With Spring upon us, this is the perfect time to spring clean your pantry, fridge and freezer.
Chuck those powders bought in a faddish moment. Toss out those tubs of half-used goodness-knows-what sauce. Bin that bizarre ingredient that was guaranteed to bring zing to your salad – and used only once.
It’s time to toss – and not just because it’s good for your physical health (you don’t want to be eating ‘off’ or old food), but your mental health as well.
A recent Australian-US study found that people ate more biscuits and snacks in a disorganised and messy kitchen.
Chyka Keebaugh, star of The Real Housewives of Melbourne and creator of online lifestyle magazine chyka.com, admits that she is obsessed with cleaning out her fridge every week and pantry every couple of months.
“I always make sure that things that go off easily, like ham, herbs and cheese, are wrapped correctly, and I always put items that have a short shelf life toward the front of the fridge so I can’t miss them.”
In her pantry, Ms Keebaugh recommends putting the things that are used often in glass flip jars so that they are sealed tightly to retain freshness.
“Monday mornings are the best time to check over the fridge after the weekend. I get rid of half-eaten salads and make dinner out of what’s left so I can do a fresh shop on Tuesday.”
Little jars of herbs and spices can easily disappear at the back of kitchen cupboards and create clutter. Recently, while clearing out a friend’s cupboard, we found a dried herb jar with a “best before” date of 1996.
“That’s nothing on the clove buds found in an archaeological dig of a kitchen in Syria dating back to 1700 BC, and coriander seeds found in tombs in the Valley of The Kings in Egypt,” laughs Ian “Herbie” Hempell, Australia’s leading herb and spice expert from www.herbies.com.au.
According to Mr Hempell, herbs and spices never go off, but the flavour will deteriorate over time as the volatile oils oxidise.
“As a basic rule of thumb, dried herbs and ground spices will have their best flavour for 12 to 18 months, while whole spices last up to three years,” he says.
He recommends buying herbs and spices in small amounts to avoid waste or to look up other ways to make the most of your purchase.
Speaking of herbs and other uses, Household Guru, Shannon Lush of shannonlush.com, recommends using ¼ teaspoon of oil of cloves per 1 litre of water as a solution to ridding the kitchen of mould.
Simply spray the mould, then in 24 hours later wipe it clean with vinegar.
Asked if there is any need to toss out chopping boards or utensils, and Ms Lush says only that dish cloths must go.
“I don’t use them!” Ms Lush says.
Kitchen sponges are the number one source of germs and harmful bacteria in a household. The sponges provide moisture and a ready food supply with an easy surface for the bacteria to cling.
Instead Ms Lush says pantyhose are the best way to clean pots and pans and all kitchen surfaces.
And what about tea towels?
“Treat them like underwear. Change them every day. Then [with the pantyhose] wash and hang them out to dry in the sunshine.”
After this spring clean you will deserve a nice cuppa. But make sure you save the teabags or tea leaves.
“Once a month I clean my wooden chopping boards and spoons with black tea to increase the volume of tannins in the timber and this brings them back to life.”
“I’ve had my wooden chopping board for 50 years. There’s no need to get rid of them.”