Six years ago, before my husband and I moved for the first time, we joked around that we were going to have “Pantry Week,” at our house, because we needed to clean out the pantry. We diligently spent that week using as much food from the pantry in our meals as we could, and in the end we didn’t have too much left over.
Over the course of the years, Pantry Week became our inside joke whenever we’d start using a lot of pantry stuff. Having taco soup for dinner? Pantry Week. Making a few batches of pasta, using up leftover taco shells, or creating a new dish with what we have on hand? Pantry Week. Of course, when you clean out the pantry it’s not going to happen overnight, or even in a week, but Pantry Week sounds so much more doable and exciting than, “Let’s use up all of the food we haven’t touched for the past six months. YAY.”
Pantry Week, contrary to its name, can last as long as you need it to last, because it basically means that you’re going to start intentionally clearing food out of the pantry as much as possible. I hate throwing out food, and while I don’t mind giving stuff away to friends before we leave, I’d rather use as much of it before hand. Pantry Week also isn’t just limited to the pantry, because our freezer is stuffed with food, too.
In my ideal world, when the movers come over, our pantry shelves will be pretty bare except for goldfish, almonds, and applesauce for the road trip, and the freezer will hopefully only have enough freezer meals to get us through that last week or so at home. That means that we have A LOT of creative eating to do in the next two months.
How to effectively clean out the pantry
First things first: Take stock of everything you have.
Go through your pantry and write down all the big stuff in there, and if you have multiple items of one thing, take note. These are the big items we’re storing right now:
In the pantry
Flour (white, wheat, coconut, and almond)
Pasta (random varieties)
Olive oil (will most likely come with us, but making note anyway)
Chips and pretzels (random bags; random flavors)
Canned goods (pasta sauce, salsa, refried beans, carrots, corn, green beans,
In the freezer:
meatballs (fully cooked; homemade)
Next: make a plan.
If you’re trying to clean out the pantry because of an upcoming move, the timing is tricky. You don’t want to use up everything too quickly, because then you’ll end up just restocking things. But you don’t want to wait until the last minute, because then it’s overwhelming. I think a good balance is to take stock of everything you have and follow up with ideas you can make with everything, that way, as you plan out your weekly menu, you can fit some of those meals into your menu plan.
Our ideas for using up pantry items:
How to Use up Extra Pasta:
I’m going to make several different pasta bakes with all the random pasta we have. I’d rather make meals now and stick them in the freezer for easy access in a couple of months when our house is looking crazy and I’d rather not spend my time cooking in the kitchen.
Pasta bake freezer meals:
• Skinnytaste’s Cheeseburger Casserole
• Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Spaghetti
• Random Veggie Pasta Bake (I just throw it together with whatever veggies I have)
• Tuna Noodle Casserole (anyone have a good recipe?)
How to Use up Extra Chips:
I LOVE chips, so we have a lot of extra random half-filled bags of chips, pretzels, and plantain chips. I plan on crushing them up and using the crumbs as breading for chicken breasts and fish we have in the freezer.
How to Use up Extra Chicken:
Speaking of chicken, I already mentioned coating them with chip crumbs, but I’m also going to make some more freezer meals that will be excellent for popping in the oven and eating off paper plates when during moving week!
How to Use up Extra Flour:
When we were on our Paleo kick we bought a lot of fancy flours that are now just filling up pretty containers. I foresee a lot of tortillas, French bread, focaccia (also uses up leftover instant potato packets), cashew waffles (uses coconut flour; from this cookbook), and pizza in our future. The tortillas, focaccia, and bread will be excellent for the road trip, so we’ll probably make the flour one of the last things to use up.
How to Use up Extra Oatmeal:
Luckily the girls like oatmeal, and I try to have it a few times a week, but since we bought the ginormous container (that comes with two bags) from Costco, we have a lot leftover.
Still have food leftover?
After you’ve successfully accomplished Pantry Week, take a step back and take inventory of what you still have. Decide what you want to toss (anything with an expired “best by” date), what you want to donate (anything sealed and not open), and what you want to giveaway to friends/family.
Hopefully, if you make a plan and stick to it, you can use up a lot of what’s in your pantry before you have to move! Do you do anything similar to this, or are there other ideas you have for how to effectively clean out your pantry? I’m all ears!