Spring cleaning is a glorious thing. It gives you a fresh start after a winter of closed windows. Spring cleaning your kitchen gets you set for the lighter, fresher cooking that spring and summer bring. It's also a good annual check-up for your cupboards; use the opportunity to get rid of old food and re-invigorate your pantry with fresh foods.
The nice thing about these steps is you do not need to do them all on the same day. In fact, unless you're a crazy person like me, I highly recommend that you just do one per week or so.
While I focus here on the contents of the kitchen, for tips on overall cleaning, see Spring Clean Up for Kitchens from our Guide to Housekeeping.
1. Make the Cupboard Bare
Give your cupboards (or pantry) and serious go-through by first taking everything out of them. Yes. All of it.
Obviously, you're going to throw away any expired food. Are there cans or jars that you can't remember when you bought them? Things you thought you'd use and never got around to? Use them now or donate them to a food bank.
Make a plan for using anything that's been sitting around and be sure to toss any flours or meals that are older than 6 months.
While you have everything out of the cupboard, you may as well wipe those shelves down!
2. Unearth Freezer Mysteries
Don't know what that package is in the freezer? Toss it. Drag everything out of your freezer. Throw away anything unmarked and unidentifiable or older than 6 months for a freezer attached to a fridge or 1 year for a stand-alone freezer.
Then make a plan to use what is in the freezer so you won't find what you put back in now next year!
3. Make Way In the FridgeAs with the freezer and cupboards, spring cleaning your fridge first starts with taking everything out of it. Toss anything that needs obvious tossing, but also consider throwing away jars and bottles that have been sitting in there, whether opened or unopened, unused for more than a few months. Once you've sorted through the contents, be sure to follow these steps to cleaning the fridge itself.
4. Attack the Spice Rack
If you're like most people, you can't remember when you bought the jars in your spice cabinet. Herbs and spices lose their potency when they just sit around. Toss all dried herbs that are older than 6 months. Just throw them away. They have little real flavor left in them beyond a dusty residue.
And the spices? Try marking them with the date you buy them and throw them out after a year. If you can, buy spices in smaller amounts from bulk containers at places with high turnover. This way you know the spices you're buying are fresh in the first place, and you can buy just amount you know you'll use.
Remember: Just because everyone else keeps dried oregano or lemon pepper in the house doesn't mean you need to if you don't use it!