While the weather here in Chicago still can’t make up its mind what season it is, the beginning of March signals for many that spring is on its way.
If you’re like many of the members of the Lifeway team, winter means hunkering down, bundling up and bracing yourself for weeks on end of bitter cold and blustery winds. In other words, it’s a period of time where opening up our windows and doors to give our kitchen cabinets an overhaul is the last thing we want to do.
But with spring on its way, we feel the urge to purge our households of old, worn and outdated clutter. From clothes to kitsch, we know we’ve collected our fair share of junk this winter that we’re more than happy to part with.
Cleaning house as the season changes doesn’t just keep our homes looking great, it actually helps us feel better, too. Spring cleaning is associated with improved mood, decreased stress, and heightened creativity. You can read more about the psychology behind spring cleaning here and here.
Out With the Old, In With the New
Ok, so maybe for some of you, the idea of an afternoon (or weekend) dedicated to organizing, disinfecting and decluttering is not attractive. So if the promise of a better mood, less stress and a burst of creative endeavors isn’t enough to sway you, maybe saving money will?
How are spring cleaning and saving money related? If you start in your kitchen, you’ll soon see.
When was the last time you went through your spice cabinet, or dug deep into your freezer and pantry? If the answer doesn’t come to mind immediately, you could be losing money in the form of food waste. We all know that fresh fruits and vegetables have very clear expiration dates (that is, they rot and die), but frozen foods, canned foods, dry goods and spices also have a specific period of time where they’re at their best.
To save yourself some money and help reduce food waste, a catalog of your kitchen will help you figure out what you have so you can use it before you have to lose it. Here’s how to start:
With Your Freezer
Most freezers contain a combination of frozen fruits and vegetables, portions of protein and a slew of leftovers. FoodSaftey.gov has a great list of the common shelf life/expiration dates of these types of foods in the freezer, so we suggest giving those a look and pitching (unfortunately) anything that’s past its prime and suffers from freezer burn.
If something is approaching its expiration date, take note and add it to your meal plan for the coming week. Now you not only don’t waste what you have, but you also save money by not grabbing extra!
If you’re a fan of keeping bags of frozen fruits and vegetables on hand for smoothies like we are, you might also find you have a few “barely there’ bags – bags with too much left to toss, but not enough left to do much with.
Fear not; this is the perfect time to flex your smoothie skills! Take inspiration from any one of our recipes and blend away with what you have. You might discover your new favorite blend!
With Your Fridge
If your fridge is suffering from condiment congestion, now is the perfect time to clean up without guilt. That nearly empty bottle of mustard? Toss it. The jar of jam that no one really likes? Gone. Clearing out shelf space in your fridge once again gives you a better idea of what you have on hand for last-minute meals, but it also makes room for new food items (especially our new Hibiscus Rhubarb Pie Kefir – on grocery store shelves now!)
Give your produce drawers a quick wipe down, too, and toss any leftovers that have made their way to the back – if you haven’t eaten them by now, you’re never going to. Also take notice of foods that have expired or are close to expiring. While they’re often just suggestions or stamped for the use in stores, things that have been sitting for months after they should can go.
With Your Cabinets & Pantry
How many bottles of pepper, shakers of salt or cans of beans do you really need (or use?). Chuck those half eaten boxes of cereal (or combine them for a fun breakfast surprise), donate the cans of soup your kids don’t like and take stock of the amount of dry grains and flours you have (you probably have way more than you think).
Cleaning your organizing your pantry is one of the easiest ways to save time and money in the kitchen: you can easily see, and access, the foods you have, making meal planning and shopping more efficient, time and cost effective. Bonus: with more space comes more opportunities to stock up on healthy staples (we’re fans of Simple Mills baking mixes ourselves). Think of it as a way to clean out and clean up your family’s diet, too!
Getting rid of excess in anyway has a cleansing and calming effect on mind and body, we promise! It might be hard at first, but it’s worth it, not just for your peace of mind, but for the money in your wallet.