Spring is upon us, and if you partake in the seasonal ritual of cleaning house, don’t forget the kitchen pantry.
Seize this opportunity to dump the junk, and upgrade your pantry staples because they can be the backbone of healthy cooking for you and your family.
Weed out items that are past their prime, and don’t be afraid to toss out nutrient-poor foods with empty calories you can’t afford in a healthy diet (soda, cookies, cake mixes, instant noodles, white pasta, and chips – I’m looking at you). Read on for what to toss and what to stock.
- Hot dogs at room temperature for more than 2 hours (safe in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks)
- Wine that was opened more than 3 days ago
- Cooked chicken more than 3-4 days old
- Packaged salad that was opened more than 4 days ago
- Cold cuts that were opened more than 4 days ago
- Chicken broth that is more than 1 week old
- Eggs more than 1 month old
- Ketchup more than 1 month old (lasts up to 6 months if refrigerated)
- Vegetable oil that was opened more than 1-3 months ago
- Cereal that was opened more than 2 months ago
- Mayonnaise that’s more than 2 months old
- Frozen meat that’s more than 3 months old (you can get an extra 3-9 months of storage by wrapping it tightly and sealing it in an airtight bag)
- Flour more than 6 months old
- Mustard more than 8 months old
- Spices, seasonings, chocolate candy, and unopened salad dressing more than 10-12 months old
- Baking soda that is more than 1 year old
- Honey, jams, and jellies more than 1 year old
- Canned vegetables (unopened) more than 2 years old
- Pasta more than 2 years old (6 months for egg noodles)
- Loose leaf tea more than 2 years old (18 months for bagged tea)
- White sugar that is more than 2 years old. But you can toss this out anytime to avoid the easy access to empty calories.
- Red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, mustard
- Vegetable oil, including olive oil and canola oil, in liquid or spray bottle form
- Herbs and spices, there are salt-free seasoning blends available, and you may also want to stock pepper, paprika, parsley, rosemary, cilantro, cumin, curry, etc
- Whole grain flour, whole grain baking mixes (e.g. buckwheat pancake mix), baking soda, baking powder
- Whole wheat pasta
- Quinoa, oatmeal, brown rice, wild rice, whole wheat couscous, bulgur, kaniwa
- Oven-ready whole grain bread (freezer)
- Canned beans, low-sodium
- Sustainably caught canned fish like tuna
- Tomato sauces, look for lower-sodium options with less than 8g sugar per serving
- Vegetables, canned or frozen, low-sodium
- Broth, low-sodium
- Dried fruit, no sugar added
- Apple sauce
- Nuts and nut butters (almonds, pistachios, walnuts, sunflower seeds, peanuts)
- Whole grain energy bars (I like the many “minis” available today)
- Better for you convenience meals (freezer)
- Water and tea
- Onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, avocados
Don’t know how old everything in your pantry is? When in doubt, throw it out. And remember, any time is a good time to toss foods with empty calories. Now would also be a good time to invest in a Sharpie and/or labeling stickers so you can start putting dates on your foods.
I’ve put a selection of healthy pantry staples on my Healthy Living for Less page from March 20th to April 3rd, where you’ll always find healthy eating tips, and savings on delicious, healthful foods. Here’s to a great second half of National Nutrition Month!