Kitchen Cure Week #1: Clean Out Fridge and Pantry

The Kitchen Cure Spring 2009

Okay, I'll go first: My freezer is a disaster but my pantry is in pretty good shape. Don't worry, I'll show you close-ups after the jump, over abundance of ice cream cartons and all.

This Week's Assignment: Clean Out Fridge and Pantry
Cure Clock: Liftoff! 6 weeks remaining
Cure Takers: 338 and counting...

Welcome, everyone! Happy first day of the second annual Kitchen Cure. There are over 300 of you signed up, wow! This week we want to start you on the path of cleaning out your kitchen.

Haven't joined yet? Join here. It's easy and free. Already signed up and ready to go? Read on for this week's assignments.

First a note on participation: Do your best, and pace yourself. You will have a week to complete each assignment. Many assignments can be on-going through the Cure. Document your progress with photos and discussion on the forum, this way you'll stay in touch with the community and the group will help keep you going. Losing steam? Ask for help!

Week One Assignments

1. Take a BEFORE photo: Get the camera out and take some "before" photos of the scene. Open those cupboards and refrigerator doors and dare to show us the state of things. DO NOT clean things up for the camera. Remember, this is a "before" shot. Submit your photos directly to us and use the "Go For It!" section of the form to write captions for each picture. Submitting your photos gives us permission to post them using the name you provide. This will allow us to learn from each other's projects.
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Here's my freezer. You'd think because it's small I'd keep it organized. Between Maxwell's umpteen ice cream containers and my little containers of frozen egg whites and chicken stock, it's chaos. This week I'll take it all out, toss what's too old to eat and cook as much as I can from it, and I'll consider some freezer shelving like I have in my cabinets.
2. De-clutter and purge old food: Go through your refrigerator, cupboards, counter-tops and pantry and clean up your food clutter. The foods we have in our kitchens should be fresh and replenished frequently. Take a long hard look at that tin of wasabi powder you got on your trip to Japan three years ago. Re-consider the jar of preserved lemons you got as a wedding favor five years ago. It's brown, you have no idea how to use it, and it takes up energetic space in your kitchen. Toss it. Here are the basic guidelines for de-cluttering your food:
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My pantry cabinet (where dry goods and spices live) is in pretty good shape. Maybe I'll add some more jar storage, make sure all my oils are fresh, and give the surfaces a good wipe-down.

How to De-Clutter Your Cupboards and Fridge

• In the case of fresh foods or foods with an expiration date - toss or compost it if it has expired.
• In the case of frozen foods, get rid of anything with freezer burn. Foods that have been stored for more than 12 months are generally still safe to eat, but their quality has been compromised. In other words, time to make a big pot of soup.
• In the case of spices and canned foods that have not expired but have not been used in the last 6-12 months, really consider if you'll ever use it. Those saffron threads from your cousin's vacation in Spain, the chunks of star anise you bought once for a recipe but haven't used since... you get the picture. Some ingredients are expensive and may be difficult to part with. If you really think you might use them someday, make a list of these items then put them into a box in the back of a cabinet or under the sink.
• In the case of duplicates (I seem to often have two jars of capers and two boxes of cocoa open at once, not sure why) combine containers and toss one. Or jump ahead and begin to consolidate dry goods into stack-able jars.

3. Clean the cupboard and remaining containers: Take all of what remains and wipe it down with a warm, moist cloth. For containers of oil, for example, that may have a film, you might need to use a cleanser (something earth-friendly diluted with warm water) to cut through the grease. Vinegar and water works nicely, too.

Reminders about photographs:

• If you'd like your progress to be showcased, please Submit your photos directly to The Kitchn. Make sure to explain what's going on in each image.
• We also have a 2009 Kitchen Cure Flickr Group. If you post your photos to this group, please include captions so we understand what's going on in each image.