Cleansing your kitchen is a great complementary practice to a spring digestive cleanse. In the same way the body naturally wants to purge excess accumulation during this season, we also find desires to clear our physical spaces of clutter as well.
Kitchen cleansing is a great way to cultivate a deeper sense of mindfulness in the kitchen. Food waste is at epidemic proportions and I’ve found that doing regular kitchen cleanses helps me to be more mindful of using everything that I buy and minimizes the waste coming out of my kitchen. When I first started doing these, it was sometimes staggering how many half-bags of bulk foods I had floating around, sometimes with multiple portions of the same items.
Here are seven tips to make your kitchen cleansing process effective and easeful:
1) Take everything out. Empty your fridge, freezer, pantry and cupboards shelf by shelf. This allows you to take thorough stock of what exactly you have. As you take out each item, purge anything that is well past its expiration date (use a smell test for anything just expired), as well as any items that have visibly degraded or that you are certain you won’t use. For any items that are still usable, you might donate them to a friend or seek out your local Buy Nothing group if you use Facebook (people on my local group are always giving away partially-used food items).
2) Take inventory. After a shelf is empty, clean it well to remove any dust or food matter that may have accumulated. As you return items to their rightful place, make mental notes of things you might wish to use that you may have forgotten about. You might commit to using as many items as possible in your meal planning for the next week.
3) Find a place for everything. If you’re a bulk foods shopper like I am, consider transferring any items in bags to jars. This has a few advantages: a) foods will stay fresher for longer, and b) foods become more visible. Jars can initially seem bulkier to store, but The Container Store and other places sell expanding shelves that allow you to house items efficiently in a way where you can see everything.
4) Say goodbye to sad spices. The good thing about spices is that they last quite a long time, often even beyond any printed expiration dates on their packaging. But, they do eventually lose their potency, both in terms of flavor and medicinal effect. As you go through your spices, get rid of any that have clearly changed in color (this is often most prevalent in green leafy dried herbs like oregano). To test other items, place a small amount of a spice in your hand or on a spoon. Bring it to your nose. If you don’t detect a pungent odor, chances are it is pretty lifeless and should be replaced. You can avoid collecting too many spices by seeking out somewhere that sells spices in bulk, where you can buy small amounts or just what you need, rather than a full jar. For those in Los Angeles, Spice Station is my go-to for bulk spices (and they ship for those who are not local). Co-opportunity in Santa Monica also has a great selection of mainly organic spices.
5) Label everything. Have you ever tried to discern a bag of dried marjoram from dried oregano? Stared at a powdered spice mix with no clue what it is? Or forgotten the name of that really cool heirloom dried bean you bought at the farmers market? Labeling jars or other unmarked packaging makes everything easier, especially when you share a kitchen with someone else who also enjoyed cooking. A Sharpie and masking tape will do the trick, or an old-school label maker is always fun!
6) Remove clutter. After you’ve tackled food items, turn your attention to your kitchen counters. If you find things that don’t pertain to cooking, move them elsewhere. Let your kitchen be a dedicated space to cook in, not an office. Find new homes for anything that doesn’t belong there.
Once counters are done, empty and inventory all cabinets and drawers housing your kitchen tools. If you come across anything you haven’t used in over a year or that you purchased for one-time use, consider donating it or gifting it to someone who can use it (again, the Buy Nothing groups mentioned above are great for this). The same goes for anything you may have excess of. You only need so many measuring cups, wooden spoons, etc.
7) Be regular. I recommend doing a kitchen cleanse twice a year, and schedule mine to coincide with my annual spring and fall cleanses. If you don’t have a regular cleansing routine, set a reminder in your phone for the spring and autumn equinoxes to prompt you.
Do you have a favorite kitchen cleansing tip? Click “Comment” and share below!