Do a Kitchen Cleanse!

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!

I love my label maker!

I love my label maker!

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!




The Best Meals Begin With...

If you answered great ingredients, you are technically correct, and I'll admit I asked that as a bit of a trick question. The answer I'm going for today is a great shopping list. And since a great list will get you great ingredients, it's easy to see how the two go hand in hand.

When I talk to people about cooking, whether informally or in cooking classes or other events I lead, I overwhelmingly find that a good majority of people I encounter hate grocery shopping. Hate might even be putting it mildly...for many, the thought of shopping inspires full-on dread. When I press people to look at their feelings toward grocery shopping, I commonly hear that people find themselves ending up in the store with no idea what to buy, walking in circles, and then getting home to find they are a few items short of a good meal. Hence, where the list comes in.

Anyone can make a shopping list. Whether scrawled on a post-it note or the back of a junk mail envelope, or typed into a new-fangled shopping list app, many of us have trained ourselves to compose lists and stick to them. But if you really want to make your shopping experience as smooth and breezy as possible, it's essential to make a great list.

And what make a great list? A great shopping list is not only complete but it is also organized. I am a queen of good lists, thanks to a smattering of Virgo in my astrological chart. I perpetually get stopped by strangers in our local food co-op who stop to admire my lists. Sometimes they engage me to ask about them and remark about my penmanship, but more often, I catch them sneaking furtive glances as they pass by my unattended cart while I'm off grabbing something down the aisle.   


When you make a great list, you separate out the page into different sections, by type of item (this system works best on paper I've found, although you could do it digitally if you're so inspired). Doing this saves you minutes, maybe even hours of your life over time, by preventing you from having to traipse clear across the store after completing your produce gathering, when you find you've forgotten to get carrots because they were buried in the middle of a list of spices and dry goods. 

To keep things simple and instill a routine, it helps to put the same categories of items in the same place each time. For example, in my own lists, I divide the page into two columns, and the left hand side of the page is always for produce. In the right-hand column, I put bulk food items in the upper quadrant, followed by dry packaged goods, with bulk spices occupying a tiny bit of real estate at the very bottom. 

To make your list work for you, include sections that are relevant to you - this might include frozen foods, health/beauty aisle items, dairy, meat/fish, etc. 

If you shop at multiple stores, say a farmers market or Costco as well as a conventional grocery store, make a list for each place to avoid overlooking anything. Keep your list in the kitchen and add to it between shopping trips. It can be tempting to just "remember" items and not actually write them down, but trust me - put them on your list. There is nothing like that moment when you walk through the door after a shopping trip and remember that you're forgotten that one key ingredient you have sworn to "remember."

Be diligent about keeping a list, and rhen you arrive at the store, you'll breeze through the sections. People who've adopted this system have reported spending significantly less time at the store than previously.

Best of all, if you stick to your list, you'll avoid coming home with excess snack foods, or more food than you actually need. A great list requires a bit of foresight, but if you take the time to plan out a couple meals, you'll save yourself from those moments of paralysis later in the week when dinnertime approaches and you have no idea what to make.

Have a try at making a great list, and let me know how it goes. I'd also love to hear your own list-making tips!