12 Kitchen Items You Should Throw Away Immediately
Optimize your kitchen storage by cleaning out expired, mismatched, or forgotten items. Here’s what you should toss out, relocate or donate straight away.
Sort through that chaotic pile of plastic containers and lids to free up storage space. A good way to start is by pulling them all out of the cupboard, and matching lids to their containers. Then you just toss out any unmatched pieces. Also, throw away any plastic containers that are labeled 3, 6, or 7 plastics — they are made of hazardous materials. Keep only those coded 1, 2, 4, or 5. These are safer for human use and the environment. Organize the remaining containers by size and keep only those you really need and use.
Most kitchens have that infamous junk drawer that serves as a holding area for tons of random household “stuff.” If not policed regularly, this space can easily get out of control and store unusable items like broken gadgets and dried-out pens. To keep this from happening, empty out the junk drawer and sort through its contents. Throw away all broken items and those that have no purpose. Recycle unneeded receipts, takeout menus, and outdated user manuals. Relocate items that are better stored elsewhere. Then, install drawer dividers to keep the remaining items organized and easily accessible.
Pull all your cooking oils from cabinet shelves and check their expiration dates. Open their lids, look for chipped necks and give them a taste test to ensure they’re still good. Throw out any rancid oils, those past their expiration dates, and any chipped bottles. Because oils tend to leak no matter what you do, clean the bottles you plan on keeping and wash the shelves down before putting the oils back in the cabinet.
Many don’t realize that spices also come with expiration dates. Those past their use-by date tend to lack flavor. If you cannot find an expiration date on a spice container, try pinching the herb or spice between your fingers. If you can’t detect a distinctive scent, it’s likely past its use-by date. Dump out any expired seasonings, wash and dry the jars, and consider refilling them with bulk organic herbs and spices. Not only is this a tastier and less expensive option, it reduces landfill waste.
Old Pantry Staples
Similarly, go through your food cabinets and take stock of pantry staples. Look for expiration dates on packages and cans, and dispose of anything that is old. If an expiration date cannot be found, use your sense of smell or taste and dispose of anything rancid. As you purge, keep a running list of items you need to replace. Don’t be afraid to get ruthless — if you have multiple cans of a food that you know won’t get eaten, donate them. When restocking, try to think like a grocer and place items that will expire first closest to the front so they will get used first.
Another area that can get out of hand over time is the freezer. Foods get shoved behind others and eventually are forgotten. To keep your freezer tidy and ensure the safety of your frozen foods, it’s important to do a periodic purge. To start, it’s generally a good idea to throw away anything that has been in the freezer for more than a year. Toss out leftover cooked meat and poultry after 6 months, raw ground meat after 4 months, and leftover stews and soups after 3 months. Find more guidelines at www.foodsafety.gov.
Outdated Refrigerated Items
We all have that refrigerator door shelf full of condiments that have been there seemingly forever. Go through and throw out those expired condiments! Also, get rid of opened lunch meat and leftovers that have been in the fridge for more than 3-5 days. Going forward, try to check expiration dates weekly, and schedule a thorough refrigerator purge every year.
All those kitchen appliances can take up a lot of cabinet space — slow cookers, blenders, roasting pans, stand mixers. Consider moving any equipment you don’t use monthly to your pantry, an underused closet or the basement. Put a date on the appliance when you store it to gauge how often you actually use it. You might be surprised!
Chipped, cracked, and stained mugs and glasses should all be thrown away. Not only are they unsightly, they’re unsafe. If you find you have too many collector glasses or souvenir mugs crowding your shelves, consider donating them or repurposing the nice-looking ones as vases, vanity organizers or pencil holders.
Damaged Pots, Pans & Baking Trays
Pull out all your cooking and baking pans, and determine what can go and what can stay. Discard any nonstick pots, baking pans or skillets that have peeling or scratched surfaces, as their safety has been compromised. Throw away unsightly pans that have baked-on gunk that will not come off, and sell or donate specialty pans you don’t use. Keep only the pots and pans that you use on a regular basis. Organize them by size, and make sure all lids have a pot to cover. If not, out they go.
Cutlery, Gadgets & Cutting Tools
Clean out and organize the drawers that house your silverware, knives and gadgets. Throw away any mismatched silverware pieces, lesser-quality knives, and never-used tools. By keeping only what you use on a regular basis, you’ll ensure an efficient space where needed items are quickly found.
To free up a good amount of cabinet space for storing important kitchen items, try keeping your reusable shopping bags in your car instead of in a cabinet or drawer. If you find you have paper bags piling up, pare them down to only those you’ll need for a week or two. Recycle the rest, or donate them to a local food pantry or homeless shelter that needs extra bags.