On a recent Sunday, I was in my pantry trying to find baking powder. If you know me, you know I’m not a baker. Soup, yes! Baked goods, not so much. So I have a little bin at the top of my cupboard where I keep less-used things that I have to get on a step stool to reach. I stretched up, got down my little box, pulled out the baking powder… and noticed the expiration date. Embarrassing!
I started going through everything in my cupboard and putting things on the kitchen table. Oh my gosh! I had forgotten about all this stuff. Here’s what I realized: My cooking patterns have changed.
Maybe kids go off to college… maybe you stop entertaining so much, or you start entertaining a lot more! When I’m recipe developing, I explore a dazzling number of ingredients that I certainly don’t need when I’m not. Things change in our lives and in how we cook. We’re always shifting.
I realized that I had so many things that I did not need. Expired things that needed to go. Things that were in-date and unopened, but that I wasn’t using.
The way I’m cooking right now, I do not need very much in my pantry.
Back in the day, I had extensive pantry items. But eventually, I found the multiple jars of dried beans and the vast array of grains were just sitting there… and then I never knew how long they’d been sitting there. It can get to be too much!
I’m now advocating that you keep your pantry really slim.
What is it that you use on a day-to-day basis? That’s what you should keep on hand. Having all sorts of extras that you use rarely if ever not only takes up space; but if you hold onto things, then you’re not leaving any room for something new to happen.
It’s a less is more thing.
When you hold on to a lot of unused jars and cans, and you’re stuck with three jars of mustard...you’re kind of stuck! Clearing out and dialing into what your culinary speed and passions are right now is so refreshing!
For example, how many vinegars do you need to have?
How many jars of fish sauce…tahini...types of lentils... It’s about paring down to your go-to’s and finding your current culinary identity. Right now, mine is much lighter, more spontaneous. I’m only cooking for 2 people. I can be footloose, experimental, and let my imagination soar, using relatively few high-quality, simple ingredients. It’s brought some fun back. :)
Even if you’re cooking for 4, you still don’t need an overstuffed pantry. (You go in, you look, you get overwhelmed, and you shut the door.)
You know what you use on a weekly basis. With a little light meal planning, a little kitchen choreography, you can get into a rhythm. You note what you tend you use, you gauge it, you keep that in your pantry, you keep the flow going.
It’s the most cathartic feeling. It’s like cleaning out your drawers! Do your spring cleaning and let go of what you don’t need so you can start your spring cooking. :)
Spring is coming! It’s a good time to take a look again and hit the refresh button.
Here are some favorite recipes to brighten your pre-spring and spring menus!
I don’t know about you, but I crave fresh asparagus and cook it constantly from the moment it appears in my farmer’s market until weeks later when the very last spear disappears. This is a popular recipe from my book The Longevity Kitchen. If asparagus is not yet in season where you are, use delicata squash cut into ¼ inch half moons in place of the asparagus. Serve with a little lime zest or a spritz of lime juice after it’s roasted.
Need something warm but seasonal? This lovely soup features asparagus roasted until sweet and caramelized topped with a delicious daub of pistachio-mint cream...are you following me? This is some serious yum in a bowl. :)
Note: You can use frozen asparagus for this soup if fresh isn't available.
THE BOTTOM LINE: CONSIDER FOCUSING ON KEEPING YOUR PANTRY CLEAN AND SIMPLE. START WITH SPRING CLEANING! NOT HAVING TOO MUCH HELPS PROMOTE EASE, CLARITY, FLOW, AND JOY IN YOUR KITCHEN!