Pantry Purge - A How To!

You’d think that since I’m a chef my kitchen is pristine; that all my pantry items are put to use in a timely manner (a.k.a. nothing ever goes bad), andthatmy collection of cooking tools, pots and pans are mindfully curated.  That, my friends, is not true.  My kitchen cabinets, like many of my closets, have begun to collect their share of clutter. 

Let me explain:Searching for brown rice flour yesterday, I came across two bags of tapioca starch, 2 bags of all-purpose flour, and 3 bags of opened chocolate chips.  Andthat was just on one shelf.  Get my drift?  

I know it’s time for a pantry purge when there are too many duplicates and a pile ofopened / stale / expired food cluttering up corners of my kitchen.  

Is it time for you to purge?  

Here’s the deal . . . this kind of project can easily fall low onthe totem pole, but if you’re like me, you can’t ignore the top 2 reasons to get it done:

  1. Having a pulse on what’s in your cabinets prioritizes what needs to be used.  Simply put, it reduces waste!  

  2. Shopping from your cabinets first, can usher in huge savings on your next grocery bill!

In coaching clients on meal planning best practices, I insist they get inspired through shopping from their cabinets and fridge first before buying new items.  The minute I saw those chocolate chips and the flour, you know exactly what I was thinking . . . baking cookies with my 3-year old!  I could also see the unopened bottle of tamari useful for my flank marinade, the back-up maple syrup needed for dressing, and the cans of tomatoes I will use for marinara sauce.  Just registering these ingredients in my mind has put in place for me what I want to make for dinner this week.  

So, tackling a purge and reorganization of your kitchen can feel very overwhelming if you don’t a.) set-aside a block of time and b.)  break it down into chunks: 3 specific zones with 4 simple tasks.


Attack your kitchen from 3 zones, and pull out everything Marie Kondo-style to see what you have in your:

  1. Cabinets / Pantry 

  2. Fridge

  3. Freezer


A.   Sort: Identify what is old / stale / expired / unidentifiable / no longer serves your lifestyle.  Toss these items, or collect them to donate to a food pantry.

B.   Clean:  Wipe down your shelves / fridge / freezer top to bottom (you may need to defrost your freezer).

C.   Label: Identify what is what, when it was opened, and when it should be tossed for clear and reliable accountability.

D.   Organize:  Prioritize, categorize, and create systems for what you are putting back. Consider how you and your family use your pantry, who should have easy access to what, and what items should have prime spots in the fridge and freezer.  Consider sorting them by:

  • Items you use every day

  • Items you use less frequently

  • Items designated for specific people, times of day, meals, etc. 

  • Items of a similar category, i.e. proteins vs. veggies vs. fruit vs. dairy vs. condiments vs. prepared food, etc.