audit
An audit sounds so serious, but this task really is simple. Go through your pots, pans, small appliances, knives, cooking spoons, measuring cups, etc.
- Cooking tools you use all the time: Place where you’ll have easy access to them
- Items you use sometimes: Put in a relatively accessible place
- Cooking tools you use once or twice a year: Should be stored away (possibly even outside of the kitchen)
- Things you will never use again: Can be donated to goodwill, sold, or handed off to a friend/family member who will enjoy them
Cleaning the Dishwasher
I like this set of instructions for a quick and easy clean.
Cleaning the Oven
Throw the windows open and set your oven to the self-cleaning cycle, if you’ve got that option. Or, put on rubber gloves and get out the oven cleaning spray (listen to your favorite music while you do this, ‘cause, let’s be honest, it is not a fun job).
Give yourself a pat on the back! You have completed an important task that will make cooking and meal planning so much easier. If you want additional help with cooking inspiration and weekly meal plans with delicious, family-friendly recipes, sign up for a two-week free trial of The Scramble’s meal planning service.
Do you have spring cleaning tasks that you like to do in the kitchen? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!