5 Questions to Help You Clear Out Unused Goods in Your Pantry

January is all about getting back to basics, here at The Kitchn. Getting back to basics often means paring down and cleaning up. Now, it's fairly easy to pare down your tools and gadgets; you can see which ones you're using (or not) and hand them off to friends, family or the donation pile. But what about ingredients in your pantry? When do you decide to let something go?

Here are five questions to help you clean out your pantry and make a new start.

1. Do You Have Plans For It? This might seem like a silly question, but if you don't have plans, you'll never buy coordinating ingredients to make something with the item or ingredient in question. So make some plans already!

2. Did You Buy It Because It Was On Sale? Sales aren't bad things, but they can get us purchasing things we don't really need. Assess if the item or ingredient is really something your family will eat and enjoy or if it would be better off in your friend's pantry for them to consume.

3. Is It Opened? Did you open a package and just use a little bit? Is it still within its expiration date? Do you have plans to use it within the next 30 days? If you answered yes to all three questions then you can keep it. If not, kick it to the curb.

4. Are You Saving It For a Special Occasion?: Well, stop it. Make today a special occasion. I don't care if it's a Tuesday. Tuesdays can be special. When we don't take time to enjoy the things we bring into our home, they go to waste. You can't have a memory of an amazing meal you've yet to make.

5. Is There More Than One Way To Use It?: Some ingredients are tricky. If there's only one way that you know of to put an item to use then toss it. No wait, it's 2011 2012, what was I thinking. Google it. Look for recipes including it; for all you know you have a meal ready to go that you never knew you had. (Or heck, send us a photo and a question — we love tackling cupboard challenges!) Plus you'll feel cool for figuring out new things!

Does your pantry need a clean-out, a purge? We're challenging you to get it done, and to make a meal tonight using at least one thing from that store cupboard!

Related: Clearing the Pantry? Make a Free-Form Pasta Casserole

(Image: Flickr member tonydolor licensed for use by Creative Commons)

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Sarah Trover has lived all across the Midwest and currently calls the hot dog-laden city of Chicago home. She rides scooters and seeks out kitchens that make the best pie.