Spring Cleaning: Kitchen
The second place I chose to tackle for this year’s spring cleaning is the kitchen. I love cooking so my kitchen just seems to collect a lot of stuff. The number of gadgets you “need” to make food prep easier can get out of hand very quickly. The most important thing to do is to think of ways to reduce what you thought you needed. So many things seem to be quick fixes for cooking, but really require more work and space.
For example, a rice cooker is useful for one thing: rice. If you have something that can only be used for one thing, try replacing it. A pot with a lid could do the same job as a rice cooker. You can also try combining your gadgets. I have a slicer/grater that has different attachments for different purposes. Having a few attachments saves a lot more space than having a tool for each job.
I was also surprised by the number of dishes I had accumulated. I decided that a good rule of thumb was to have the number of dishes it takes to fill up the dishwasher. Too few dishes means you have to run the dishwasher before it’s full, which means wasting water and energy. Too many dishes means you will have dishes sitting in the cabinet on the bottom of the stack that may never get touched. The other problem is that many people like to have dishes they use for special occasions or certain times of the year. A simple solution: buy plain white dishes. You can easily throw a runner or placemats on the table to dress it up for the seasons. A runner or a few placemats are much easier to store than a whole set of dishes.
There are a few kitchen items that you shouldn’t try to go without if you want to reduce food waste. Some sort of food storage containers for dry foods, like Tupperware or OXO, will keep your foods from going bad. The important thing about these containers is that they are air tight. And air tight means food doesn’t go to waste as quickly. You may also want to invest in some smaller containers for leftovers. I know many of us don’t like leftovers, but what I hate even more is throwing food away. These containers will help you save money on food every month and help your refrigerator stay organized.
Another group of items you shouldn’t go without is a good set of knives. I was trying to use a small, inexpensive set of knives for the longest time until I finally got tired of nothing cutting easily. I broke down and made the investment into a nice set of knives. Food prep got much easier and much quicker. A great way to save space and clear off your counter or drawer is a magnetic knife holder. Wooden knife blocks can foster bacteria if the knives are not cleaned or dried completely after each use. And just throwing that huge investment in a drawer where they could easily get beat up was just too risky for me. These magnetic strips make your knives easy to get to and eliminates the wooden block. I have even known people to use these for their measuring spoons and cups to make them more accessible.
The amount of food that accumulates in the pantry and the back of the refrigerator should be minimized not only during spring cleaning, but ideally once every month or two. It is easy to tell when a lot of foods go bad by the appearance of mold or the expiration date. But there are some foods that can sit in the back of the pantry in a storage container for a year and still be fine. However, you are wasting all of that space on something that is just sitting there. Pull everything out of the pantry and plan out your next trip to the grocery store. Try to come up with food ideas for the week that are geared toward getting rid of those things that have been sitting around. A great tool I like to use is Allrecipes Search by Ingredient. This tool lets you type ingredients in a search and it comes up with recipes using those ingredients. This is great when you have to get rid of a bunch of things.
Once you have eliminated all the extra gadgets and food, you are ready to actually get to the cleaning. Be sure to take everything out of the drawers and off the shelves before you wipe them out. Crumbs end up so may places in your kitchen, especially under the stove and the refrigerator. These appliances should be moved and cleaned.
The kitchen is one of the hardest places to tackle when it comes to spring cleaning but it is no doubt one of the most important. Cleanliness must be maintained in the kitchen to keep your family safe and healthy.