Minimalist kitchen purge

A friend of mine recently took a minimalist challenge for 30 days, and blogged the results.  I found his experience inspiring, and since we are thinking of moving in the next year or two, I started applying the minimalist mentality to our own collection of stuff.

Well, nowhere is this approach more applicable than in the kitchen.  The kitchen presents a perfect storm combination of hard to reach, hidden away locations and good intentions that were never realized. A universe of gadgets that are designed to make you a kitchen goddess, or at least make you feel like you could be once you own them.  A mandolin, so you can make fancy thin sliced vegetables for badass salads. A gorgeous sterling silver serving dish for those festive holiday parties. A rice cooker, cause that’ll be game-changing! And many of these things are heavy, too (I’m looking at YOU, Kitchen Aid mixer I used exactly twice to make hand cut marshmallows).

I started by getting rid of the big heavy stuff that I use MAYBE once a year, if I’m being generous with myself.  It’s amazing how much stuff you don’t need when you come at it with the question of, “Do I want to pack, move, and unpack this?”  I got rid of a couple kitchen gadgets. A portion of the army of coffee cups we have. There are two of us in this house, we do not need more than a dozen mugs.  I got rid of dusty old serving trays for parties we never have. One of the two big wooden salad bowls I have, because the number of occasions where I’ve made two big salads at the same time in the past decade is exactly zero.

And the place started feeling roomier.  Then I went for the fridge.  It’s now clean and uncluttered (except for all the old condiments and salad dressings in the door side, I’ll get to those later).  Today, though, I took on the pantry and the spice cabinet.

I know full well from reading Cooking for Dummies that spices have a shelf life of about a year.  I know equally well that a huge percentage of my spice collection has been sitting there longer than that.  I mean, my Old Bay Seasoning is OLD Bay Seasoning… I considered just tossing out everything and starting life anew, but you know spices are expensive, and some of mine are perfectly fine recent purchases.  So I decided to just go by the expiration dates.

This?  This was the tip of the iceberg.

This? This was the tip of the iceberg.

I wish I’d taken pictures of what got tossed, it was shocking.  That Old Bay Seasoning had a “best before 2011” shelf date.  I had FOUR little jars of ground cinnamon, half of them expired.  What had been a pretty expensive jar of saffron that I had never used, and probably never will.  Multiple instances of multiple jars of the same spice, all expired.  All taking up space pointlessly.  I threw them all out.  It became a matter of the spice having to make its case to STAY.  In the end, I had about a dozen jars of frequently used spices, and I put them in a handier location than where they had been.

I’m just saying, you may want to go to your own spice rack and have a look at the dates on those things.

Next it was off to the pantry.  The same two problems, duplication and expiration.  I had three bags of half-used flour, same with sugar, half a dozen boxes of baking soda, a couple of cornstarch… on and on.  There went my morning, but I am pleased to report that the pantry looks much better, and I feel better, too.

One last thought, pertaining to the spice situation; beware those exotic recipes you want to try that call for spices you wouldn’t normally use.  That’s a big part of how I got in this mess in the first place.  Things don’t expire if they get used frequently enough.  The duplication issue can be addressed by planning ahead with grocery shopping, and looking in the cupboard at what you already have first.  And then lastly, I want to schedule an annual pantry clean-out.  I think I’ll add it to my Outlook calendar.

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