I make a point of cleaning out the pantry twice a year, once in January and again in the early fall. A few years ago we had a terrible infestation of pantry moths (which I suspect rode in on some bulk grains from Whole Foods, although I can’t prove that). Suffice it to say that I no longer store flours and grains in their original wrappers. Everything goes into airtight containers, which are checked regularly for little larvae. During the biannual pantry raid* , I remove everything from the cupboards and wash the whole inside of the pantry with a good disinfecting soap. All the containers get wiped down, too, just in case some wayward worm has managed to survive the regular onslaught of chemical and mechanical cleaning. We haven’t seen any in at least two years, but I’m still scarred from the experience. One can never be too careful with pantry moths.
Since I’ve been doing this more regularly, the pantry purge no longer results in a huge trash bag of stale croutons and outdated relish. Cooking seems to be easier with an organized pantry (would you believe it?) And shopping is a breeze, because I keep two of everything we use most often (flour, ketchup, etc). When I open one, it gets written on the shopping list. This way, I still have a spare in reserve in case we finish the open one before getting to the store. The pantry is probably THE ONLY part of my life that is, has been, and will continue to be reasonably organized (by my own loose standards, of course). But, hey, you gotta start somewhere.
So if you want to instantly make your kitchen look small, cluttered, disastrous and disorganized clean out your pantry properly, you must take the plunge, set aside an afternoon, make a pot or two of coffee, and just do it. Viciously remove every item from your food cupboard. Pile the items up on the counters in precarious stacks as best you can.
You must cover every horizontal surface in the kitchen and surrounding areas for maximum effect.
Try to group things into “collections” to make the putting-away process a little smoother. For example, this is my “poser gourmet’s vinegar collection”.
You will find, of course, several items that you will not remember ever purchasing, let alone putting into the pantry. You will also find several of those “what the heck was I thinking?!” purchases, such as the Pound of Chili Powder:
the quarter-pound of Bay leaves:
or the post-apocalyptic quantity of peanut butter:
But once you’ve purged, wiped, and organized your thoughts,
you can put the whole shebang back together without a terrible fuss. And not only will you enjoy the luxury of a clean and organized pantry, you will be able to fool people into thinking you are really amazing simpy by finding an excuse to open your pantry door. One glance at your shelves, and they will think things like, wow, not only does she live like Martha Stewart, but she must know how to cook. Look at that vinegar collection.
Or, she must be very healthy. Look at those organic soups and beans. There’s not a single can of Chef Boyardee to be found.
You can see how this could be very useful in advancing one’s social status.
But in the end, we keep house for ourselves and our families, right? And there’s nothing better than a sparkly, shiny, odor-free cuboard when you’re scrounging for something to eat in the wee hours.
*yes, I totally cheesed that from Alton Brown.