How to Clear Out Your Pantry Without Wasting Any Food
Snacks are a love language. They say, “Welcome,” “Stay a while,” and “We’ll take care of you here.” It’s why it’s considered a premium upgrade to have a fruit tray or chocolates (and sometimes even a chilled bottle of wine!) waiting for you upon checking into a swanky hotel. During my most recent staycations, I was delighted to discover a presentation that included Parisian macarons and, separately, one of my absolute favorite treats of all time, candied smoked bacon cashews.
As wonderful as those experiences were, I never thought to emulate this sweet welcome gift idea until a recent trip to Ireland for my 35th birthday. After a red-eye and hours of driving (and misadventure), we reached our Airbnb long after restaurants and even convenience stores were closed. We were tired, cranky, and peckish — not hungry enough for a meal, but hankering for something snacky as we finally got a chance to decompress. Lo and behold, the best idea ever: a hospitality basket full of pantry snacks, waiting for us on the kitchen counter.
What’s a Hospitality Basket?
My hospitality baskets tend to feature shelf-stable, individually wrapped or single-serve snacks (think: small bags of chips, nuts, sweets that add pops of color). Obviously, it’s great to settle into a vacation with a sweet treat in store. However, the traditional fresh fruit or cookies skew sweet and perishable, whereas my taste preferences tend to veer more salty and crunchy. Plus, in the post-pandemic era, goods that have been left out, potentially uncovered, aren’t exactly something everyone’s comfortable with trying. And, of course, if they aren’t eaten, they become part of the grave food waste problem in the United States.
My favorite novelties that are as pretty to display as they are tasty to eat include the following:
And I balance the savory out with a little bit of sweet by including the following snacks:
Presenting an array of snacks assembled in a structured, open basket on a dresser, a table in the foyer, your dining room table, or your kitchen counter immediately says “Make yourself at home.” It provides tasty snacks for guests and avoids the awkwardness of trying to rummage for a snack if someone mentions they could use a bite.
But my secret? They’re as good for me and for waste reduction as they are for guests and casual visitors.
Why Hospitality Baskets Are So Great
In my home, hospitality baskets make for an extremely efficient way to clear my pantry of snacks — open or not — that are likely circling around their max storage time. Out of sight is definitely out of mind when it comes to tucked-away pantry goods, so putting them out creates a natural invitation to go ahead and treat yo’self. This way, I keep my inventory in good rotation and avoid the disappointment of sad, stale snacks when the urge strikes. Essentially, it acts as an “Eat First” bin in disguise for shelf-stable nibbles.
It also saves me so much room in my pantry, sideboard, and cabinets. I love keeping my limited pantry organized, all items properly tucked into clear bins, but sometimes, life just isn’t that tidy and cases of bulk buys stay in their cardboard boxes for some time — until it’s time to pop them into the hospitality basket, and I can bask in the lightness of freed space in my tight kitchen and pantry.
Finally, it means I always have a treat on hand for anyone who comes over. I have something to offer my awesome FedEx driver Emily, or friendly, smiling Eddie from UPS as they pet my dog and tell her what a good girl she is. I’m ready to share my latest Grocery Spotter discovery, or a favorite I think everyone should know about in an instant and without thought because it’s top of mind. Plus, I can spread a little happiness without having to waste time, food, or even effort. It’s all just right there, waiting to say “Welcome!”