Essential money saving: the kitchen cupboard clear out
Look after the pennies and the pounds take care of themselves, as they say. Set aside an hour or so this weekend to check over your kitchen cupboards and pantry for forgotten foods that you can use up in family meals over the next few weeks and you'll cut down on food waste as well as saving yourselves more than a few pennies on groceries.
Here's how to get the most from your kitchen cupboard clear out...
A common food storage problem
Cupboards and pantries can be one of those 'dead zone' areas, cleaning-wise. We roll home with the shopping, dog-tired after a long day at work, and feel proud that we even manage to put the food away, which generally means chucking it into the cupboard any old how!
Over time, our cupboards can get increasingly more chaotic and less user-friendly: small items get buried behind or under other foodstuffs, so we end up accidentally buying duplicates and forgetting the originals. When I was moving house recently, I discovered a jar of dubious looking peanut butter lurking at the back of the cupboard with a Best Before date in the early noughties. Oops.
My aim for my new house: well-organised food cupboards, which, in contrast, 'tick over' nicely. It'll be easier to see at a glance what we have, so we can select and prepare food much faster - and, importantly, we're not likely to forget about food for which we paid good money.
A house move was the prompt for my cupboard clear-out, but you can start yours at any time. Clear some counter space, ready your recycling bin and start emptying your cupboards:
>> Anything past its USE BY date, for safety's sake, please don't eat this. You may be able to compost the product itself and recycle the container, though remember not to recycle anything with ingrained grease or food staining as this can contaminate the recycling process. Wash out plastic pots and glass containers carefully.
>> Anything past its BEST BEFORE date, use your discretion. If an item's dated around the turn of the last century, you can be fairly confident that it's not going to be the best tasting - though some spices seem to last indefinitely! If something's Best Before dated last month, then consider keeping it a little longer (with a plan to use it up soonish).
>> Anything you don't like or have no plan to use up, donate or give it away! That hot sauce that you can't stomach might find a good home with a spice-loving friend, relative or neighbour. Or get tech-y with it: list items on neighbourhood Facebook groups or post a pic to the food-sharing OLIO app.
>> Anything with damaged packaging but that's worth keeping, transfer this to an airtight container and label with the product and the Use By date. Recycle the packaging if possible.
A quick clean
Before you start putting back the items you've chosen to keep, give the shelves, baskets and racks in your food storage cupboard a good going over with a cloth and the eco-friendly cleaner of your choice. Same with the items themselves - don't undo your good work by putting jars and containers back sticky and dusty!
The simplest way to keep track of your grocery stocks is to group items in a way that makes sense to you. A lot of people take inspiration from the supermarket and give each 'type' of food product its own space: tins and non-perishables in one space, baking goods in another, breakfast items in still another and so on.
Plan some menus to use up those back of the cupboard oddities!
Now comes the fun part: planning how you're going to eat up all the lovely food you've discovered!
If you're not sure how to incorporate some of the more weird and wonderful things into your regular meals, our friends at Sainsbury's have devised a great tool to match the ingredient to a whole host of recipe ideas. So if you've got something obscure at the back of the cupboard, log onto Food Rescue and discover store cupboard recipes you can make immediately, or with just a few cheap additions.
With all this good preparation, we hope you'll be enjoying amazingly low grocery bills for the next few weeks - especially if you remember to freeze any extra portions for future meals.