How to Effectively Clean Out The Pantry

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.

If you're moving and need to clean out your pantry before the movers arrive, here are some simple ways you can use up your leftover pantry food.

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.

If you're moving and need to clean out your pantry before the movers arrive, here are some simple ways you can use up your leftover pantry food.

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

If you're moving and need to clean out your pantry before the movers arrive, here are some simple ways you can use up your leftover pantry food.

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)
Oats
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,
Pie filling
Brownie/cake mix
Powdered sugar
Crackers
Nuts

In the freezer:
meatballs (fully cooked; homemade)
steaks x4
chicken breasts
chicken thighs
brisket
ravioli
strawberries x2
pineapple x2

If you're moving and need to clean out your pantry before the movers arrive, here are some simple ways you can use up your leftover pantry food.

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:

If you're moving and need to clean out your pantry before the movers arrive, here are some simple ways you can use up your leftover pantry food.

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?)
 If you're moving and need to clean out your pantry before the movers arrive, here are some simple ways you can use up your leftover pantry food.

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.

If you're moving and need to clean out your pantry before the movers arrive, here are some simple ways you can use up your leftover pantry food.

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!

Chicken freezer meals:
  •
Chicken Parmesan Bake
  • White Chicken Chili (I love the recipe from this cookbook)
  • Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

How to Use up Extra Flour:

If you're moving and need to clean out your pantry before the movers arrive, here are some simple ways you can use up your leftover pantry food.
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.

Stuff to make with oatmeal:
  •
Oatmeal Bake
  • Peach Oatmeal Muffins
  • Oatmeal raisin cookies (I’d love a delicious recipe if you have one!)
  • Granola Bars

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.

How to Clean Out The Pantry. If you're moving and need to clean out your pantry before the movers arrive, here are some simple ways you can use up your leftover pantry food.


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!

JL_Signature

 

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26 Comments

    1. Isn’t pantry week (or just cleaning it out in general), fun?! Glad I’m not the only one who thinks so! And thanks for the recipe—definitely going to check it out!

  1. Is your pantry seriously that adorable!? I have always been living in apartments so I don’t have a pantry but when the day comes and I have that space, I can only hope mine is as adorable as that! 🙂

  2. Are you selling your house in GA or are you going to rent it again? I noticed a lot of rennos going on this year, hopefully it will make it get snapped up quickly either way!

    1. Since we’ll most likely be back at this base in 3-4 years, we decided to just rent it out this time. We love this house, especially with the stuff we did to it over the past couple years. I’ll be really sad to leave it 🙁

  3. So first and foremost, your pantry is freaking adorable!!! If my pantry was that cute, I’d call it Pantry year and just move in! 🙂

    Second, this post is great. I was expecting so many great suggestions for how to use up pantry items! Great ideas!

  4. I love all of the suggestions in this post. I also truly love your pantry. I aspire to have a cute pantry like that!!

  5. What great tips! Although, all your canned goods can be packed. We keep stockpiles of canned veggies and fruits and I always just make the movers pack them up.

    1. Good point—that picture was taken months ago when our canned items were nice and stocked. I’m sure we’ll take whatever we have left…except for the canned carrots. I don’t even know why I bought those in the first place!

  6. So sad that you have to leave your beautiful pantry/laundry room! We try to empty the already opened containers in the pantry, then we pack up the rest. =)

  7. Great idea! We’ll have to try it when we leave our current home. We have always done DIT moves, so we just pack the food in our pantry and use it like normal when we get to our new place, but I imagine it being much easier to just have it gone.

  8. I always love seeing your pantry! I don’t have one so I get a little extra green eyed with how fabulous yours is! 😉 Great ideas for PCS season for sure!

  9. I love the idea of using crushed chips as bread crumbs, that’s so smart! we did something similar when we moved from San Antonio to northern California, although we didn’t have quite as much food to go through.

    1. Lol don’t be deceived by that fully-stocked pantry picture; we’re getting down to the bare bones now! I’m starting to get to the point where I really want to go to the store in the middle of the week for a can of beans or diced tomatoes or something since I don’t have any on hand. I may have started our pantry week a little bit too early. ha!

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